Rumblings From the Underground: Ghoul, Profanatica, Blood Red Throne (Interview) + More
What year is it!? Alright, it's the same year, so that's good, but it has been a month since I last gave you your hearty helping of what's going on in the metal underground. As mentioned in June, Rumblings From the Underground will now be featured on the last Friday of every month.
A bunch of great albums have hit the shelves, webstores, Bandcamps, streaming services... I digress. The point is, it's time to play catch up for July as we examine five of the best underground records to be released in the last handful of weeks. You might have heard some of these already (I hope so!), but if not, here's your chance to get 'em all. (Nope, I haven't started playing Pokémon Go yet...)
With a slight reformatting, we're jumping straight into the album reviews! That means discovering how downright killer the new Blood Red Throne, Ghoul, Grave Desecrator, Profanatica and Witherscape albums are! Below that, you'll also find a brief interview with Blood Red Throne, talking about Union of Flesh and Machine.
Blood Red Throne, 'Union of Flesh and Machine'
It's hard to believe it's been 15 years since Blood Red Throne's debut. With a handful of lineup changes since, the Norwegian stalwarts have delivered Union of Flesh and Machine, their eighth album. These dudes have always had a white-knuckle grip on groove when they choose to employ it, but here it's the sticking point.
"Patriotic Hatred" is one of the quintessential tracks here and, when isolated, can act as an overture for the record. Cannibal Corpse-inflected parts mesh with grin-inducing grooves, understated, technical bass work and slice and dice palm mutes. Blood Red Throne are not ones for reinvention, just keeping the tank treads of brutality rolling ever-forward, crushing and trampling everything in its path. Oh, and there's a cover of Judas Priest's "Leather Rebel" that's worth the price alone.
Ghoul, 'Dungeon Bastards'
Damn, do I love me some Ghoul! Those splatterthrashers from Creepsylvania have rebounded quite nicely from the slightly lackluster Transmission Zero, bringing back stronger gore elements into their signature horror thrash on Dungeon Bastards.
Volleying between jovial rhythms and delightfully spooky leads, "Ghoulunatics" is arguably the best song, not that any others fall far behind. "Bringer of War" would fit in on just about any Impaled record, giving an idea of the sonic scope we're dealing with here. One of the biggest highlights is the use of characterized clean vocals, especially in "Word is Law." Ghoul know how to bring the party!
Grave Desecrator, 'Dust to Lust'
There's something about Brazil that seems to have preserved the grimy presence of early Sepultura, Krisiun and Sarcofago. Grave Descerator are cut from the same muddy cloth, making their best statement yet on Dust to Lust. Barbarism is the game here as the quartet take on hints of Australia and New Zealand's stellar war metal scene.
After a brief intro, "Temple of Abominations" opens the record up with serrated riffs and maddening mid-ranged growls. Grave Desecrator make clever use of bells in the back half of the track, but are careful not to employ it wantonly. Let's face it: you either get this style or you don't, but if you do, you're treated to kinky song titles like "Mephistophallus in Occultopussy." I'm glad to already be on the right side of filthy, Brazilian black metal history with Dust to Lust.
Profanatica, 'The Curling Flame of Blasphemy'
Crowned blasphemers Profanatica have presented their fourth slab of unadulterated contempt for Christ, The Curling Flame of Blasphemy. The album does little to deviate from any of sonic impiety they've wretched forth since 1990, which is, of course, the inherent charm of these USBM purists.
John Gelso's guitar and bass tones are once again drenched in putrid, black muck, slowly turning the gears with sinister melodies and crumbling rhythms as drummer / vocalist Paul Ledney's vomit-caked groans bellow heresies on standouts cuts like "Magic & Muhr" and "Bleed Heavenly Kingdom." Don't expect Profanatica to change. Not now. Not ever.
Witherscape, 'The Northern Sanctuary'
Dan Swanö is one of my favorite musicians (check out his solo record, Moontower, too) and he's back with Ragnar Widerberg and their sophomore Witherscape album, The Northern Sanctuary. The band's love for death metal and prog luminaries like Rush and Queensryche have not diminished, creating one Hell of a dynamic slab of heady music.
The right-left punch of openers "Wake of Infinity" and "In the Eyes of Idols" are immediate and undeniably catchy as Swanö alternates between his Mikael Akerfeldt rivaling gutturals and mid-toned, soaring cleans. His seamless ability to toggle this switch makes for a fluid album, never quite knowing where the next part will go — uplifting and catchy or brutish and dark? The title track is far and beyond the headiest song here, spanning 13 minutes in a cinematic soundscape.
Interview With Død of Blood Red Throne
The title, Union of Flesh and Machine, obviously speaks to the dangerous waters we're heading into as technology advances and it seems inevitable we'll become cyborgs to some degree. Would you accept becoming part machine or would you rather stay completely human?
Well, it's humans causing this development and all the s--t going on in the world, so maybe it would be for the better if we all became cyborgs or machines, haha!
What led to Freddy rejoining the band on drums?
Freddy came back in 2013, when we needed a step-in drummer for some UK shows. I've stayed in touch with Freddy since he left in 2002 and I've just waited for the right moment to work with him again. When our current drummer in 2014 decided to leave the band, it was written in stone that Freddy would return. It feels great to have him back and also an original member.
The cover of "Leather Rebel" rips! How did the band settle on this Judas Priest song and were there any others up for consideration?
We've included a cover song on every second album since Affiliated With the Suffering and it was time to do another one on Union of Flesh and Machine. We didn't have any obvious suggestions this time and as deadline got closer, I just made a decision to record "Leather Rebel," which I already knew from my old band.
There's mainly been covers of other death metal classics and it felt cool to do some more traditional heavy metal this time around. However, I don't think we will do any more covers in the future. Everybody does it and we wanna make room for own material instead.
Thanks to Død for the interview. Bludgeon yourself with your own copy of Blood Red Throne's 'Union of Flesh and Machine' by picking it up at Amazon or iTunes. Keep up with the band by following their Facebook page.