I knew you couldn't resist another week of Rumblings From the Underground! And as a reward for your dedication, I've got a couple goodies for you this week. Before you get to the interview with Withered frontman Mike Thompson about their crushing new record Grief Relic, you'll find an exclusive video premiere for "Vexed" from sludgecore outfit Left Behind.

The song comes off the band's new album, Seeing Hell, out now on Unbeaten Records. It can be purchased on iTunes or Amazon. "Vexed" is a volatile listen, volleying between dreary, gothed out moments and tectonic bass playing that drives the heavier rhythms. Halfway through the track, jagged stomping collides with calculated feedback (think Isis' "Deconstructing Towers") with vocal fits mirroring Godflesh mastermind Justin Broadrick.

Still need more convincing? Here's what vocalist Zach Hatfield had to say, "It's kind of a hard one to give a quote about, I'll give it a shot. Seeing Hell is about how for a long period of time Jordan (guitar) felt like things were trying to posses him in his room. He'd wake up and have a pressure on his chest and it affected him outside of that because he wouldn't want to sleep at home for awhile because that's where it would happen. It's also about seeing the worst within yourself through that, seeing all the negative things in the world that could make you the worst version of yourself and not letting that happen."

Expanding on the song itself, Hatfield continued, "'Vexed' is a continuation of that idea, like what if he would've let something in and it took control of him? What would've happened to him? Would he have to do the same thing to someone else to continue to survive?"

Check out the video below and then scroll down to the news and then start reading album reviews for the latest from Elderblood, Katalepsy, Mortillery, the Order of Israfel and Withered (don't forget that interview)!

Left Behind, "Vexed" Music Video


News


Be'lakor, Australia's finest melodic death metal export, have just released the new song "Roots to Sever" off Vessels, their forthcoming record on Napalm. Hyper-melodic, super catchy and thoughtful arrangements dominate this track.

Nifelheim have been kicking since 1990 and just released their FIRST music video! Hellbutcher rocks my favorite receding hairline in all of black metal, wearing more leather and spikes than can be found in Judas Priest's dressing room. The cut is "Devil's Wrath," taken from the Critical Mass Volume 3 compilation.

Vale of Pnath's second album, aptly titled Vale of Pnath II, will be out on June 10 through Willowtip. The tech death outfit released a new song, "A Nightmare Phantasm," which wraps quick melodic fills around mechanical riffing, so much more than your standard aimless noodling guitar work.


Reviews


Elderblood, 'Messiah'

Osmose Productions

The power trio of Ukraine's Elderblood boasts two former members of Nokturnal Mortum, to give you an idea of their musical headspace. They carry over the grandiose nature of their former outfit, crafting compelling tracks that blur the line between black and death metal with cinematic overtones.

Messiah opens with two of the more involved tracks, "Thagirion's Sun" and "Invocation of Baphoment," which plays out the orchestral elements more so than the rest of the album. "In Burning Hands of God" is arguably the best track here, backed by a ripping pace, choirs used to a most sinister effect and clean vocals making up part of a rich tapestry with bombastic orchestral moments signaling the album's stylistic apex.

Listen to Elderblood | For fans of Nokturnal Mortum, Behemoth, Limbonic Art


Katalepsy, 'Gravenous Hour'

Unique Leader

For reasons unknown, Russia has a marvelous reputation for churning out some of the finest slam records in existence. Katalepsy are among the upper echelon Russian slam acts and are back with their second album, Gravenous Hour.

The band's knack for settling into tight grooves ("Critical Black Mass," "Ghoul Inquisitor") within their earth-heaving riffs is a Russian trademark as they seem to do it better than most. Dizzying fretwork rounds out the guitar work, anchored by furious gravity blasts and pounding the ride cymbal, sounding more like a freight train pulling in at full speed. Katalepsy offer enough dynamics that save them from the stylistic trappings that ensnare so many slam acts.

Listen to Katalepsy | For fans of Abnormity, Devourment, Condemned


Mortillery, 'Shapeshifter'

Napalm

Mortillery... more artillery? If that's the case, then these Canucks definitely chose the right band name. Armed with a fresh and inspired take on the beloved thrash genre, Mortillery blaze through nine tracks on Shapeshifter, bursting with melody, surgical guitar playing and the wide-eyed enthusiasm of frontwoman Cara McCutchen.

There's no need to reinvent the wheel, just keep 'em rolling and rolling fast! "Radiation Sickness' kicks everything off, immediately bringing to mind acts like Municipal Waste and Gama Bomb. McCutchen's voice brings youthful energy to the track, exploring ferocious snarls and wailing highs akin to Cage's Sean Peck. Bottom line: Shapeshifter is pure, slightly dangerous fun!

Listen to Mortillery | For fans of Gama Bomb, Crystal Viper, Warbringer


The Order of Israfel, 'Red Robes'

Napalm

Just like I mentioned Russia and slam, Swedes can bring the doom better than almost anyone who aren't named Black Sabbath or Sleep. The Order of Israfel have dropped their sophomore effort, Red Robes, with eight desert-wandering tracks spanning nearly an hour.

Caught between Pentragram and more subdued acts like Warning, the Order of Israfel parlay hopeless creeping passages wrapped in bluesy leads into pure plodding misery. Closer "The Thirst" clocks in at almost 16 minutes, unforgiving in its sloth pace and a perfect way to send these mirage-veiled vagrants off into the sunset.

Listen to the Order of Israfel | For fans of Pentagram, Spirit Caravan, Place of Skulls


Withered, 'Grief Relic'

Season of Mist

After six years and a lineup shakeup, Withered have returned with their most powerful album to date in Grief Relic. Now rounded out by the prolific Colin Martson (Gorguts, Krallice) and Ethan McCarthy (Primitive Man), the quartet are at their most visceral.

Elements from the new members are immediately felt in Marston's lurching bass tone and McCarthy's agonized vocals. Withered play a complicated and claustrophobic brand of death metal, managing to restrain their more off-the-handle moments, throwing away the key to a caged feral animal. Grief Relic contains eight songs, but each track feels more like opening several unknown doors, slamming them shut out of fear only to open the next out of morbid curiosity.

Listen to Withered | For fans of Gorguts, Dragged Into Sunlight, Flourishing


Interview With Withered's Mike Thompson

As promised, Withered's Mike Thompson took the time to answer a couple questions about the band's new album, Grief Relic, discussing the writing process, the new lineup and the album's artwork.

With most of Grief Relic written around 2013, how much temptation was there to keep tinkering with the songs over the years?

I’d say little to none. We spend a lot of time obsessing about each part & song as they are written so once we decide to move on, we do just that. Typically, we go into each song with a particular desire/craving for something particular emotionally. Then we work it until we’re completely satisfied and find a new hunger.

How much did Ethan McCarthy and Colin Marston contribute to the songs when they joined the band?

Quite a bit actually. Being that Beau [Brandon, drums] and I did obsess about the parts when the songs were structured, we sort of developed a tunnel vision about each one. It gets difficult to see the songs from alternative perspectives and can lack a level of dimension you hope to achieve. When we started roughing in vocals, I was having a hard time finding satisfaction with my parts. I procrastinate a lot and overthink things sometimes while Ethan comes at it more like a bull in a china shop. It was really driving. I stopped fighting what worked just for the sake of diversity or whatever I thought I needed to do. It resulted in me performing no highs or mids vocally which was a first for me. He also wrote all the noisy and ambient guitar lead layers throughout the album. It really opened up those parts with a sense of unpredictability. We knew he’d bring an element of ugliness to things which is exactly what we hoped for. He’s an amazing musician creatively and a dominating presence.

Colin, well, he’s Colin. Initially, I attempted to write some bass lines but that tunnel vision really got in the way and they basically sucked. Mike Longoria left some big shoes to fill so we asked ourselves who we knew that 'got it' and could step out of what was there to add the extra dimension that bass has always given Withered. Then the Colin lightbulb went off so I called him. His parts were a significant departure from what we had imagined. It was like shell shock. But, the genius of what lied within really settled into each song and I can’t imagine the record without it now. He brought all the atmosphere we hoped for and really took some ownership of his parts. These guys really helped elevate the songs to where we hoped they would go.

The album art is very cryptic with the hands on the sides, bow at the top and a face split in two making up an island mountain. How does the symbolism relate to the title and overall theme of Grief Relic?

We always leave the visual interpretations up to Paul 100 percent. I accepted the fact a long time ago that I’m not a visual guy so it’s difficult to translate. We’ve been very close to Paul since the beginning of Withered. He’s someone who 'gets it' and has always been like a fifth member. So, we explained some of the underlying concepts of isolation and crossing emotional & existential thresholds that can’t be uncrossed. It’s what resulted in the island and the doorway into nothing constructed of random sticks (an element used in every Withered cover since Folie Circulaire). We sort of maintained an old school attitude throughout the process hoping to honor our roots from the late 80’s and early 90’s when extreme bands were brave and inventive. We hoped to capture a sense of timelessness we get from those records. So, the result is progress & modernism all piled into our version of a classic extreme metal record. I think Paul created exactly for us while maintaining a very Withered and Paul Romano feel.

Thanks to Mike Thompson for the interview. Pick up your copy of Withered's 'Grief Relic' at Season of Mist's webshop.


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