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There’s something inherently enjoyable about a band lovingly twisting old sounds into new shapes, which is precisely what Alabama’s Ectovoid does on its debut album Fractured in the Timeless Abyss. The album’s production and delivery is cut mostly from death metal’s rancid cloth, but there are frequent enough stylistic digressions – into melancholic tremolo, thin-drawn blasting, and so forth – to point also to a clear black metal heritage. In the interest of shorthand, let’s call it Autopsy and Incantation by way of Demoncy and Inquisition. But more importantly, let’s call it righteous metal and leave it at that.

Genre nitpicking and name-dropping aside, what sets Ectovoid apart as a serious proposition is the band’s twin focus on swirling, punchy riffs and an unbroken atmosphere of subterranean gloom. Michael Stewart’s guitar tone is thick and raw, occasionally pulling some Soulside Journey tricks to lead the whole band pulsing forward in a piledriving mass, which is precisely what is reminiscent of perennially underrated American black metal pioneers Demoncy. See the great album opener “Transcend into the Moonless Night” for a great example of this, as Stewart’s guitar twins with Chuck Bryant’s bass in a nimble pre-verse bridge before barreling forward as one; his twitchy soloing late in the song offers a brief glimpse of lightness, but it remains ephemeral. The earth swallows all its children.

Chuck Bryant’s vocals are typical but extremely impressive gut-scraping death growls, and his dank bass tone is fantastic, as is the way the instrument is used throughout the album. Bryant’s vocals are particularly notable because, given how well their tone fits in with the instrumental production, they easily blend into the background if one chooses to ignore them; however, it one chooses to focus on the vocals, the lyrics are extremely understandable, which is quite a feat for this sort of coarse delivery. Chris McDonald’s drumming manages to be surging and restrained, hungry yet understated. His cymbals gently crest the band’s wave, while the deep, loose toms sound the echoing depths.

Some of the album’s best moments occur when Bryant’s rumbling vocals are backed by a higher-pitched heaving (see “Chewing through the Membranes of Time and Space” and “Murmurs from Beyond”). Because the album’s atmosphere is so uniform, the extremely judicious use of this additional vocal style makes a huge impact the few sparse times it is employed. The midsection of “Chewing through the Membranes of Time and Space” points most clearly to the band’s black metal influence and the sickly doom that opens “Locked in Dismal Gaze” points most fervently to Autopsy, while “Splintered Phantasm” is one of the best examples of Ectovoid’s very attractive blending of black and death metal.

In the spirit of full disclosure, Ectovoid’s drummer Chris McDonald is a colleague of mine at MetalReview.com. That having been said, no amount of collegiality could’ve convinced me to not call Ectovoid dog balls if it was dog balls; Ectovoid is not dog balls. Ectovoid is a grimy, slithering thing, and with Fractured in the Timeless Abyss, the band has crafted a captivating set of songs that are sure to draw your soul to dwell with the wraiths in Christina Casperson’s tremendous artwork. To dwell with the doom that abides.

Overall rating: 80%.  Something something abyss Nietzsche.

Fractured in the Timeless Abyss is out now on Hellthrasher Productions.  Listen to it here.

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Beneath Oblivion, From Man to Dust (2011)

Intentionally ugly, yes?

My review of the second album from Ohio’s sludge-botherers Beneath Oblivion is up now at MetalReviewFrom Man to Dust is a massive document of punishing doom that could sorely use some editing, but still succeeds despite (or perhaps because of) its flaws.  From Man to Dust is out later in September on the Mylene Sheath.

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Caïna, Hands That Pluck (2011)

A cosmic distance

My review of Caïna’s final album is up now at MetalReviewHands That Pluck is dense, frequently off-putting, and also excellent.  Give it some time and you’ll find yourself rewarded.  Hands That Pluck is out now on Profound Lore Records.

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Avichi, The Devil’s Fractal (2011)

A bit Weapon-ish, yes, but sufficiently fractal

My review of the second album from Illinois’s Avichi is up now at MetalReview.  The album prompts me to spin out all sorts of nonsense about whether or not black metal has to be ugly and dangerous to be effective, and whether so-called orthodox black metal is self-defeating in its attempts to be seductive.  Anyway, regardless of my bullshit, The Devil’s Fractal is out now on Profound Lore Records.

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Midnight Priest, Midnight Priest (2011)

An album cover incomparably more interesting than the music within

My review of the debut full-length from Portugal’s Midnight Priest is up now at MetalReview.  Perhaps I’m a bit harsh on their raw, Mercyful Fate-ish NWOBHM style, but I found the album tiresome, grating, and almost wholly unoriginal.  Plus, despite their drummer’s insistence to the contrary, I remain at least halfway convinced that “Sábado Negro” means black sabbath.  I mean, Google Translator says it means ‘black Saturday’, which is completely understandable, but translating ‘sabbath’ from English back to Portuguese yields ‘sábado’, so…  Either way, Midnight Priest is out now on Stormspell Records.

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Saviours, Death’s Procession (2011)

This is the biggest image I could find? Thanks for nothing, Internet.

My review of the upcoming record from Oakland’s Saviours is up now at MetalReview.  I have some harsh(ish) words for the album, even though I think it works more often than it doesn’t, because most of the time I just want them to lock into a smooth rhythm and let the guitarists shred sweetly all over the damn place.  Death’s Procession will be out in a few weeks on Kemado Records.

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Helheim, Heiðindómr Ok Mótgangr (2011)

Funky-ass ravens

My review of the latest stormer from consistent (and consistently underrated) Viking metal stalwarts Helheim is up now at MetalReview.  Heiðindómr Ok Mótgangr is the band’s strongest album in years, and helps reclaim for Viking metal a stoicism and ass-kicking grit that has been lacking in recent years.  Unpronounceable Title With Weird Accents is out now on Dark Essence Records.

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