We're back (again)! There weren't any solid releases on Feb 10, so I took the week off and then the promos and releases snowballed and it took a while to catch up. Thankfully this is another slow release week, so here's what sounded good the past month. First up is the second album from Victoria, BC's Hail the Void - Memento Mori, released 02/17 on the always fantastic Ripple Music. Unless I'm forgetting something, this is my favorite pure doom release since Wheel's Preserved in Time all the way back in 2021. Anguished, haunting vocals wail away over top of tasty, fuzzed-out riffage. Again, it's a pure doom record and while it's sometimes hard to stand out in an overcrowded genre, these guys manage to do so in a way that few bands outside of Monolord have done in the last decade. The hype has been justified for this one and don't be surprised if these guys are household names by the time if their next release.
Next, we roll into the Netherlands for the latest release from death metal stalwarts Bodyfarm. Released 02.24 on Edged Circle Productions, Ultimate Abomination is full of angular, muscular death/thrash riffs a la Jungle Rot (that's high praise, by the way). Dig the insane dive-bomb solos that just come out of nowhere but totally fit the mood. Plenty of stankface riffs, too. I'm ashamed to admit that this is the first I've heard of these guys. I'll definitely have to carve out some time to catch up on the back catalog.
Ice Cold Oblivion, the debut release from Mammoth Caravan was released independently on 02.24. Hailing from the fertile doom lands of Arkansas, these up-and-comers are just oozing with a filthy tone as dense as the mammoths that they sing about in every track. This is a bit sludgier than I usually go for and I'm not 100% on the vocals, but seriously, that tone is enough to land this one on the big board. I was drawn in right away by the sound and kept coming back until the record clicked.
Italian quartet Ontborg released their second album, Following the Steps of Damnation, on 02.24 on Black Lion Records. I initially thought this was just going to serve as a good appetizer for another melodeath release detailed below, but over time it has stood on its own. Due to the glorious HM-2 sound here, I think these guys are leaning more towards Stockholm than Gothenburg, but there is still plenty of melody if not a ton of guitar harmonies. Interesting co-mingling of Swedish death sounds, for sure.
Now I'm all confused. Even though Vittra is actually from Sweden, they are geographically closer to Stockholm than G-burg, but they exhibit more of the classic melodeath twin guitar harmonies, so who knows. And another twist - this is really a thrash album anyway. This is technically a European reissue of a 2022 release (Emrinc Records - they have a Myspace page!), but it's new to me so I'm counting it. Anyway, cool record. Imagine At The Gates covering Rust in Peace.
March finally kicked off with the BIG melodeath release that everyone was waiting for, Vast Reaches Unclaimed by Majesties. This is a supergroup of sorts, most notably featuring members of Obsequiae, and they just released the most authentic Gothenburg-sounding record since maybe 1999 and not a moment too soon since the new In Flames was a giant turd instead of the much-hailed return to form. I'm a huge slut for melodeath and maybe the success of this record hails a return to form for the genre. One can hope.
Speaking of bands that fell off a cliff, remember Skeletonwitch? Fear not, because we finally have a capable replacement in Denver's Necropanther. I remember these guys getting the Twitter hype on their 2019 release, but I was kind of on review hiatus so I didn't check it out for whatever reason, or if I did it didn't make an impact the way Betrayal does. This shit right here absolutely rules, from the wild thrashing to the groovy breakdowns to the evil, unhinged vocals. Don't let the deathcore-ish branding scare you away.
Slowing things down a bit, we arrive at Pale Existence, the second record from Greece's Ocean of Grief. This is kind of your meat-and-potatoes death doom stuff. Plenty of atmosphere, heavy-ass riffs, haunting keys and growled vocals. Not exactly breaking new ground here, but if you're a fan of the genre, you're going to enjoy this one. It's also just a great sounding album, with every instrument getting room to breathe. This is something that would hit a lot harder in Autumn, so I'm making a note to revisit then.
Last but not least, we have France's Witchthroat Serpent checking in with the absurdly named Trove of Oddities at the Devil's Driveway, their 4th full-length, out last week on Heavy Psych Sounds. My first thought before digging into their background was that this would've been huge 10-15 years ago before the Electric Wizard sound/Hammer Horror cover combo got played out. I mean, I still like that combo quite a bit, but I can also understand why it's tired for the rest of you. That's what this is.