Possessor – Gravelands (2019)
Gravelands is the fourth LP from London’s Possessor: six tracks of ace stoner/sludge bookended by an intro and an atmospheric reprise whose common aural element— crackling flames— is a great metaphor for the overall driven feel of this album. From the opening Motörhead bass chug, there is no letup until the final track, an eight-minute-plus mammoth, hallucinatory trek through sand-blasted wastelands that caps a run of five mid-length, mid- and upper-mid-tempo rockers.
While strongly rooted in the jammish grunge-in-the-desert stoner rock genre, ala Kyuss, Possessor seamlessly incorporate numerous influences, from a healthy dose of sludge to hardcore riffs and d-beats to expertly-wielded grooves and trad metal leads. The result shows flashes of a lot of disparate bands, from Helmet to Motörhead to Corrosion of Conformity, unfailingly holding one’s interest. This well-oiled guitar-and-bass machine is propelled by solid, hell-bent trad/rock drumming, with the occasional d-beat. The production is consonant with the sludge/stoner foundation: biggish, gritty, sun-bleached and fuzzed-out.
Standout tracks: Backwoods, Savage Rampage, Breathe Fire
Desolation – Screams of the Undead (2019)
Swedish death-metallers Desolation split up in ’94 after one demo and then reformed in 2014. Screams of the Undead is their second full-length album, and it is serviceable old-school Swedish death metal that does not stray far from the original formula, being somewhat predictable as a result. Noticeably fixated on tremolo picking; the occasional death metal chug breaks things up a bit.
Standout tracks: Beyond Death, Macabre Slaughter, Diabolical Resurrection
Carnal Tomb – Abhorrent Veneration (2019)
Germany’s Carnal Tomb play cavernous old-school death metal in the vein of Autopsy; Abhorrent Veneration is their sophomore LP, and it is a fat seven-track slab of mid-and-down-tempo crypthymns, all expertly woven from old-school death/doom riffing, sick funeral-groove chugs and some really ace macabre leadwork over mostly traditional, well-filled drums, punctuated with measured doses of blasts and double bass. Songs are longish, ranging from five to seven minutes; the evershifting panoramic riff/drum dynamic of the longer tracks somehow reminds one of complexly-structured technical thrash like Vektor. Dirty cavernous production, with extra reverb and nicely-audible bass.
Standout tracks: Abhorrent Veneration, Cryptic Nebula
Wraith – Absolute Power (2019)
Absolute Power is the second LP from Indiana’s Wraith, who play a well-executed, blackened blend of speed metal, thrash and hardcore punk that lands somewhere between Toxic Holocaust and Midnight, and kicks as much ass as one might expect from that comparison. Short, blistering verse/chorus songs, built from mostly uptempo speed metal riffs and thrashier chugs with Toxic Holocaust-style slower passages and sick mosh breaks for contrast. Some really sweet bluesy and virtuoso leadwork. Drums are mostly trad/rock or hardcore, especially d-beats, with some nice fills. Production is mid-era Toxic Holocaust with Midnight on the leads.
Standout tracks: Devil’s Hour, At the Stake, The Hunt
Disrupted – The Procrastination of Being (2019)
The Procrastination of Being is another sophomore album, this time from Mexico’s Disrupted, who bring us nine tracks of really thrashy death metal in the vein of Krisiun, fattened up with some nods to tech death, both of the NYDM brutal/tech and Atheist jazzy/proggy (in a few spots) varieties. At seconds shy of 33 minutes for nine tracks, all of them chock-full of riff changes, Procrastination feels packed full of change, perhaps a bit to its detriment in places. Musicianship is clearly top-notch: the guitars are quite well-played; some of the riffing is quite technical, and the leads are really nice. The same can be said of the bass, which has a nice, prominent place in the mix. The drums are similarly well-played: nicely-filled trad/thrash drumming with some hardcore patterns and some sweet rolling double bass. Vocals consist of deep, rough growlish spoken/shouts with some more mid-range ghoulish snarls; in a few places, the two styles are double-tracked to nice effect. Production is cleanish, tight/crisp and big; very crankable.
Standout tracks: The Procrastination of Being, Ancient Plague, Asfixia