As we shift into the second half of the year, it's a little disconcerting how 2020 is firmly affixed to our rear view: everything set in motion last year continues to bear down on us and it feels harder than most other years to get out from underneath that shadow. I didn't have a problem remembering to write "2021" on the, er, single check I signed this year, but every time I try to remember how long ago something was, my mind simply refuses to consider that 2020 actually lasted a whole year. In the part of my brain that scratches ticks on a wall to count the days, we're still working our way through what-should-have-been-2020. Weird, right? But hey, at least there's a continuous supply of new riffs to distract me.

Before we get into the glut of good stuff from June, I must, as is tradition, point out some albums and coverage from this month that are worth checking out as well. First off, we collected a short list of records made to transfer your consciousness elsewhere, including a snail-themed epic black metal album. We also had our coolest edition (and the first two were already sweet) yet of our Dungeon Synth digest "Naïve Magic", this time consisting of an interview as well as a thoughtful release roundup. Make sure you also check out our 35 year anniversary piece for Candlemass's Epicus Doomicus Metallicus with a Q&A with Leif Edling, and don't skip Joe Aprill's supremely in-depth interview with Perturbator's James Kent.

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Ted Nubel

EntierroEl Camazotz
June 18th, 2021

We've previously discussed El Camazotz, but it keeps coming back up for me because it's a giant fusion of things that I dearly love. Entierro, being from Connecticut, are proponents of New England stoner doom, a favorite variant of mine that heavily leans towards up-tempo riffs and proto-metal grooves. Influenced by recent addition and ex-Fates Warning guitarist Victor Arduini, El Camazotz takes these inclinations and redoubles them, creating a beefy metal sound that's thick and classic: doom gallops and double-bass-driven metal assaults coexist, unified under a banner of dual-guitar supremacy.

Vocalist/bassist Christopher Taylor Beaudette contributes the final appealing factor for me, delivering vocals in a howling mid-range that isn't quite like anything else you're likely to hear in heavy metal or stoner doom; still, arrayed against a combination of both, it seals in the mystical might of El Camazotz.

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Ivan Belcic

BackxwashI Lie Here Buried With My Rings and Dresses
June 20th, 2021

I’ve been spellbound by Backxwash ever since I first encountered her with 2020’s God Has Nothing to Do With This Leave Him Out of It, her second full-length after a previous release the year before as well as a duo of EPs that unfortunately went under my radar. The Montreal-based rapper and producer’s Polaris-prize–winning album honed the sinister angst of her earlier work with slower tempos, heavier textures, and a far more forceful lyrical delivery. Backxwash followed this album up with an EP towards the end of the year, and both landed on my end-of-year lists.

Soon later, Backxwash began hinting at new music to come, teaming up again with frequent collaborator Ada Rook while also calling in beats from members of Code Orange (as Nowhere2Run) and clipping.—let that hang as a representation of how far the explosive artist has come at blinding speed. But the hype is entirely justified, as her recent full-length I Lie Here Buried With My Rings and Dresses is both her most mature and most cohesive release yet.

Backxwash’s production partners have steered their output perfectly to match her own self-produced beats—there’s no noticeable difference in aesthetic or mood between the tracks across the record. Rook’s vocals on the title track flitter between the rawest of black metal wails and pop-appropriate whisper-singing, ratcheting up Backxwash’s already-haunting atmosphere to even eerier levels.

"If life is what you make of it, I'm going for the do-or-die approach," howls Backxwash on the album's first post-intro track "Wail of the Banshee," and on this record, that's exactly what she's done. Where its predecessor lurched and lunged in uneven stumbles, I Lie Here Buried With My Rings and Dresses is relentless in its mission to inflict every bit of Backxwash’s pain, rage, and anguish on you. The album forces you to confront every facet of her journey and struggle, gives you no choice but to wrestle with her life and thoughts the way she has. It’s a thoroughly exhausting listen that leaves you battered, panting, and sweaty on the floor, utterly demoralized yet somehow fulfilled at the same time.

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Tom Campagna

Witch VomitAbhorrent Rapture
June 18th, 2021

Oregon based death metal unit Witch Vomit surprised us all by dropping an unannounced EP, Abhorrent Rapture, a few weeks back, and that could only have been good news. Already two albums and two EPs into their reign of terror, we see the band once again plumbing the same depths as they did on their most recent full-length release, Buried Deep In a Bottomless Grave. Right from the outset “Purulent Burial Mound” makes all the previous points even more evident, thrashing away your neck to oblivion while offering enough variety to establish some sort of chaotic balance.

These 4 tracks serve a similar purpose as their last EP Poisoned Blood, a taste of what is and what’s to come from the band at this current time. Seeing as the band have continued to solidify their sound over the last 4 years, Abhorrent Rapture encapsulates the sound of a band making their violent and crusty brand of death metal all their own. Bite sized death metal releases just hit differently when done well.

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Colin Dempsey

SeputusPhantom Indigo
June 4th, 2021

"Frustrating" is rarely used as praise. Dense, inaccessible, or difficult are usually used in apositive light to describe prickly music. But Phantom Indigo is frustrating, and Seputus want it that way. It’s a mental exercise to chart out the ornate songs and often the payoff is a case of more head scratching. Seputus wanted to induce these feelings to replicate the internal struggle between thoughts and actions. The constricting technical death metal necessitates a constricted sound because Seputus are soundtracking cognitive dissonance.

Why this matters is because the interplay of frustration, self-awareness, and futility that breeds learned helplessness are hardly articulated this directly. Mental health is often addressed by either conveying its toll or persevering in spite of it through allegory. Seputus contrast this by refusing to examine or represent, opting for a literal translation. They tackle the trapping nature of negative thought cycles. Phantom Indigo is frustration in its purest essence. It’s why the album can overbear despite its clear production and legible song structures. Just because you understand what’s happening doesn’t make it any easier to endure. Seputus tap into technical death metal’s thorniness to express what is often felt but rarely defined.