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Resonance - Gaerea - Altars - Hexed - Utter Failure

Gaerea – Mirage 10/10

The faceless entities that consist of Gaerea unleash their third magnum Opus, the malevolent beast that is Mirage. An album that sees the Portuguese act further pursue the depths of darkness whilst rising to the summit of the genre.

An album tempered only by its savagery and moments of pure beauty, Mirage is a complete undertaking of uncertainty, anger, and introspection. From the opening moments of ‘’Salve’’ Gaerea are direct in their undertaking of the human condition. It is the terror of the real, more horrifying than any story or myth.

Boasting a massive production that allows their music to ensnarl you. Nothing can prepare you for the inundation that is ‘’Deluge’’ with its riffs and assault on the senses, ‘’Arson” is the flame of self-destruction tempered only by moments of beautiful regret before everything is rendered ash. The abyss that is ‘’Mantle,” and the undeniable strength that is ‘’Laude.” They Gaerea and ultimately us.

The reflection of the Bonus track ‘’Dormant’’ ends the record and demands it to be restarted. Gaerea is pure strength, their cathartic Black metal a cleansing release, haunting and commanding without being accusatory. This is extreme music with moments of blinding speed, tremolo, and acoustic all sourced from the emotions created within. It is immediate yet contains incredible depth, it is a glorious mosaic of at times pure metal alleviated by melody and deep thought.

A showcase of human isolation and the strained vocals reflect this perfectly. The dissonance is offset by the orchestration of the arrangements and excellent rhythms. The title track is a soul-stirring masterpiece. A defining statement in extreme metal Mirage is simply superb.

Altars – Ascetic Reflection 9/10

Following up from their 2013 release Paramnesia, Australia’s Altars have finally returned with the most excellent Ascetic Reflection, an album that re-affirms their musical prowess and dissonant chaos.

Tense, menacing and delightfully unhinged, the trio have returned with an album that is still one hundred percent pure death metal but also pursues dissonant tumultuous sections that lurch, throw you off balance and then combined with some excellent percussion and double bass attack return to comfortable purely heavy ground before diverting again.

The riffs are hug monolithic masterpieces that explore the tonal inexorable marching rhythms. They shriek, wail, and create a claustrophobic, dense atmosphere. ‘’ Perverse Entity’’,’’ Black Light upon Us’’ and the menace that is the title track ‘’ Ascetic Reflection’’, use the repetition and tribalistic rhythms to create a base for their unique death metal to be combined with off tempo dissonance, that isn’t without touches of doom and the immediacy of punk that is tough and compelling. It is technical yet organic. Clear with some instantly memorable moments. It is as headbanger worthy as it is technically challenging.

From the glorious pummelation that is ‘’Opening the Passage’’ and ‘’ Anhedonia’’ the times changes seamless, the riffs incredibly heavy. Altars are able to combine all the chaotic elements into one cohesive directional force that is powerful, surprising and based in the realms of death metal.

Dark, disturbing, and malevolently twisted Ascetic Reflection is an album that re-arranges your senses whilst also explores the furthers depths of pure extreme metal. Altars have damn near perfected the use sound as a weapon. A must have.

Hexed – Pagans Rising 9/10

Swedish Symphonic progressive act Hexed released their second album. Inspired by the hysteria of 17th-century witch hunts, the melodic modern metal story is Pagans rising.

Don’t be confused, there is no acoustic music of first-century authenticities on Pagans Rising. This is pure metal. Real metal. The lead vocals of Tina Gunnarsson are powerful beautiful and haunting, they are matched by the growls of Stellan Gunnarsson to create the dynamic. The music is melodic and instantly memorable, “Resurrection” is a highlight with the vocals reaching the heavens and the seamless time changes. The pure headbanging energy of ‘’Symphony of Tragedy” is undeniable, “Repentance” is anything but, its textured multi-layered approach reflecting the defiance of Tina’s vocals. “Prophecy “rages whilst ‘’Incantation’’ takes a more traditional metal approach. The guitar work is excellent and the drumming dynamic. Blessed with great songwriting skill the progressive is merged with the symphonic effortlessly, and the production allows you to simply enjoy it all turned up to 11.

‘’Pagans Rising”” is the result of a pure metal maelstrom of great vocals huge choruses and hooks, great execution, moments of excellent metal, and utter conviction to their craft. It is a vivid tale full of dark symphonic moods and aggression. Hexed are outstanding in their devotion to their music and Pagans Rising is a heavier offering to the metal gods. Recommended.

Utter Failure – Life Has No More Meaning 9/10

US one-man act Utter Failure has released their debut, the remorseful ‘’ Life Has No More Meaning’’ an Ep of suffering and isolation.

This is not just another DSBM act that is lost in mindless speed and wailings of despondency, Utter Failure excels in the slower tempos that allow some of the larger expansive riffs to be heard and felt. The Claustrophobic abyss that is ‘’Cold Existence’’ is only enhanced by the torturous pace and the cavernous vocals are thoughtful and purposeful. ‘’Unheard Cries’’ and the title track are epic moments of meticulously crafted black metal that seek acknowledgment and possible atonement in an environment where all hope is lost.

‘’Agony and Despair’’ continues the utter sense of loss and the almost doom-like pace of crawling through existence. It is enhanced by the atmosphere created by moments of tremolo that are offset by the massive bottom-end riffs and bass that drag the song into existence. The recording is excellent as is the musicianship

Five odes to pain and Suffering ‘’ Life Has No More Meaning’’ Is a singular journey into the depths of an individual’s psyche that is broken, tortured, and damaged. Where the aggression has given way to abandonment, it is no less heavy, a cathartic experience where hopefully some beauty has been found in the darkness.

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