I was completely unfamiliar with U.K. imprint Apocalyptic Witchcraft Recordings, but discovered their output earlier this week when checking out a great new EP by the band Crimson Throne, who had hit me up on Twitter. Digging a little further, I found that all three of the label's most recent releases from 2017 really intrigued me, so I decided to give each of them a shout...
Crimson Throne, Crimson Throne (2017)
I haven't yet learned much about U.K. act Crimson Throne, but their impressive self-titled debut EP presents four tracks of epic, melodic blackened death metal in just shy of a half-hour. Think early Primordial meets Dissection—which is no small compliment—and as with anything comparable to Dissection, you know you're in for some seriously top-shelf guitar riffs.
The powerful quality of their songwriting piqued my interest right away when I checked out "Praetorian March" on YouTube, and the full release does not disappoint. Guitar-centric in delivery, the material covers a range of tempos and atmospheres from winding dissonant runs, fits of tremolo picking, and surging melodies; not to mention—as you'll hear above—some fiercely pained vocal snarls. Clocking in at nearly nine minutes, the longest track, "Fog of War," even comes across more like a dark ambient piece; as subtly melodic drones cascade beneath swells of feedback prior to faint percussion and acoustic guitars fading into place during its final minutes.
Limited to just 50 cassettes, I'd have to assume that physical copies will sell out sooner rather than later, so pick one up while you still can! (It's also available as a name your price download via Bandcamp.)
Gods, Fear is the Price of Our Instrument (2017)
Even more mysterious is Gods, whose lineup and location have not openly been revealed, as far as I can tell. My research suggests that they're also based in the U.K., and their members appear to have been involved with a number of other bands over the years (though none that I am particularly familiar with). That being said, this three-song, 16-minute EP puts forth a pretty fuckin' badass fusion of, say, Crowbar and H8000 hardcore. It's seriously hard-hitting shit, packed with sludgily chugging breakdowns and viciously pissed vocals reminiscent of Stephen Bessac from Kickback.
I'm the type of guy who sees a lead track titled "Hateslick," raises an eyebrow, and thinks, "Alright, you've got my attention. I hope this is good..." Thankfully, it is! And I think Fear is the Price of Our Instrument is their debut, too, which is all the more mind-blowing.
Once again limited to 50 tapes, physical copies are currently unavailable, though I'm told they'll be back up for sale in the near future. Until then, it's a name your price download over at Bandcamp.
Cnoc an Tursa, The Forty Five (2017)
It's extremely rare for me to put up with any form of folk-tinged metal, but as with the above releases, Scottish act Cnoc an Tursa has surprised me with a certain level of artistry and professionalism in approach with their sophomore full-length, The Forty Five. Generally referred to as a black metal band, such aesthetics certainly play a role, but I would tend to say "blackened death metal" here as well. Granted, even that only scratches their palette's surface, as tracks such as "The Standard on the Braes o' Mar" have an energetic bounce akin to ambitious power metal filtered through a much more aggressive lens—Sonata Arctica meets Drudkh, perhaps?
It's certainly a Scotland-centric affair, right down to the poetic nature of the lyrics; not overboard, though. You may spot the occasional acoustic guitar or flute, or perhaps a (possibly traditional) melody akin to early Amorphis (and, yes, I know that Scotland and Finland are not the same), but I quite appreciate that the "folksy" elements are not a distraction. Keyboards can tend to creep up to a level of prominence that tests my patience here and there, but everything is fairly tasteful and controlled as a whole.
Conceptually, I can't sit here and pretend that I'm at all interested in the Jacobite rising of 1745, but the album is jammed with fantastic songwriting; so it's a good, forceful listen.