EARTHRIDE, Something Wicked (2010, Earth Brain)

The skull:
Surrounded by flowers, bugs, and branches, a ghostly skull with enormous eyes blends into the grass. Maybe the skull is the grass. Woah. Think about it, man. I mean, like, really think about it. You know?

The music:
Fuzzed-out bellbottom doom, like Obsessed meets Electric Wizard, but worse. The singing is terrible, and the guitar tone approaches “all-time-worst.” You can practically hear the mustaches, too. Every now and then they land on a chord progression with some genuine mystery, but the execution and sound are so rotten that those few fleeting moments of inspiration are squandered in a haze of Sunn amplification and poorly doubled vocals. If I never hear another album like this, it’ll be too soon, but I bet it’ll happen in less than two weeks anyway.
— Friar Johnsen


VEX, Thanatopsis (2010, Horror Pain Gore Death Productions)

The skull:
A cute little guy here with humongous eye sockets. Toothless, the skull has a look of surprise or desperation, or possibly both. Looks sort of like a child’s skull. Whatever the age, somebody forgot to bury the body properly. I’m assuming the tombstone-like stone behind it marks a gravesite, and the field it’s in hasn’t been mowed in quite some time. If I was hiking in this field I wouldn’t be able to resist picking up this skull and putting it into my backpack. After flicking the maggots off. Cool cover, one that looks like it could either be a mildly manipulated photograph or a really good bit of painted realism.

The music:
Considering the label this is on, I didn’t expect the music to be of such a refined, majestic sort. It’s from Texas but sounds like early/mid ’90s Swedish melodic death metal. I imagine they’re disciples of Eucharist and early Tiamat. Their guitars weave melodic themes and riffs that recall Dissection, Unanimated, Sacramentum, early Dark Tranquillity and early At the Gates, with vocals in a similar vein (seething, near-black metal rasps). They keep things raw on the production side, guitars are thin and hypnotic sounding, and the song arrangements are relatively complex, so they truly sound authentically olden — nowhere near as edgeless as most modern melodic death metal bands. Thanatopsis is very good for what Vex is trying to achieve. Some moments hint at a will for experimentation, so I’m curious to hear the follow up, Memorious. What do you know, a cool cover and some good music to go along with it!? Skulls be praised!
— Friar Wagner