For a long time, I’ve had an idea that I’ve wanted to bring to Bloody Disgusting; something a little different than what you may typically find on the site. You may notice from time to time we like to bring you bits of music news and reviews; well, with this new column – Haunted Riffs – I am looking to expand that coverage.
Haunted Riffs is a means to venture into a new art form, while also further exploring qualities that horror and heavy music share. Art forms that embrace the eerie, the deeply personal, that can be aggressive and chilling – yet can bring joy and clarity into our lives. In this new column, you can expect album reviews, artist interviews, and various features. Much of what you’ll find will be metal-related (but that doesn’t mean I won’t be throwing in some non-metal gems from time to time).
To kick off this first installment, I wanted to write about ten excellent records that have come out in the first half of 2021. Links to Bandcamp pages – or relevant links to purchase music – are provided.
Rob Zombie – The Lunar Injection Kool Aid Eclipse Conspiracy (Nuclear Blast)
Rob Zombie loves to entertain his fans with music when not working behind a camera and directing maniac hillbillies to gut people. His tongue-in-cheek horror lyricism blends well with his band’s industrial metal/rock fusion intensity to create playful atmospheres. While he certainly has his fair share of bangers from past releases, Zombie hits a homerun with The Lunar Injection Kool Aid Eclipse Conspiracy. There is an overall fantastic arena vibe to the record with several songs fans will lose their minds to as they blare over speakers. Zombie also delivers a great array of exciting cuts that serve to liven up any sort of party. The good and spooky vibes remain ecstatic throughout, making for one of Zombie’s strongest records to date. If you want more of my thoughts on it, you can read my review here.
Tribulation – Where the Gloom Becomes Sound (Metal Blade Records)
Few bands can reach the mesmerizing chill that Tribulation produces. A death-doom act with gothic flair, Tribulation offers a type of horror that speaks to the ghoulish and ethereal, all while coming off both enchanting and evil. Where the Gloom Becomes Sound not only continues their tradition of goth rock doom energy, but amplifies it to stunning heights of melodic ferocity. Through their rhythms and melodic touches, Tribulation provides a rush within each track. Their slower material also has its own magical vibe to it – casting a spell that lures listeners into a realm of creepy thrills. This album is sincerely one of the best works to come from Tribulation, representing their tight musicianship and captivating approach to horror.
Cerebral Rot – Excretion of Mortality (20 Buck Spin)
On the flipside, Cerebral Rot are a different shade of horror. Coming full force with their gnawing guitar work – exuding a thick, slimy texture – the band establishes an atmosphere that works to unnerve. Their approach to body horror lyricism flows delightfully with that of their instrumentation; auditory details through riffs and notation give off a dripping, oozing sensation. The drums and bass elevating tension as the vocals gurgle and growl with menace. Excretion of Mortality is a gruesome experience that loves to get gross. As the album progresses, the production and performances dive further into depravity, cementing the record as one of the most ruthless releases of the year so far. Cerebral Rot play downright dirty and they rip hard.
The Body – I’ve Seen All I Need to See (Thrill Jockey Records)
We’ve touched upon the supernatural and the bodily disgusting – but what about existential, emotional horror? The Body’s music is sincerely haunting, achieving profound levels of despair. The nightmares they create – blending noise, metal, pop, and hip-hop – are enough to tear at the soul. Following that of 2018’s I Have Fought Against It, But I Cannot Any Longer, I’ve Seen All I Need to See is a devastating venture into distortion. Through the album, The Body use various tones of distortion – working it through both hypnotic and chaotic flowing compositions – to guide the listener into maddening darkness. It’s unsettling, it’s horrifying, and it’s masterful.
Body Void – Bury Me Beneath This Rotting Earth (Prosthetic Records)
Doom metal is meant to crush. Whereas death metal can excite listeners with fast riffs and unrelenting blast beats, doom has the means to annihilate one’s mind with misery. It wants to weigh a listener down with thick, bleak-sounding rhythms. On their latest record, Bury Me Beneath This Rotting Earth, Body Void present a work that is nonstop in its emotional onslaught. Incorporating elements of sludge and noise into their doom, the band provides four tracks that will absolutely knock someone on their ass – this isn’t for the faint of heart. The album is a no holds barred dive into dread, exhaling raw distortion and violent sounding guitar playing over the consistent stomping of drums. Body Void doesn’t shy away from making their anger known.
Youth Code / King Yosef – A Skeleton Key in the Doors of Depression (Self Release)
The combined forces of Youth Code and King Yosef makes for a remarkable duality where music is highly energetic, yet also utterly grim. A Skeleton Key in the Doors of Depression is as much dance music as it is an experience of agony. Whereas Youth Code bring their vibrant and hectic display of industrial electronics to the table, King Yosef elevates the emotional tone with his somber beat production. Even for as dark as the record gets in its subject matter, there’s still an insightfulness to it. The intimacy of the lyrics has the means to possibly provide catharsis for those struggling with mental illness. And in all that emotional brutality, this album still bangs! That balance between playfulness and gloom is a tightrope, but wow, Youth Code and King Yosef pull it off with style.
Gojira – Fortitude (Roadrunner Records)
With the likes of 2005’s From Mars to Sirius and 2012’s L’Enfant Sauvage, Gojira has taken over the metal world by storm. Their latest release, Fortitude, embodies many of the qualities found in their past records. Songs stomp forth with heavy melody and euphoric groove. But though the band lay out their metal ferocity in full fashion, there also comes nuanced moments of lighter atmosphere; adding these gentle touches helps to heighten the impact of the heavier instrumentation. Gojira’s approach to technical songwriting allows for each song to evolve throughout its runtime, each member of the band giving superb performances. With each new release of theirs, Gojira only continue to grow stronger in their musicianship.
John Carpenter – Lost Themes III: Alive After Death (Sacred Bones Records)
Many may know The Master of Horror for his films, but John Carpenter is one hell of a musician as well. Joining forces with his son Cody Carpenter and godson Daniel Davies, Carpenter released Lost Themes III: Alive After Death this year. Brimming with chilling uses of synthesizer, Carpenter and company provide a plethora of cuts that have the means to fuel one with adrenaline and awe. The trio knows how to establish a sonic landscape – for while listening to a given song – one may feel as if they’ve been transported into one of Carpenter’s cinematic worlds. The compositional progression throughout the album allows the record to remain engaging from beginning to end. You can read more of my thoughts on the album in my review.
Panopticon – …And Again Into the Light (Bindrune Recordings)
Panopticon isn’t your typical sort of black metal. Taking the icy, evil tones the genre is known for, Austin Lunn of Panopticon also incorporates elements of Americana and folk into his music. In that sonic blend, what you get is music that is exhilarating, haunting, and heartbreaking. With a thematic exploration into mental illness, …And Again Into The Light is a record relentless in its emotional and instrumental delivery. One song can go from extreme – a guitar rhythm flying away alongside blast beats – to then drop into a beautiful sounding violin section. Through his songwriting, Lunn sets up a sonic plane for listeners to become lost in; the music may very much be personal, but it also has the means to connect on a universal level. There is a rawness to Panopticon that can make someone feel vulnerable. In its plethora of instrumentation, somber use of atmosphere, and poetic depth, this album is nothing short of jaw-dropping.
Cannibal Corpse – Violence Unimagined (Metal Blade Records)
The titans of death metal released their 15th studio album in 2021, Violence Unimagined. In the three decades Cannibal Corpse have been a band, they have never lost an ounce of momentum. The album carries over the band’s iconic aggression and horror lyricism, destroying the listener’s eardrums from the get-go. This record also displays the band’s ability to create violent sounding music; this isn’t just heavy music for the sake of heaviness, but an experience that breathes menace. Each riff is vicious sounding, each drum clash comes down like a mallet on flesh, the bass gives off a monstrous rumble, and the vocals sound like a demon’s roar. Violence Unimagined is a killer record, unapologetic in how ferociously it shreds.
And there you have it, ten heavy as hell records from the first half of the year. There are a lot of records I really wanted to talk about, but I’d probably need to take up an hour or two of your time to get through all of them. So in the comments, let me know what records you are currently loving from 2021.
In the next installment of Haunted Riffs, I’ll be bringing you an album review for one of my top favorite records of the year. Thank you for taking the time to read this first entry; I’m very excited for this column and to write about amazing bands and artists.
Keep on headbanging friends, see you soon! – Michael