Mining Metal: Anti-God Hand, Ars Moriendi, Colony Drop, Dead Neanderthals, Dymna Lotva, Mohini Dey, Nox Eternus, and Trhä

Mining Metal is a monthly column from Heavy Consequence contributing writers Langdon Hickman and Colin Dempsey. The focus is on noteworthy new music emerging from the non-mainstream metal scene, highlighting releases from small and independent labels — or even releases from unsigned acts.

Heavy metal is not a financially lucrative venture, especially in the extreme realms. That’s evident to anyone who’s listened to, well, any metal at all. The Sisyphean drive to screech into a microphone in a basement recording studio, decelerate your riffs to a glacial pace, or whatever other musical vice you have is best summarized in a tweet by Pyrrhon’s bassist Erik Malave, which read, “True anti capitalist action is spending countless years and funds devoted to a niche craft with negligible monetary value. I love it and will never stop.” Yet, the trade-off for the lack of commercial viability is more than worthwhile, for some.

The more extreme the metal, the freer human expression becomes, with the caveat that it loses accessibility. You can interpret this in one of two ways: the literal sense of accessible, which is no doubt true, considering there are only so many labels out there capable of fully supporting metal bands, and some of them are tinged with less-than-savory optics. The other interpretation is that human expression is less permeable to the listener in extreme forms. It becomes less universal and more solitary. This isn’t a good or bad quality, it’s just an aspect. Few turn to metal for its lyrical insights alone (though high-quality metal lyrics aren’t as rare as purported), and the overwhelming sound is imbued to the creator rather than the audience. Metal isn’t about relating or understanding, it’s about finding yourself in another being’s perception.

This dive into selfish self-expression and improvement is fruitless by all capital means. Most metal musicians I know work full-time jobs and play in multiple bands. I’d like to write that they make ends meet, but that’s becoming an exception rather than a rule. The corporate wheel that champions work ethic rolls onwards, but the esoteric, engorged, and eldritch beckons, drawing the finger to stoke the flames of devices that cannot be controlled by market forces. As time moves onwards, metal increasingly becomes a vessel artists manipulate to engage with themselves. The fruits of their labor allow us to engage with ourselves through the most vile methods.

This neatly brings us to the eight releases from this past month. August overflowed with quality albums, all of which in their own sense represent metal’s death drive, absconding conventional tastes in favor of long, isolated nights spent with whatever tools were on hand — be they a guitar or programmed drums — howling what was never to be deciphered for no one other than the creator.

Colin Dempsey

Anti-God Hand – Blight Year

Black metal as an agent of hope is no longer as renegade as it once was, but what’s interesting is that this route is largely taken by bands who pair its incendiary nature with other emotionally grave genres. Case in point — the Vancouver act Anti-God Hand, who quite literally rose from the ashes of wildfires with a black-metal-meets-screamo hybrid. Blight Year is as gleefully chaotic as its concoction implies, glistening and slicing with equal measure. It’s blistering, but with a joyous undertone. Anti-God Hand revel in their survival, dancing and showboating when the mood strikes (i.e., the solo on “Demon Sniper). What’s more, Colin Marston applied the perfect coat of mixing and mastering that summons forth Blight Year’s most caustic elements, which are also the most ecstatic, a detail that’s vital for the album’s superb quality. Buy it on Bandcamp. – Colin Dempsey

Ars Moriendi – Lorsque les coeurs s’ass​è​chent

It’s a shame that Ars Moriendi has yet to connect with as many people as they should, though their impenetrable status is just as likely to deter as many as it’d attract. To those unaware, they’re a one-man French progressive black metal band headed by The Arsonist that incorporates jazz, trip-hop, and ambient with historical interests and heavy doses of philosophy, asking questions such as “How does one become evil,” through the lens of a Chevalier de la Barre, who was was sentenced to death in France in 1766 for blasphemy. In short, they’re unwieldy. In addition, The Arsonist’s gravely vocal delivery and penchant for epic tapestries are love or hate affairs, not because they’re repulsive, but because they command respect. You have to buy into Ars Moriendi’s immersive experience. As such, Lorsque les coeurs s’ass​è​chent isn’t an album that can be summarized with a musical passage or an evoked feeling; it’s the purest passion project in metal today, one so uncommercial and niche that it commands respect. Buy it on Bandcamp. – Colin Demspey

Colony Drop – Brace for Impact

Blatant nepotism? Maybe! The debut record by our own dearly departed O.G. “Mining Metal” writer Joseph Schafer (he’s not dead! just in a band!) and company is a tasty slice of hardcore-driven thrash — and  has a great deal more rip and tear than some of the cleaner or more party-driven bands the subgenre has seen for the past two decades or so. If you go back and reread any of our oldest columns, you’ll get a good sense of the stuff going on here; a volatile mix of punk, prog, heavy metal and just enough anime references and Maiden-style harmonized guitar licks to keep things from settling too much into one particular lane. I normally make a habit not to cover the work of friends, for obvious ethical reasons, but given Joe’s position here with us plus a promise that I wouldn’t cover the record unless I sincerely liked it, this one-off rub to our boy felt not only acceptable but well-earned on his part. If you ever wonder why he left the column, well, now you know! Buy it on Bandcamp. – Langdon Hickman