Best Underground Metal Releases of July 2023

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.

In early July of 2010, I attempted suicide. I was lucky; my family, noting my rapidly deteriorating state, had moved all the guns from the house literally the day prior without my knowledge. What resulted was an hour of a frantic search, me in the throes of psychosis, prepared to become nothing. When I realized there was no gun to be found, I broke and, in a wild fit of tears, sought help more like a wounded animal than a person. A year to the day later, my father passed away unexpectedly. Since that moment, July has become a stark and brutal gate that I pass every year, a corridor of twin deaths, where I take heavy existential stock of the worth of my life.

I mention this in the intro to a metal column because if we are to treat heavy metal as art, then it must intersect with our lives, must stoke certain fires and resonate in certain chambers of the heart. Something like the crackling abyssal qualities of Ulcerate or the fixation of Tribulation of journeying into death only to come back out of it are, while perhaps from a certain vantage point quite silly, equally real as emotionally salient comments on my life for me.

This month has been one largely of reopening old therapy workbooks and purchasing more, extensive research into PTSD, C-PTSD, bipolar disorder and autism, traumas be they emotional or physical or social, and the slow perpetual repair and reconstruction of the machine. It turns out these moods are a perfect fit for heavy metal. I mentioned to a therapist once that I adored death metal, anything suitably heavy and extreme, and she expressed horror, feeling it might trigger major relapses in depressive episodes. I think all of us here can attest to the ironic inversion of that; I listen to sludge or death metal or particular strands of death and doom and I feel a kind of survivalist euphoria, that I can bear impossible fires and be weighed by many stones and yet live.

There is a ravenous aspect to heavy metal that reminds me of country music at its best (not when its racist jingoistic bullshit). There’s a common element of reaching someone at their lowest, no matter how low they’ve gone, no matter how ugly and wicked they’ve become in their pain, and saying, “You will live.” This is, even for a non-religious person like me, the most moving elements of fundamental grace. Repair, repair, repair, and then perish. Life is neither a marathon nor a sprint; life merely is, and that sense of aimless openness is itself a kind of abstract trauma you can watch people stagger about to and fro in the daze of. But there is an immediacy to the properly distorted electric guitar, a holiness: there may be no center to this world, but there is this.

Langdon Hickman

Ar’lyxkq’wr – R’ynn’wr(yx)

It’s almost more like an anti-thought, a deliverance of what jazz might sound like if delivered in death metal terms, not unlike the project Dead Neanderthals as a collective have been pursuing for the past few years. Ar draws from the deliberate nonsense of a group like PSUDOKU or Encenathrakh, but skews far less technical than either of those groups, delivering instead a freeform approach to death metal that approaches what fans of raw black metal often see in their tape hiss and trem riffs. It shouldn’t be a shock that the death metal equivalent appeals to me more; this feels downright alien, like the nerve-dead static after a panic attack where your brain, desperate for thought, finds it can’t construct a single one. Another comparison point would be the dense psychedelia of Oranssi Pazuzu’s most recent works, but stripped of melodicism; it’s like being dissolved in acid, be it hydrochloric or lysergic, becoming the resulting soup that is so often the cover of extreme metal records we love. This feels like the cover of Altars of Madness looks in the very best way. Buy it on Bandcamp. — Langdon Hickman

Death of a King – Antimatter

Death of a King have hidden nearly all information about themselves online. The only certain truth about them is that Antimatter is their debut release, a fact which works in its favor as it opens up pathways of discussion about its purpose. On the surface, it’s a blackened death metal record about nihilism in outer space, but it’s rooted in skepticism. It’s angry, but necessarily so. Antimatter is an album of unresolved questions and Death of a King are furious that, in Antimatter’s lore, humanity would search the cosmos for bloodshed and war for answers. This crux is punchy and digestible — an approach that, when paired with the band’s mysterious aura, places onus on the audience to come to their own conclusions. Buy it on Bandcamp. — Colin Dempsey