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Ok, these tapes were all supposed to be in the last part of the cassette craze chronicles already, but then a bunch of other stuff became more relevant at the time due to certain festivals they were connected with. But finally here we go with three 2022 and 2023 releases from Trepanation Recordings and one split cassette by Xenoglossy Productions!

MONOVOTH - Monovoth (2022)

This is fucking sad! Seriously. This is so desperately sad, you don't think it can get any sadder. Just listen to "Servants", where the drums at some point lose patience and are like "Come on buddy, that sounds so sad, let's move! Let's blast! Don't be so miserable all the time!", but the guitar just goes "Thanks for trying man, but I'm so depressed, I just keep being slow and sad nonetheless." The brilliant result encapsules the spirit of the whole album.

Both said instruments are played by the same person, since Monovoth is a solo project (yet also including several guest musicians) by Lucas Wyssbrod, who has a very clear vision of what he wants, which is oppressing heaviness and relentless lugubriousness, both achieved by the means of Funeral Doom, Death, Drone and Post Metal. This is stuff which may require some Bell Witch afterwards to cheer you up, so you definitely should be in the right listening mood to handle this life-denying monstrosity of cosmic sorrow. Surely one of last year's Doom highlights!

The cover artwork is accordingly evil, comes with a cryptic OBI strip, yet especially the tape itself looks great.

SPIRALIST - Eternal Recurrence (2022)

Oh, what a coincidence! In a couple of days I'm going to see the Sun Ra Arkestra (hopefully this time with 99 years young band leader Marshall Allan) live again. Which musically has almost zero connections to last year's album by Spiralist. Its first song is just called "Sun Ra", that's it. Or is it? At least there's definitely some small Jazz influence hidden in the wild stylistic trajectory of "Eternal Recurrences". But that Jazz comes alongside brutal Hardcore, Prog Rock, Electronic Ambient, Industrial, Post Metal... Yeah, this reads as if I'm just randomly writing down genres. And maybe Spiralist are working just like that and throw dices each time they approach a new song section. For that however they sound surprisingly consistent.

Back when the Afro-Futuristic Arkestra started revolutionizing Jazz in the 1950's nothing about the sound of this band here would have seemed even imaginable. And even now their particular mash-up of ideas isn't easy to categorize. A good part of the four tracks sound like a much darker incarnation of Haken, but then the album also throws curveballs leading you far away from that comparison. (The twelve-minute instrumental track "The Unknown" is much much too straight for example and also the epic Post Doom title track points to an entirey different direction.)

Spiralist are gritty, creative and never wholly what you'd expect them to be - no matter from which angle you approach them. There's no doubt that they made a pretty great album though. It also has my favorite cover artwork of this bunch.

TERMINAL - R.A.T.S (2023)

The cover artwork which incited this whole Trepanation purchase (also including an epic Post Rock CD by Mountainscape) in the first place interestingly is the one which somehow doesn't translate into the MC format as successfully as the rest. As much as the psychologically dark painting is still one of the best covers of the ongoing year in itself, the presentation just weakens it. Which means the musical content has to save this release, I guess? Well, thankfully it does that with ease.

The Norwegian duo Terminal channels Godflesh through the lens of catchy Gothic / electronic Post Punk tunes and isn't afraid to throw other ingredients from all kinds of unlikely sources into the mix. Especially the chorus of "The Path", one of half of the album's songs featuring guest vocalist Pia Isaksen has been one of the most resilient occupants of my ear for months now.
But even though not all of the eight tracks are bangers like this, the unique atmosphere and sonic palette of "R.A.T.S." as a whole makes up for it. It may be too short to enter the race of becoming a classic some day and I can certainly hear potential for greater things to come in the future, but being what it is it already checks a lot of boxes, making it hard to resist for me. And why would I even want to resist? 

THECODONTION / CEREMENTED - Thecodontion / Ceremented (2023)

Yes, the proto history nerds from Italy are back. Once again Thecodontion make the weird fantasy of Mike Browning giving a school presentation about earlier geological eras to a Black Metal backdrop a reality. Their brand of Black Metal sounds pretty special, since it omits guitars and relies on two raunchy and wiry basses instead.
On this split album they are giving their primal sound a new elevating twist by adding a lot of prominent synths, which probably triggered me thinking of Browning's Nocturnus. The result is a little more "musical" (for lack of a better term), yet still remains a quite singular experience.

And then comes the third track "La Torre", which suddenly features clean Italian vocals and catchy New Wave Pop melodies. It's a cover of Eighties singer/songwriter Franco Battiato and features a line about super dinosaurs returning to Earth or something, so that's probably how they got the idea to include it. Most unexpected turn on any album I've heard for a while. I'm still not sure what to make out of it, but it for sure underlines the weirdness of this group, which seemingly isn't a duo anymore, but officially a quartet now.

The B-side features four tracks by the US Death Metal band Ceremented, who share the desinterest in guitars with Thecodontion, yet express it with a much sludgier bass sound. Musically this sits somewhere between nihilistic Winter Death Doom and the first Death Metal phase of Napalm Death, with a lot of pure filth and Noise vomited on top of it. Grimy stuff.

The packaging of this split tape is excellent. Ok, you wouldn't recognize any of the two bands' members from the photographs, but I applaud those for even being there, alongside readable credits and lyrics. This is how you do it!   

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