At the tail end of 2020, The Inferno Doll made a long overdue return with the ‘Sacrifice’ EP. The music’s blend of gothic riffs, industrial twists and occasional black metal flourishes really showed a gift for pushing boundaries.
Chilean vocalist Laura Vargas is no stranger to the symphonic and gothic metal scenes. While she might not have reached “household name” status, she spent eight years as a member of Sacramento, eventually scoring support slots with Theatre of Tragedy and Within Temptation. After relocating to Canada, she formed her own theatrical art/music project The Inferno Doll, whose debut album (‘Dollmination’, 2015) fused gothic metal with striking imagery to tell the tale of demonic possession within a mannquin-like figure. After that somewhat dark release, all seemed to go quiet, but The Inferno Doll eventually re-emerged in 2019 and dropped various hints regarding the continuation of their haunting and twisted musical tales. An EP eventually emerged at the death of 2020 – long overdue, but certainly worth the wait.
In terms of twenty first century black metal, few bands create intense and dark atmospheres better than the UK’s Necronautical. Far more sophisticated than a pneumatic din with some casual church burning thrown in, their 2019 album ‘Apotheosis’ features seven tracks that show how – when well played – such extreme sounds can be carry a lot of weight in the progressive stakes. This album, although largely created from classic black metal roots, also takes in intensive folk metal and battle metal influences, to create something that ranks among the year’s most interesting extreme metal discs.
It took New York’s sludge metal heroes False Gods a full two years to release a follow up for their ‘Reports From Oblivion’ EP. In that time, fans probably suspected the band to re-emerge, all guns blazing with a devastatingly heavy full length album…but it wasn’t to be. It may still verge upon being devastatingly heavy in a few places, but their 2019 EP ‘The Serpent & The Ladder’ presents just two new songs.
Whether this is an EP – as advertised – or a single that unleashes two lengthy workouts is something very much up for debate. The band’s commitment to a riff, on the other hand goes without question. A concept piece, of sorts, the two numbers concern both of the titular objects, but a gruff vocal and very intense sound means that the finer points of the narrative are lost behind some weighty riffs. Let’s be fair, though, if you’re drawn to a band like False Gods for anything other than those riffs, you’ve sort of missed the point.
Paradise Asylum released their debut EP ‘The Storm Queen Cometh’ in 2013. The release was recorded on a meagre budget and vocalist Carla Warnes sang fairly flat throughout, but a couple of tracks demonstrated a can-do attitude that showed that even when they got it wrong, the band clearly loved playing together. Subsequent releases trod pretty much the same path.