Delving Into the Grimoire: Two Labels Examined

In the past year, two similarly named record labels have been making a name for themselves in the heavy metal underground. With a focus on extreme music and a fondness for releases from both, it’s time for Black Metal & Brews to share a thorough look at both Grimoire Records and Grimoire Cassette Cvlture. While there are many releases being visited in this review, I hope you’ll find it worth your time to sit and peruse through each label’s respective catalog, as the contents of this massive post should be both enjoyable and fulfilling to casual and diehard fans of heavy music alike.

grimoire records

Based in the Baltimore area, Grimoire Records is doing something that few (if any) labels are doing in extreme music right now. From recording to art design to releasing the final product, Grimoire Records does everything in-house for its artists. In addition to helping keep costs minimized, it allows for a singular vision to be shared between artist and label, ensuring that the final product is exactly to the standards of all parties involved. This also means that the label’s focus is inherently regional, although I’m sure that over time artists will be inspired to travel to make use of the label’s services. I also have it on good authority that the label is run by passionate homebrewers who are putting out some pretty exciting suds for their friends to taste, although I’ve yet to pay them a visit to find out for myself. So, what sort of tunes are coming from this collective? Let’s take a look at a few of their more recent tapes.

Dopecopper‘s Sadistic Intent is a brief, urgent offering of chaotic crust and hardcore that manages to sound interesting and engaging, despite the relatively stagnant nature of the overall crust community. Perhaps it’s the meaty and crisp production (that never verges on overproduced or slick) that gives these six tracks the extra oomph, but it’s quite clear that this four-piece has their fingers on the pulse of something special as well. There’s a sense of groove, of locking into a rhythm and tearing forward with it until everything is destroyed. If anything, this album occasionally carries the ferocity and frenzy of Jane Doe-era Converge mixed with the “basement show” tension that is seldom found outside of shows in punk houses. This is pure energy and bile, a testament to the diverse roster of Grimoire Records.

 

Torrid Husk have been making a serious name for themselves this year, and it’s well deserved. This year’s Caesious cassette is an absolutely monstrous offering of North American black metal. The urgency they carry is unlike that of anything I’ve heard, although there’s a confident swagger inside their bleakness that shows confidence and determination. These are sounds of overcoming inner chaos yet acknowledging its existence. Their video for the song “Cut with Rain” shows the band performing in the woods with bug-eyed intensity, again a distinctly North American take on a traditional black metal video tactic.  The album’s production suits it, with a mix that allows every element to be heard with clarity yet the overall texture of the music retains a density and bleakness. With an upcoming split with Myopic (whose album Beyond the Mirror’s Edge was reviewed on my old URL–I’ll transfer it over soon), they seem prepared to dominate in months to come.

 

Another stellar extreme metal release from the Grimoire Records roster is Dweller in the Valley‘s Younger Dryas, possibly a personal favorite here at Black Metal & Brews. The overwhelming heaviness of this release is steps away from reaching a suffocating density, yet things are pulled back just enough to allow the listener to pick apart each sound and element on this release. With only four tracks, this album hasn’t received the love it deserves from the metal community as a whole. If you’re looking for something truly menacing from Grimoire Records, this is the first release you should pick up (although it shouldn’t be the only one, we’re an open-minded community, right?).  Close your eyes and let this release gallop over you. You might be lucky enough to become absorbed by the intensity of its atmosphere.

 

With these releases already available and plans to release new music from the mighty Barbelith, alongside the previously mentioned Torrid Husk and Myopic split album, Grimoire Records is poised to gain more followers and enthusiasts with each coming release. Their unique approach to creation of albums will surely draw more new artists in, as the appeal of working with the label from start to finish is undeniably enticing.

Grimoire Cassette Cvlture

Representing the west coast from its headquarters in San Diego is Grimoire Cassette Cvlture. Whereas Grimoire Records is a one-stop shop, Grimoire Cassette Cvlture’s releases stretch across a slightly broader span in both distance and sound. In fact, the label’s only real boundary seems to be the personal taste of label head Kneeko Constantino, with releases from underrepresented corners of the globe that touch on crushing black metal, doom, grindcore, and even ambient noise. With tendrils spreading in every direction, it’s no surprise this label’s making headway with some of its output and selling out of releases quickly. Let’s take a look at a few of the tapes that showcase this label’s diversity and potential.

Starting things off, it’s of note that Grimoire Cassette Cvlture recently issued the cassette edition of The Unquiet Sky by Chicago heavyweight Indian. This act likely needs little introduction, but the cassette holds its own on an album that might seem too big and dense to be captured on a tiny little tape. Instead, this album blows through the speakers with the intensity of a caged animal finally let loose. While it’s great to see this label focusing on smaller artists, it’s releases like this that will likely make the label’s lesser known acts gain greater visibility, a beneficial situation for all parties involved, especially tape collectors.

 

Experimental noise act Lexemes is actually the project of label head Kneeko Constantino. While it might be easy to write it off as a vanity project, it’s clear that Constantino has released the most recent Lexemes cassette, Heathens of a Healthy Glow, because it’s actually on par with the label’s commitment to quality. While the tape sold out rather quickly in a highly limited pressing, it can be downloaded for the price you see fit, allowing anybody to enjoy this rather short burst of intriguing new noise. From droning melancholy to industrial rhythms that bridge the gap between cosmic fantasy and anxiety inducing terror, this brief offering has a bit of everything. Let’s hope this is a demonstration of future potential rather than a final mission statement, because each track here has promise to hurtle this project into a completely different direction and it would be nice to see a broad catalog of releases from this artist.

 

One of Grimoire Cassette Cvlture’s most exciting releases of 2014 is the suffocating black offering of Rotting Sky’s Sedation. The solo project of Tim Messing (of Nux Vomica infamy), the dense atmospheres presented on each of Sedation‘s four songs is consistent to the point of exhaustion, yet it never becomes tired or redundant. Instead, Rotting Sky heads to the darkest place within the listener and carves a small hole in which the music festers and grows like a tumor. While this one has been flying under the radar, it’s a perfect soundtrack to addiction, loathing, and temporary solutions to lifelong problems. It’s hard to imagine this being the end of the project, so keep an eye out for more.

 

With an eye to the future, it’s worth mentioning that Grimoire Cassette Cvlture has already announced plans to release a large handful of cassettes from artists as diverse as the misanthropic grinding sludge madness of Secret Cutter, repetitive yet unique drone from Goryl, and new offerings from label veterans Fister and Wildernessking, among many others. This label’s efficiency is unwavering, yet the consistent quality and diversity of the releases remains impressive nonetheless.

So, should you support these labels? The choice is yours to make, of course, but as the underground metal community gains greater leverage and visibility, these two labels are clearly going to be major taste makers in the months and years to come. Following the paths these two carve out for themselves will be a surefire way to retain a current and diverse awareness of the many happenings in metal’s vibrant underground.