Darkest Waves: Five 2021 Favorites from Transylvanian Recordings

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Earlier this year I published an interview with James Rauh, founder of Oakland-based label Transylvanian Recordings. In that piece, Rauh explained his philosophies about encouraging artists and community-building. He empowers and helps share music from the scene local to him. He’s the type of label boss who remembers the names of his top supporters and offers to send free cassettes to people with Transylvanian tape collections. The label has released a mountain of music in 2021, and it’s not all piled into one subgenre. Rauh releases music he loves on Transylvanian Recordings, simple as that.

For the sake of this list, I’m focusing on new recordings from the label. But Transylvanian has also reissued some fantastic older recordings from bands like Chrome Ghost and Exhumation in 2021. Here are some of my favorite releases from Transylvanian Recordings over the past year.


1) Molten – Dystopian Syndrome

This album is in my personal top 10 this year. It was an exceptional year for American thrash, and this record deserves to be listed among the heavyweight contenders like Enforced, Wraith, Black Mass and Demiser. This Bay Area thrash band packs a ton of fresh influences in these tracks. Way more ’80s-style death metal than the aforementioned bands. But there’s also reverence for NWOBHM and classic metal (“Zombie’s Curse” straight-up boogies) and a sense of grandeur that gives it lasting and highly re-listenable power.

2) Civerous – Decrepit Flesh Relic

“From the Crypt to the Cavern.” That song title is a good enough intro to this death/doom project that otherwise evades easy description. There’s gloomy melody. A splash of dark psych swirling in the cesspool. The whole album wears a blackened shroud. Consider me formally enthralled. This Los Angeles band’s expedition of illness will be one I watch with sadistic glee.

3) Religious Observance – Religious Observance

Miserable sludge from Australia for genre fans who think there’s too much sunshine in Meth Drinker’s discography. Gargantuan grooves and hydroponic fuzz for the stoner sect, sure. But also a doomier, darker current of misanthropic muck akin to Bongripper. Don’t forget the dose of freakout saxophone to scrape all the resin out of your brain.

4) Abyzou – Aeternum

Putrescent old school death metal from Phoenix, Arizona. Throw out all the unnecessary desert puns you learned for Gatecreeper. This is bludgeoning and supremely dark death metal. The first edition sold out dumb quick. Luckily for you death heads there’s a second edition cassette available. If the new school of OSDM makes your salivary glands work double-time, snag one of these.

5) Graveolence – Anthropomancy

Seriously unhinged and disorienting death/grind from Vancouver. There’s nothing easy or palatable about this brain-flaying blast of violence. Like Dragged into Sunlight or Coffinworm (RIP), there’s an underbelly of diseased and depraved sludge. Whether it’s the death crust of “Garland of Flies” or the album’s discordant closer, Graveolence wield numerous weapons to inflict sonic pain.

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