June 2018 Review Round Up

June felt like a productive month. I got through a decent amount of albums while making sure everyone got their fair due in terms of attention. Pretty happy about how it all came together.

Some impressive stuff passed through my ears, but the best of the best is Craft’s latest, White Noise and Black Metal. It’s a perfect example of what modern black metal should sound like.

July will hopefully be as good. I’m keen for Deafheaven and Obscura’s new albums.

Hit me up on Facebook if you want. Always up for a chat.

Album of the Month
Craft – White Noise and Black Metal
(Black Metal – Sweden)
Season of Mist – 2018/06/22

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Not a lot of noise going on here, but there are eight tracks of blackened gelid malevolence. It’s a veritable soundtrack for a frolic through the joyless expanse of Cocytus. Too often black metal finds itself trapped within its own tropes, but Craft have taken these tropes and unleashed them in a storm so furious that everything seems new after the destruction wrought.

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Abstracter – Cinereous Incarnate
(Blackened Sludge – United States of America)
Sentient Ruin Laboratories – 2018/06/08

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When I was a young boy, someone once told me that there was no greater sin, even surpassing the seven deadly sins, than despair, as it meant you believed God was powerless. Abstracter capture this notion of blasphemous misery and turn it loose in an almost weaponised display of sonic might. It’s cacophonous, tumultuous, and savage.

At the Gates – To Drink From The Night Itself
(Melodic Death Metal – Sweden)
Century Media – 2018/05/18

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A slower, more brooding At the Gates is on display here. The anger that has driven their sound to this point has manifested here as smouldering bitterness. It’s not bitter in the sense of hating what their doing. The band still clearly loves performing. It’s bitter about pretty well everything else though. It’s a new plateau of jaded misanthropy.

The Body – I Have Fought Against It, But I Can’t Any Longer
(Avant-garde Metal – United States of America)
Thrill Jockey – 2018/05/11

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Albums like this really highlight the divide between amateur writers, such as myself, and proper music journalists. I just don’t have the vocabulary to do this album justice. It’s ominous. It’s oppressive. It’s sinister as all hell. And bleak doesn’t even begin to describe its emotional darkness. And even with all that laid out, you need to know it goes further and weirder than I can explain.

Funeral Mist – Hekatomb
(Black Metal – Sweden)
Norma Evangelium Diaboli – 2018/06/15

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Not sure if any of you have spent an extended period of time with a crazy street preacher. I have and this reminds me a lot of that experience. An almost overwhelming raging of fevered mania is peppered with moments of terrifying lucidity. It’s the sort of unhinged blasphemous rite that so many black metal acts aspire to, but taken to an extreme beyond expectation.

Genghis Crack – Genghis Crack
(Grindcore – Chile)
House Gore Records – 2018/04/07

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I’m finding South America to fertile ground for excellent grind. From Lxs Jugadxs in Argentina to Kharma in Venezuela, there is a strong trend towards pissed off blasting violence. Feel free to add Genghis Crack to this. I don’t understand all the samples used, but I know anger when I hear it. This is wire garrotte taut and as pummelling as 80s heyday Mike Tyson.

Ghost – Prequelle
(Heavy Metal – Sweden)
Loma Vista Recordings – 2018/06/01

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“Surely the gimmick has worn thin by now?” I hear you asking. And the answer remains no. To be honest, the people in silly masks thing will always be easy to ignore so long as they keep on delivering on quality like they have here. It leans hard into rock territory, making it just as much Bon Jovi as Black Sabbath and that swagger makes it an utter joy to listen to.

Grave Upheaval – —
(Death Doom – Australia)
Nuclear War Now! – 2018/04/15

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I don’t normally enjoy death doom and really only bought this to flex my critical skills. But then it completely kicked my arse. I mean this floored me. It’s so damn heavy that it creates its own atmosphere. It could shatter a diamond. And the vocals sound like a cthonic god slowly tearing into our reality. It’s got me completely turned around on the genre.

Marduk – Viktoria
(Black Metal – Sweden)
Century Media – 2018/06/22

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Marduk is really starting to feel like a spent force. None of their post-Wormwood albums have aged well and Viktoria starts off feeling worse than that. Even when they lean into the controversy surrounding their politics, it feels hollow; it feels like they’re trying to cash in on scandal because it’s all they have left. I know they’re capable of so much more.

Mournful Congregation – The Incubus of Karma
(Funeral Doom – Australia)
20 Buck Spin/Osmose Productions – 2018/03/23

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It might be the clinical depression talking, but I found this to be profoundly soothing. I’m sure that’s not what they were aiming for, but at the same time, it’s not me being critical. It hits that nadir of despair where all of life’s iniquities become a warm blanket, as they allow you to feel something. Anything. It embraces misery in its utter totality.

Necros Christos – Domedon Doxomedon
(Death Metal – Germany)
Sepulchral Voice – 2018/05/18

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I hope everyone is up on their Qabbalistic rituals; pre-Nicean Christian mysticism; and Abrahamic gnosticism, because Necros Christos just assumes you are. For their (alas) swansong they have crafted a complex three disc spiritual meditation that both hyper intelligent and crushingly heavy. I doubt they could have crafted a more fitting farewell. Safe travels, noble initiates; may you find the apotheosis you seek.

Nervosa – Downfall of Mankind
(Thrash – Brazil)
Napalm Records – 2018/06/01

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What you have here is a straight forward thrash album and that needs to be celebrated. It’s not blackened; it’s not crossover; it’s that dying breed of true, fast as hell, angry as a swarm of hornets thrash. It’s a real conflagration of an album too; starts off a bit slow but builds to an intensity that will level whole city blocks and leave a satisfyingly smouldering ruin.

Ritual Necromancy – Disinterred Horror
(Death Metal – United States of America)
Dark Descent – 2018/05/25

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This album earns the critical praise I have seen said of it. And so long as as I’m wearing my critic hat, I’ll recommend it. But as a listener, there’s something not quite to my personal taste here. I think it’s because underneath the blistered exterior of fire and savagery, there’s an unbeating heart of cold, almost alien sterility. It’s uncomfortable to be honest.

Wayfarer – World’s Blood
(Atmospheric Black Metal – United States of America)
Profound Lore – 2018/05/25

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I’m a firm believer that USBM is at its best when it wholeheartedly embraces its American-ness. The gonzo nihilism of Cobalt. Panopticon’s bluegrass/black metal hybrid. And, now, Wayfarer and their desolate, tenebrific distortion of country. There’s no high plains sing-along here. This is all grim paranoia and foreboding cynicism.

Yob – Our Raw Heart
(Doom Metal – United States of America)
Relapse – 2018/06/08

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Despite there being no evidence to back it up, I like to think there’s a competition between Pallbearer and Yob for the USA’s best doom act. And Our Raw Heart puts Yob into the lead. Sure, it’s heavy as a Jovian hell, but it’s the raw emotional heft that makes it such a stunning album. It’s heartfelt, almost touching in places, and bleak without being despairing.

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May 2018 Review Round Up

Hoo boy, June kind of just appeared, didn’t it? Was still hammering out a review or two in the wee hours of publishing day morn. It was a pretty easy month to get distracted by though.

I started the month by travelling to see Ihsahn. As far as I’m concerned he’s one of the great icons of metal and it showed in his live performance. Credit too goes to Direct Touring for matching him up with some great support. Mar Mortuum were frosty and aggressive like black metal should be. The ludicrously good Ylva gave me vertigo through sheer heaviness. And Hybrid Nightmares were so over the top it was pretty well impossible to not enjoy them. But the man himself put them all to shame. Cracking night out.

On that topic of Ihsahn, Àmr is my album of the month. I expect high quality from him. We all should by now. But this is a step beyond. It’s probably the finest album in his catalogue. I’m sure some Emperor purists will disagree, but they should know they’re wrong.

Shout outs go to Altarage and Woundvac for some kick ass merch. Always appreciated when bands do merch in big guy sizes.

I’ll be back next month. As usual, if you have comments or critique, you can hit me up on Facebook.

Enjoy

Album of the Month
Ihsahn – Àmr
(Progressive Metal – Norway)
Candlelight – 2018/05/04

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If you only have one Ihsahn album in your collection, make sure it’s Àmr. It takes all the good things from his previous solo works and distils them down to nine tracks of perfection. It’s technically superb, emotionally vivid, and memorable in a way that defies expectation. From its opening moments I haven’t wanted to listen to anything else. It has completely dominated this month.

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Amorphis – Queen of Time
(Progressive Metal – Finland)
Nuclear Blast – 2018/05/18

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This is all over the place. I can’t remember another album quite like it to be honest. It has some songs that are contenders for track of the year. It also has a couple of appalling tracks that you just can’t listen to. The production values are universally top notch, so this is all about stylistic choices. And I just can’t fathom how it all came together.

Blood Tsunami – Grave Condition
(Thrash – Norway)
Soulseller Records – 2018/04/27

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Kudos to these mad thrashers. This started life as a four track ep, which they then bulked out with some unreleased material. But for Dungeon of the Rats (originally from For Faen!), I wouldn’t have noticed. It’s real impressive that it sounds so cohesive. Better than cohesive, it’s high quality and entertaining as hell. Quality musicianship from all involved.

Depravity – Evil Upheaval
(Death Metal – Australia)
Transcending Obscurity Records – 2018/04/30

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The toughest albums to review aren’t the great nor the grating. They’re the merely good. And that’s what Evil Upheaval is. Heavy without being crushing. Fast without being blistering. Entertaining without being memorable. And that’s the key point; if you like death metal, you will definitely like this, but don’t expect it to linger in your consciousness.

Drudkh – Їм часто сниться капіж (They Often See Dreams About the Spring)
(Black Metal – Ukraine)
Season of Mist – 2018/03/09

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Following up the terrific A Furrow Cut Short was going to be a tall order, but They Often See Dreams is a resounding success. Invigorated and pissed off, Drudkh’s signature invocation of misery has never sounded so vital. A dark undercurrent of furious energy drives this, never allowing it to settle. The Drudkh renaissance continues.

Ekranoplan – Hypnopædia
(Sludge Metal with a dash of Grind – Germany)
Narshardaa Records – 2018/01/30

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I remember Ekranoplan’s demo being much more of an Entombedcore affair, so this progression was a surprise. While there is still a mighty fistful of HM2 going on, the sound has been built on and enriched by adding aggressive, pounding, High on Fire-esque sludge. It’s not straight up mean; it’s complex layers of mean.

Mesarthim – The Density Parameter
(Black Metal – Australia)
Avantgarde Music – 2018/04/03

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Mesarthim want you to know that if you stare into the void, the void will never stare back. The void does not care that you exist. There is nothing out there but a vast frozen emptiness, occasionally lit by beautiful clouds of radiation capable of flaying flesh from bone and burning bone to ash. Existence is a perilous, bleak, and futile endeavour.

夢遊病者 (Muyūbyō-sha – Sleepwalker) – 一期一会 (Ichi-go ichi-e – For this time only, never again)
(Avantgarde Black Metal – Japan)
Sentient Ruin Laboratories – 2018/05/25

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I have quietly anticipated this album since it was announced. It just seemed so intriguing. It delivered on that promise. It mesmerises as it slowly unveils its many secrets. Such esoteric bleakness really shouldn’t sound this welcoming and warm. And, yet, it’s distant and almost unknowable. This is deliberate, challenging, masterful.

Petrification – Hollow of the Void
(Death Metal – United States of America)
Sentient Ruin Laboratories – 2018/04/23

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I could have been harsh and just written “See review of Depraved – Evil Upheaval”, but that would have doing them an unkindness. What we have here is an album that gives the listener the most tantalising hint of what a live experience would be. It’s evocative of headbanging front rows, circle pits, and windmilling hair. Definitely would see this live.

Serum Dreg – Lustful Vengeance
(Black metal – United States of America)
Vrasubatlat – 2018/04/20

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There’s something about this merciless slab of blackened nastiness that really makes me think of Nachtmystium at their finest. Aside from that being high praise, it comes with the added benefit of being Blake free. It’s more than just aggressive; it has a pervasive, creeping dread that gives it a febrile touch of madness. Sinister at all levels.

Thou – The House Primordial
(Drone Doom – United States of America)
Robotic Empire – 2018/05/01

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Ethereal and beguiling. Bleak and distressing. Horrific and vile. The House Primordial is all these things at once. It creates a maliciously pressurised sonic landscape so catastrophically heavy that light (joy, hope…) struggle to escape it. Thou specialise in these nightmares, but everything on display here still sounds as novel as the freshest hell.

Turbonegro – RockNRoll Machine
(Deathpunk – Norway)
Mercury Records – 2018/02/02

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Something got under the skin of the band in the years between Sexual Harassment and this. Deliberate throwbacks and obvious homages to other rock greats are delivered with their characteristic shit eating grin. It’s like their saying “Didn’t like what we did last time? Want us to only do things how you like it? Fine. RockNRoll Machine beep boop.” And yet, it’s still pretty damn good.

Woundvac – Terrorizing the Swarm
(Grindcore – United States of America)
Self-Released – 2018/05/04

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Listening to this, you might be tricked into thinking that Phoenix, Arizona is some sort of frozen wasteland. Why else would Woundvac need to bring this level of blistering heat? Believe me; this is an absolute scorcher and it rendered me slightly insensible for a bit. So much so that I temporarily forgot the US has other grind acts. It’s that good.

April 2018 Review Round Up

Happy May! Here’s what I listened to in April. And, as a heads up, it was a pretty fantastic month.

To start of with, you have Panopticon’s latest album. It’s hard to imagine a blackened folk album being this good. And, as much as I like Panopticon, I didn’t expect it from them.

But the real winner this month was death metal. Every release is a highlight, but each in a different way. Couldn’t believe my luck.

I saw Revocation again last month too. Holy crap. Just holy crap. I’ve seen them three times and each time they have blown the stage away. See them if you get the chance.

Aa usual, you can hit me up on Facebook. If you share the blog, do me favour and tag the page. I love to know this sort of stuff.

Album of the Month

Panopticon – The Scars of Man on the Once Nameless Wilderness (I and II)
(Blackened Folk Metal – United States of America)
Bindrune/Nordvis – 2018/04/08

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This double album, half their signature blackgrass sound; half true folk, is hands down the best thing Panopticon have ever produced. The blend of oddly uplifting, empowering black metal and bleak, soulful folk allows the band to truly explore the full breadth of their talent. It goes places I didn’t think they could reach. Absolutely astounding.

The Rest on Alphabetical Order
Alucinari – Alucinari
(Deathviolence – United States of America)
Night Animal Records – 2018/04/05

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Whew, this is some aggressive stuff. The combination of death metal’s pummelling relentlessness with the bombastic hyperactivity of powerviolence creates one hell of an assault on the ears. It blasts through at an energy level that makes you worry about them burning up. This complete disregard for sonic welfare is a pretty glorious thing to behold.

Deadly Carnage – Through the Void, Above the Suns
(Blackened Doom Metal – Italy)
Aeternitas Tenebrarum Musicae Fundamentum – 2018/03/30

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Track 1 is a pretty stock intro. Track 2 is painfully beige. It beiges to the point of turning off. Track 3 onwards is solid gold. I ordinarily wouldn’t break an album down so crassly, but it’s necessary this time. The bulk of the album juggles and blends black metal, doom, and shoegaze in such a beautiful way that it would be criminal to write it off prematurely because of the initial blandness.

Hide – Castration Anxiety
(Industrial – United States of America)
Dais Records – 2018/03/23

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I may not be hugely knowledgeable when it comes to industrial, but Castration Anxiety really speaks to me. It seethes in a way that builds tension but rarely releases it. It’s one of those rare albums that is at its best when taken as a cohesive whole. Individual tracks are fantastic in their own right, but the tension dynamics make the entirety the goal.

Impure – Satan’s Eclipse Demo MMXVII
(Death Metal – United States of America)
Self-Released – 2018/01/12

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The lack of polish that is the almost inevitable result of demo production can definitely be turned to an advantage, if used properly. Impure certainly have. They’ve taken recording conditions that might make other bands sound muddy, and have turned out this fantastically cavernous, cadaverous sound. It’s a murky, ominous gem.

Indica – Disparity of a Day
(Stoner Doom Metal – Australia)
Self-Released – 2018/04/20

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Hands up who can guess what an album, released by Indica on 4/20, might sound like? If you said “fuzzed out, heavy as hell stoner doom”, you’d get a C+. To get the A, you’d have to talk about how in amongst the heaviness, there is a carefully woven thread of psychedelic light, which ensures a compositional sophistication. It’s much more than bong rips and fat riffs.

Of Feather and Bone – Beastial Hymns of Perversion
(Bestial Death Metal – United States of America)
Profound Lore – 2018/03/23

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If bestial death metal isn’t a subgenre, it bloody well should be. Bestial Hymns of Perversion can’t truly be called brutal death, but it’s way too aggressive and abrasive to be considered old school. The genre musings are important here because Of Feather of Bone have produced a truly standout album and it deserves to have its place in history immortalised properly.

Ripped to Shreds – 埋葬 (Máizàng – “Bury”)
(Death Metal – United States of America)
Craneo Negro Records – 2018/03/27

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Solo projects provide an artist the opportunity for singularity of vision; in Andrew Lee’s case, this vision is a thundering beast of an old school death metal album. Listening to it made me think of what would have happened Bolt Thrower got together with Scream Bloody Gore era-Death, except with a background in East Asian history. Unbelievably impressive.

Skeletal Remains – Devouring Mortality
(Death Metal – United States of America)
Dark Descent/Century Media – 2018/04/13

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This is an irresistibly fine album. It does more than just tick all of death metal’s boxes; it attacks them in such a way that makes all that was old new again. I haven’t heard anything in this genre sound so fresh in a long time. It makes me feel like I’m windmilling with luxurious waist length hair, even if I’m just gently headbanging while driving.

Vile Creature – Cast of Static and Smoke
(Doom Metal – Canada)
Self-Released – 2018/03/07

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Deeply atmospheric, this album is as entertaining as it is flawed. It’s lyrical themes are a tad mawkish, the guitar work leans simplistic, and there are some awkward momentum killers. But it’s engaging in spite of these factors. I can go from start to finish without wanting to skip bits. There’s no hate listening here. It’s not great but it’s far from terrible.

March 2018 Review Round Up

2018 is shaping up to be a great year. I haven’t heard a genuinely bad album yet. Pickyness has helpes, but even when I have bought an album on a whim, I’ve got lucky and landed something entertaining each time.

All that aside, Noose Rot’s EP The Creeping Unknown firmly deserves its place as Album of the Month. Its intro toys with your expectations and then builds into a monstrous, heaving beast of old school death metal.

An awful lot of black metal related stupidity happened this month. I’m not going to editorislise extensively, but I will say if people want to act provocatively, they can’t really complain when they provoke people.

As always, I can be contacted on Facebook.

See you next month.

Album of the Month
Noose Rot – The Creeping Unknown
(Death Metal – United States of America)
Sentient Ruin Laboratories – 2018/02/16

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If old school death metal is your thing, then Noose Rot have delivered a monster for you. And if old school death metal isn’t really your thing, then you should probably listen to this anyway. Four tracks, all of them gold, all of them landing with such impact it’ll change your perspective on the genre. Or at the very least, they bloody well should. An unstoppable juggernaut.

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Ataraxy – Where All Hope Fades
(Death Metal – Spain)
Dark Descent Records – 2018/02/16

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While it lacks that special something that makes a great album, this is still a perfectly enjoyable slab of death metal. Ataraxy have written an album that is about as slow and malevolent as a death metal album can be without being death doom. The aggression needed to keep the music engaging shines through in deft tempo changes. Nasty fun.

Esoctrilihum -Pandaemorthium (Forbidden Formulas To Awaken The Blind Sovereigns Of Nothingness)
(Black Metal – France)
I, Voidhanger – 2018/02/23

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I love this album. It absolutely has its flaws, but I love this album. The big flaw is it’s self-indulgent as hell; every track noticeably runs longer than necessary. But you can get past it. Especially since it rocks so hard. It pushes black metal as far as it can into death metal without being blackened death metal. You will absolutely enjoy the knives out approach to the esoteric.

Feral Chaos – Mankind in Ruin
(Grindcore – Finland)
Kuolema Records – 2018/02/03

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Feral Chaos get that Finnish grind sound spot on perfect. Easily passes the loud test; turn it up and feel the earth-shattering good times. But it also passes the quiet test. The quiet test is what separates great grind from the rest. Play it at a sensible volume and levels of sophistication reveal themselves. This is a genuine genre and scene highlight.

Insect Ark – Marrow Hymns
(Instrumental Doom Metal – United States of America)
Profound Lore – 2018/02/23

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Instrumental doom can either be cripplingly dull or crushingly cool. Insect Ark’s combination of true doom, drone, and slide guitar definitely guarantees Marrow Hymns falls in the latter category. The southern twang of the slide guitar lends a curiously satisfying tone of Americana to the throbbing, intense doom. A genuinely unique sound.

Judas Priest – Firepower
(Heavy Metal – United Kingdom)
Epic Records – 2018/03/09

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At this point, Judas Priest can do whatever the hell they want. They’ve earned that right. So it’s lucky for us that they’ve decided to continue putting out rollicking, badass heavy metal. Firepower starts strong with the title track and never eases off for its hour run time. They have the energy of a band thirty years their junior. Metal’s first wave still delivers.

Serpents Lair – Perpetual Hunger
(Black Metal – Denmark)
Amor Fati Productions – 2018/02/15

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Serpents Lair keep on delivering. They keep on improving too. From their demo through their first album to this EP, they have shown a capacity for sonic evil that doesn’t diminish. Indeed, Perpetual Hunger is well-named; the three tracks demonstrate a rapaciousness rarely seen in black metal. No preaching. No lecturing. There is only a horrific, ravenous void.

February 2018 Review Round Up

Another quiet month, but it’s no weaker for it. Quality over quantity seems to be my current measure. It’s back to back months without a dud album, so I’m definitely stoked about that.

Go buy Támsins Likam now. Drop everything and click the link. Doom is rarely so good.

The Facebook page is still up and running. Feel free to hit me up with listening suggestions.

Album of the Month
Hamferð – Támsins Likam
(Doom Metal – Faroe Islands)
Metal Blade – 2018/01/12

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A truly unmissable experience, Hamferð have delivered one of the great doom albums of our time. Crafted with the lonely majesty of Orchid-era Opeth and the aggressive melancholy of Kvarforth’s Shining, Támsins Likam is still all doom. It’s low, slow, and heavy, but is hauntingly beautiful in its execution. Paradoxically sparse and lush all at once.

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Black Mecha – Counterforce
(Experimental Electronica – Canada)
Profound Lore – 2018/01/12

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Definitely outside my usual wheelhouse, but so worth my time. Dark, hypnotic acoustic electronica builds tension through thrumming repetition. It sounds like an unseele rave; the drugs are very good, but the vibe is dark. Horrifyingly dark. There is no comfort to be found, but that knowledge creates a soothing masochism that sustains you through it.

Eigenlicht – Self-Annihilating Consciousness
(Black Metal – United States of America)
I, Voidhanger – 2018/02/16

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Risky business slowburning the start off an album when you’ve only got five tracks to play with, but when it pays off it was worth the gamble. Eigenlicht have delivered a dense, esoteric album. Inaccessible on the first spin, but on subsequent listens doors unlock and it starts to make sense. It pays substantial intellectual dividends to those willing to put the time in.

Portal – Ion
(Avant-garde Technical Death Metal – Australia)
Profound Lore – 2018/01/26

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Portal continue to ensure that a steady stream of weird lives on in techdeath. Ion is harsh and unforgiving, but is so absolutely driven that it makes it extremely difficult to stop. It absolutely has to be this way, as respite is a completely alien construct in the sonic universe created by these mad Brisbanites. Let its energy consume you.

Watain – Trident Wolf Eclipse
(Black Metal – Sweden)
Century Media – 2018/01/05

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Black metal’s high proselytisers have returned with another punishing dose of unhallowed fervour. Unlike recent efforts, this seems to be less interested in converting the unbeliever and a lot more involved in drumming up fury from the already damned. It’s aggressive in a way you thought they couldn’t be anymore. Never doubt what the iron-willed can do.

January 2018 Review Round Up

A quietish start to the new year, but a strong one nonetheless. Feels good to have a month where every release feels like it will hold its own in the coming months.

I’m still tinkering with my formats now that I’m back. I’m doing away with the honourable mentions. I think just having the Album of the Month is sufficient.

Speaking of the Album of the Month, Shining’s new album is amazing. It was the first album I listened to this year and it’s already a firm contender for Album of the Year. Kvarforth is still the high priest of self-destruction as a form of worship, but Varg Utan Flock is an album apart.

Album of the Month
Shining – X: Varg Utan Flock
(Progressive Black Metal – Sweden)
Season of Mist – 2018/01/05

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I thought I knew what to expect from a Shining album. Invitingly bleak black metal is typically what’s on offer. And that might describe this, if you were willing to thoroughly undersell this album. The level of sophistication in the songwriting feels like a quantum leap from what came before. It’s still a Shining album, but it’s the absolute pinnacle of their self-destructive craft.

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Afgrund – The Dystopian
(Grindcore – Sweden/Finland)
Self-Released – 2018/01/05

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As a grindcore act, a sure way to my heart is to evoke Rotten Sound. Afgrund do that in spades on The Dystopian. They absolutely nail that heaviest possible grind without being deathgrind cacophony and pair it roiling fury vocals. It wants for a truly great track to stand out; a very good album could be great that way. Grindcore gets a belter to kick off 2018.

Agrimonia – Awaken
(Post-Sludge – Sweden)
Southern Lord Recordings – 2018/01/26

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The successful juxtaposition of post-metal’s contemplative tendencies with sludge’s swampy punkishness is something Agrimonia achieve with aplomb. The outcome is something probably best described as soothing anger. I found myself relaxing totally, which is an odd thing to say about an album that fires me up like a jet lighter.

HFMFM – Trapped
(HM2 Powerviolence – Australia)
Self-Released – 2018/01/08

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Few things are as satisfying as a demo that makes serious statement of intent. HFMFM’s intent seems to be landing as many blows as they can in the shortest amount of time. Trapped is thuggish, hostile, and otherwise straight up mean. It’s bruising flurry that puts the violence front and centre in the powerviolence. Puts the heart rate up just thinking about it.

Krvshr – Night Terrors
(Sludge Metal – United States of America)
Self-Released – 2018/01/05

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Bass heavy, aggressive sludge firmly in the mould of High On Fire or early Mastodon, but with a distinctly punk edge to it. And, like those other aforementioned bands, Krvshr brings a hell of a lot of good times to the table. Not necessarily happy music, but you will have a great time listening to it. It delivers catchy tunes with a snarl and clenched fist.

Sulphur Seas – Suzanne
(Black Metal – Spain)
Self-Released – 2018/01/09

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In a month with some big name black metal releases, I found myself consistently drawn back to Suzanne. Modelled exclusively in mould of French black metal, there is stylistic esotericism that adds long shadows to the fires lit by their fury. It remains a consistently engaging album; the sort of album that reveals something new with each listen.

Albums of the Year 2017

Metalshopped is back. I tried to put it behind me, but I just couldn’t. I love metal. And I enjoy writing. So, here I am. Back again.

2017 was solid year for heaviness. A great blend of big label blockbusters and independent gems wended their way through my ears. Some albums you will probably recognise from other end of year lists. Others, I hope, will be completely fresh.

I’ve changed things up a little bit. Instead of a list of 50, I’ve pared it down to 11. Yes. I’m doing a very faint Spinal Tap reference. But every album here deserves the attention and to be turned up to, well, you know. 11. I’m also doing it as a countdown. Best of at the bottom. Gotta give 11-2 their due.

Also going to indulge myself and give out some named awards. They’re going to be a little bit self-explanatory this year, but if I carry them forward it’ll be pretty sweet.

And, the last thing before the best of 2017 kicks off, some housekeeping. I never published my best of 2016, so here it is:

Cobalt – Slow Forever
SubRosa – For This We Fought the Battle of Ages
Swans – The Glowing Man
Inter Arma – Paradide Gallows
Altarage – Nihl
Nails – You Will Never Be One of Us
Revocation – Great is Our Sin
Dälek – Asphalt for Eden
Mizmor (מזמור) – Yodh
Fleshgod Apocalypse – King

And, as usual, there’s a long list of albums I missed. This is a list of most serious regrets for the year:

All Pigs Must Die – Hostage Animal
Amenra – Mass IV
Electric Wizard – Wizard Bloody Wizard
Integrity – Howling, For the Nightmare Shall Consume
Pyrrhon – What Passes For Survival
Power Trip – Nightmare Logic
Tombs – The Grand Annihilation
Ufomammut – 8
Ulver – The Assassination of Julius Caesar
Wolves in the Throne Room – Thrice Woven

So, without further adieu, here’s the best damn 11 albums 2017 sent my way.

11) Hadal Maw – Olm
(Technical Death Metal – Australia)
EVP Recordings – 2017/02/03

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A damn fine example of technical death metal, but not what you might expect. This is less like being torn apart by a visceral assault, and a lot more like the grinding of entropy. Its fretwork is undeniably powerful, but it isn’t afraid to slow down and let the pressure build. Topped off with outstanding vocals, there’s a reason I extended the list to eleven to fit them in.

10) Hummingbird of Death – Forbidden Techniques
(Fastcore – United States of America)
To Live A Lie – 2017/12/01

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Deliciously punk, Forbidden Techniques is like unearthing a hidden gem from the height of 1980s New York Hardcore then trying to play it on a turntable stuck on cyclonic. Tracks fly by in a flurry of beats and barks and grime. Absolutely relentless and, in case you’re unfamiliar with fastcore, blisteringly fast, this is the best way to kill 20 minutes.

The Prurient Award for Best Album that Doesn’t Lend Itself to Easy Reviewing
Prurient – Rainbow Mirror
(Ambient – United States of America)
Profound Lore – 2017/12/01

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Languid yet thoroughly unsettling ambience spread out across 4 cds, this is an endurance test as much as a listening experience. Utterly gruelling, but totally worth it.

9) Heresiarch – Death Ordinance
(Blackened Death Metal – New Zealand)
Dark Descent Records – 2017/07/07

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So, this is war metal. I’ve seen the term. I know about the bands that exemplify the subgenre. But now I get it. This takes the blood-drenched psychopathy of brutal death, combines it with the void-touched malevolence of black metal, then douses itself in a mix of diesel and napalm and self-combusts. It is the raw frequency of total destruction.

8) Friendship – Hatred
(Powerviolence – Japan)
Southern Lord (Vinyl/Digital)/Sentient Ruin Laboratories (Tape)/Daymare Recordings (CD) – 2017/11/03

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Hatred lives up to the powerviolence moniker. It’s anchored by a rhythm section that sounds like a roof collapsing during a cyclone. Make no mistake; it’s immensely powerful and monstrously violent. Over the course of twelve tracks, Friendship whips through blistering tempos and sneers through venomous sludge. No swagger, no bravado, just (as the name suggests) hatred.

7) Enslaved – E
(Progressive Black Metal – Norway)
Nuclear Blast – 2017/10/13

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E. Or as it’s represented by on the cover, Ehwaz. Forward energy and movement, if you believe in the power of runes. An excellent way to simply sum up what Enslaved has produced on this album. It’s more than just their ongoing voyage through the progsphere; there’s an inventiveness to their song construction that makes this a standout.

Mariusz Lewandowski Award for Best Art
Mirror Reaper by Mariusz Lewandowski for Bell Witch

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Looks impressive, doesn’t it? Wait until you see the full spread.

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See? See!? It’s just so majestic. A towering, grim edifice for a haunting, grief-stricken album. Mariusz’ art is truly something to behold.

6) Kreator – Gods of Violence
(Thrash – Germany)
Nuclear Blast – 2017/01/27

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The Teutonic thrash titans’ 14th album is a hellraising good time. From the grandiose opening drum march of Apocalypticon to final epic chords of Death Becomes My Light, it entertains in the most aggressively positive way imaginable. I honestly don’t think any other 2017 album has spent as much time on repeat. Good God, I love thrash and this is why.

5) american – Violate and Control
(The Intersection Between Black Metal and Noise Without Truly Being Either – United States of America)
Sentient Ruin Laboratories – 2017/06/23

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Too often I’ll say an album “hates”; that is not appropriate here. Hatred is far too human an emotion for this nightmare. american makes post-apocalyptic, post-human noise. This is a beast of shattered concrete, burning plastic, and rebar slowly corroding in the blood of humanity long rejected and gone. Monstrous and enthralling in equal measure.

4) Obituary – Obituary
(Old School Death Metal – United States of America)
Relapse – 2017/03/17

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This is an album that keeps the faith in metal strong. It’s proof that a great band, even if it has a down patch, can be great again. No more going through the motions, this self-titled effort proves Obituary are still the kings of Florida Death. It’s their best album since Cause of Death. And Cause of Death is their best album, so that’s high praise indeed.

The Dillinger Escape Plan Memorial Award for Most Kick Ass Live Act
Meshuggah

I feel privileged to have seen two of the most amazing live acts in 2017. But, by the time this will be published, DEP will have jumped off their last stack and smashed their last guitar, so that leaves the sublime, hypnotic, and monstrously heavy Meshuggah to take the crown. And it’s well deserved. The five men on stage perform seamlessly. And their lighting guy might as well be member six, because his contribution is massive. It turned a concert into an audiovisual hallucinatory headfuck.
Here’s a small bit of footage I took at their Brisbane gig to hopefully back me up.

3) Leprous – Malina
(Progressive Metal – Norway)
InsideOut Music – 2017/08/25

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A seamless amalgamation of rock, metal, prog, and jazz, Malina is a new high water mark for Leprous. Einar’s contra tenor vocals will never not be polarising, but I think they’re absolutely vital and wonderfully mesmerising. The music has a sophisticated, organic feel to it; it pulses, throbs, and flows. It’s like a mighty river that also happens to be a circulatory system.

2) Altarage – Endinghent
(Blackened Death Metal – Spain)
Season of Mist – 2017/10/13

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The angry swarm of wasps guitar sound this opens with should be a warning that Endinghent is no trifle of an album. By the time it’s over, things are even clearer: Altarage have taken febrile power of a long lost god of madness and weaponised it in sonic form. Hypnotic yet savage, fevered yet horrifyingly coherent, but, above all else, brilliant.

Heads up, this is awesome but probably not epilepsy friendly. I’ll also post the bandcamp link.

1) Alder Glade – Spine of the World
(Blackened Folk Metal – Australia)
Self-Released (Digital)/Northern Silence Productions (Limited Edition CD) – 2017/09/01

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Winterfylleth. Primordial. Negură Bunget. Drudkh. Alder Glade. It may seem a little odd to include an Australian band with a focus on Asgardian lore in that list, but with Spine of the World, they have earned it. As aggressive as a good Black metal album should be, it also possesses both a haunting melancholy and an ethereal sadness. It’s a beautiful album, worthy to sit alongside the other greats of the genre.

There you have it; Metalshopped’s best albums for 2017. I had a great year listening to music and picking out just 11 albums was tough. I couldn’t be happier to see Alder Glade take the win. I’ve been talking them up since Demo 1 because I knew they an album like this was possible. I’m also pretty stoked to see Altarage crack my top 5 in consecutive years. I hope they can maintain that terrifying level of intensity.

Here’s to 2018. I already have my eyes set on some big name releases, but I’m always on the lookout for hidden gems from small labels and self-released artists.