March 2015 Review Round Up

March has been a pretty damn fine month. Psycroptic’s new album is a towering achievement. A focus on songwriting rather than notes per minute delivered an album that is still technical as hell, but is an enjoyable experience.

I chose Leviathan’s Scar Sighted as my honourable mention. Its twisting malevolence cuts deep into the psyche.

Feel free to Facebook me with comments or feedback.

I’m already looking forward to next month. Eyes and ears ever forward.

Album of the Month
Psycroptic – Psycroptic
(Technical death metal – Australia)
Prosthetic Records – 2015/03/09

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Trust Psycroptic to expose the flaws in my reviews. I’ve forgotten far too much of my music theory to give this brilliant album the treatment it deserves. It really does have some amazing thingamajigs and some of the whatchamacallits are frankly jaw-dropping. What I can say for sure is that they haven’t just thrown together complicated strings of notes; they have recorded complex marvels that remain at the forefront of memory for hours.
Try before you buy: Cold (YouTube)

Honourable Mention
Leviathan – Scar Sighted
(Black metal – United States of America)
Profound Lore Records – 2015/03/03

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This is an album that will steadily improve in my estimation over the year. Every listen uncovers new shades of darkness. Trust Wrest to release an album of inscrutable blackness. His vocals range from the evil to the tortured. Genuinely so across the full range too. Musically, Scar Sighted expertly balances esotericism and malice. This makes for an album that is simultaneously contemplative and destructive. An unmistakable horror.
Try before you buy: Wicked Fields of Calm (Bandcamp)

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Anti Social Behaviour Order – Anti Social Behaviour Order
(Grindcore – United Kingdom)
Self-released – 2015/03/11

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I love grindcore. I don’t love this. Don’t get me wrong, it dots the is, crosses the ts, blasts the beat, and fights the power. It should push all of my grind buttons. But it doesn’t. I just find the whole affair rather uninspiring. The thirteen tracks come and go without leaving an sort of emotional impact. It doesn’t even do enough to make me hate it. It’s another example of a band nailing the genre tropes but doing it in such a trite fashion as to completely kill the atmosphere.
Try before you buy: Eternal Warzone (Bandcamp)

Archelon – I
(Sludge metal – United Kingdom)
Self-released – 2015/03/01

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Sludge is a many varied thing; a wide range of sounds are all recognisable as part of the genre. As such it’s often necessary to find a convenient comparison. In this case, Archelon sound a lot like Torche, but where the later channels as much positivity into their thunder pop as possible, the former goes somewhere darker with it. Much darker. I is thoroughly infectious bleakness. You can’t help but be drawn into it, but it takes a heavy toll on the soul.
Try before you buy: Blood on the Sabre (Bandcamp)

Bleed the Pigs/Thetan – Split
(Grindcore – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/02/27

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A fantastic split from Tennessee’s finest noise makers. I wasn’t familiar with Thetan, but they get up close and personal real quick. It was the perfect way to open the split, as their abrasiveness gets the adrenaline flowing and the blood pumping. Bleed the Pigs’ side has more polish, but it’s spit polish so it’s not exactly clean. It’s like Thetan kick in the door and Bleed the Pigs torch the place. They’re different, but they work their violence well in tandem.
Try before you buy: Justified (Bandcamp)

Enforcer – From Beyond
(Speed metal – Sweden)
Nuclear Blast – 2015/02/27

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Enforcer write music for the good times, but with From Beyond they managed to top themselves and write music for the best times. Loudest music, fastest cars, fastest women. Part of this transcendental awesomeness is the fact that they’ve finally harnessed the amazing power of restraint. It allows them to hammer out riff after rollicking riff without coming off the rails. It’s a glorious reaffirmation of everything good about heavy metal.
Try before you buy: The Banshee (YouTube)

Enslaved – In Times
(Progressive black metal – Norway)
Nuclear Blast – 2015/03/06

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From start to finish, In Times soars to the towering heights of majesty. The interplay between the blackened growls and the clean vocals only serves to highlight their strengths. The guitar work is spectacular: intricate, sophisticated, and always engaging. The keyboards, bass, and drums shouldn’t be undersold either. All the elements are perfectly combined into six tracks of unrelenting precision. Black metal is rarely this awe-inspiring.
Try before you buy: One Thousand Years of Rain (Soundcloud)

Ēōs – Ēōs
(Drone doom – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/01/01

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This is glacial doom at its finest. In many ways it reminds me of The Ocean’s amazing, seizure-inducing masterpiece, Pantheon of the Lesser. The key difference is Ēōs layers far more melancholy on top of their misery than The Ocean and their unwholesome preference for misanthropy. Make no mistake though; this is as slow as geological time. It takes a remarkably self-assured band to have such confidence in playing so grave.
Try before you buy: Umwelt (Bandcamp)

Flowers & Fire – Demo
(Post-punk – Canada)
Self-released – 2015/02/24

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2014 was hit and miss for post-punk. At least one release made me want to punch the genre in the face. So it’s nice to have a half-decent demo turn up early in the year. Gives me hope that more bands can also get it right. The music is on the goth end of the spectrum, but is delivered with nuance. There’s more than just an abiding love of the Smiths here. The vocals are a stand out; her voice is soulful and raw in all the right places. Gloom done right.
Try before you buy: Etched in Wine (Bandcamp)

Gay Kiss – Preservation Measures
(Noise punk – United States of America)
Sorry State Records – 2015/02/28

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Gay Kiss are about as far removed from commercial punk as they can possibly get, and I couldn’t be happier. The up-tempo, blisteringly short tracks are performed with a verve that matches their talent. Layers of distortion and other assorted noise complement the musicianship and make for an experience that is quite unlike the overwhelming majority of punk I come across. At no point is listenability compromised either. Awesomely nasty.
Try before you buy: Fatal Earth (Bandcamp)

Lamentations of the Ashen – Libertine Cyst
(Atmospheric black metal – United States of America)
Sylvan Screams Analogue – 2015/02/24

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Welcome to Cocytus in the depths of winter. The lowest plane of Hell belongs to the most damned on the best of days and this is far from that. Hellish winds propel razor-like shards of ice at nightmarish speed, annihilating those few living who could withstand the extradimensional cold. That’s what listening to Libertine Cyst feels like. Its long songs offer only bleakness and despair. This is one of the most horrific hellscapes that has ever seen the light of day.
Try before you buy: II (Bandcamp)

Natanas – Xylophar
(Black metal – United States of America)
Depressive Illusions Records – 2015/03/08

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I’m not going to say it’s the worst thing I’ve ever heard, but it does make some famous turds look inspired by comparison. The melodies are repetitive and simplistic. The vocals are insipid attempts at rasps. The synths sound like the owner has only just learned how to turn off the bosa-nova setting. And, at nineteen tracks, it manages to push through self-indulgence and deep into torturous pointlessness. I hate it more than soup skin.
Try before you buy: Lucid (Bandcamp)

Nest – Nest
(Sludge metal – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/01/12

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Never have I come across such a bad omen release. Took me most of the month to review it, as every time I listened to it, something went terribly wrong elsewhere on my life. Coincidence for sure, but it sure got frustrating. It’s a shame I have such dark associations with Nest; it’s actually a pretty remarkable release. Crushing, misanthropic sludge is embellished with avant-garde flourishes. Fiercely challenging but satisfying.
Try before you buy: (Bandcamp)

Pyramids – A Northern Meadow
(Post-black metal – United States of America)
Profound Lore Records – 2015/03/17

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A marriage of grace and heaviness now being consummated atop a colossal mountain of disorientation. Pyramids don’t make things easy for the listener. Melodies are unforgivingly intricate, rhythms are monstrously complex, and the vocals are eerily unnerving. But these are not criticisms; A Northern Meadow rewards the listener with the fortitude to endure it. There are times when it seems unconquerable, but the vistas atop the mountain are worth the climb.
Try before you buy: The Substance of Grief is Not Imaginary (Bandcamp)

Rotten Light – II: A Way of Life that You Can’t Understand
(Depressive black metal – Spain)
Depressive Illusions Records – 2015/02/15

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This is growing on me. The first selling point is that it actually sounds depressed. So many dsbm acts come across as angry about not being sad; Rotten Light come across as legitimately damaged. There is a monotony to the music too, but it strikes me as intentional. This crafts an atmosphere of crippling bleakness from which there is no escape. It’s not a perfect example of the genre but there are more redeeming features than irritants.
Try before you buy: Dreadful Depression (Bandcamp)

Wojtek – Subsuming the Souls of the Coven into Malignant Entity
(Blackened grindcore – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/03/08

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This is about as ferocious and uncompromising as it gets. Wojtek combine lo-fi grindcore and raw black metal into a howling cacophony of hatred. Grind often comes across like a punch in the face or a brutal assault; Subsuming is like being stuck in a tornado, being buffeted from every angle while being torn apart by the uncontrollable energy. To say it’s intense is a massive understatement. Unrelenting murderous intent is more apt.
Try before you buy: Suffocating Despair (Bandcamp)

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February 2015 Review Round Up

Happy March, everyone.

2015 is shaping up nicely already. Napalm Death’s new album is an absolute wrecking ball of an album. It has that effortless quality to it, as though the band were so confident in what they were doing that the album was always going to come out perfect.

There was a fair bit of competition for the honourable mention too, but I eventually settled on KharmA. Incendiary grind at its best, SubReal is sonic arson.

I have finally got around to setting up a Facebook page too. Drop by and give me a like. If you like.

Until April, enjoy.

Album of the Month
Napalm Death – Apex Predator – Easy Meat
(Grindcore – United Kingdom)
Century Media Records – 2015/01/27

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The Godfathers of grind are back with their fifteenth album. They’re not struggling for material either. Greenway’s vocals, sublimely harsh and expertly spat, are an intelligent examination of the relationship between consumerism and slavery. The music itself is a way more catchy than grindcore has any right being. It still has the visceral hostility that has made them one of the all time greats, but is delivered as a rally cry not raw invective.
Try before you buy: Metaphorically Screw You (YouTube)

Honourable Mention
KharmA – SubReal
(Death grind – Venezuela)
Self-released – 2015/02/06

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I’m a pretty chilled out sort of guy on a day to day basis. I don’t have great insight into revolutionary zeal. KharmA, on the other hand, are made of fiery conviction. Their uncompromising blend of grind and death angries up the blood like few releases I’ve heard recently. The brutal vocals and severe guitars assault the ear drums, with the blasting drums beating a death march for the speed addled. I’m impressed by how well they use music as a medium for rage.
Try before you buy: Obliterados (Bandcamp)

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Addaura – …And the Lamps Expire
(Black metal – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/01/19

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I probably shouldn’t have listened to this while feeling a bit bummed, as it turned a mild funk into a spiralling depression. Then again, every band should be seeking to make a genuine emotional impact on the listener, so in this regard, Addaura is a raging success. The two long-ish tracks (separated by a short interlude) hit the right combination of guitars, keyboards, and vocals to make a poignant listening experience. Stunningly harrowing.
Try before you buy: Amid the Tumult and Clamor (I Look for the Light Through the Pouring Rain.) (Bandcamp)

Annúlond – The Baker of Aljubarrota
(Blackened folk metal – Australia)
Self-released – 2015/02/17

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An Australian band who self-describe as viking metal doing an album about a figure from Portuguese folklore. Good to see another female folk figure getting some attention. A seven foot tall woman with six fingers on each hand and innate knack for killing is pretty metal. Surprised the good baker doesn’t get more attention to be honest. The music itself is on the dour end of folk, like someone sucked all the joy and energy out of Finntroll. An interesting diversion.
Try before you buy: Rise of Penthesilea (Bandcamp)

Antareth – The Mask of Truth
(Doom metal – Canada)
Self-released – 2015/02/12

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Didn’t have high hopes for Antareth. That cover art set off all sorts of alarms. Being described as avant-garde didn’t sit well either. Pointless weirdness played slow didn’t sound appealing. Happily, the Mask of Truth exceeded my expectations. It’s a little bit dull, but not nearly as excruciating as it could have been. The clean vocals need to be scrubbed from future recordings too. Yes, it’s dull, but it does at least manage to sound original. A small victory.
Try before you buy: The Pearly Road (Bandcamp)

Archgoat – The Apocalyptic Triumphator
(Black metal – Finland)
Debemur Morti Productions – 2015/01/27

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If you want a blueprint for straight to the point, straight for your throat black metal, you could do worse than following Archgoat’s lead. The Apocalyptic Triumphator is an anti-cosmic high mass, leading the profane in worship most blasphemous. It does this through one of the finest combinations of guitars, drums, and vocals in black metal today. They’re not particularly strong on innovation, but given the performance, they don’t need to be.
Try before you buy: Grand Luciferian Theophany (Bandcamp)

Cowards – Rise to Infamy
(Blackened sludge – France)
Throatruiner Records – 2015/02/09

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I feel slightly uneasy about the thought of hearing this live. The malice broadcast through these ten songs should whip a live audience into a dervish of hatred that would tear apart the venue. They strike a fine balance between the heft of sludge’s mighty riffs and black metal’s coruscating fury. Balancing these elements creates an atmosphere of primal anger that the band only just contained long enough to successfully put to wax. Scary stuff.
Try before you buy: Beyond My Hands (Bandcamp)

Death Engine – Mud
(Sludgey hardcore – France)
Throatruiner Records – 2015/03/02

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I love Throatruiner. The label make all their releases available for free download. Rest assured, I went back and purchased a copy of Mud. Death Engine’s speciality is harsh and unrelenting music. Sludgey hardcore doesn’t seem entirely appropriate as a descriptor, but it’s as close to a specific genre as I can get. The raw barks of the vocalist collide with the pitiless melodies in a jagged rhythmic battleground. It’s an exhilarating experience.
Try before you buy: Organs (Bandcamp)

Eall – Scents of a Wandering Ghost
(Atmospheric black metal – France)
Self-released – 2015/02/07

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I detect the fear of failure in this demo. There are some movements that have the potential to be truly spectacular, but they always pull up too short, leaving the listener feeling short-changed. It’s like the band doesn’t fully trust their skills, which would explain why they so readily slide back into the murk of generic Burzum worship. This intermingling of the awe-inspiring and the insipid leaves the demo sounding disjointed. It’s disappointing rather than bad.
Try before you buy: That Brought Shining Visions In A Cold Water Stream (Bandcamp)

Ethereal Shroud – They Became the Falling Ash
(Blackened doom metal – United Kingdom)
Grimoire Cassette Cvlture – 2015/02/21

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This is more grandiose than I expected. In many ways it is a union of miserable metal’s soul mates, dsbm and funeral doom. There’s not an once of doubt that the three long tracks are bleak, but there’s definitely something else to it. There’s a grandeur to it that would be equally appropriate for an epic doom act, were it not so depressing. It’s the guitar movements. There’s a sweep to them that allows the band to generate a dark energy to hammer home the misery.
Try before you buy: Look Upon the Light (Bandcamp)

Gomgoma – Medicine Apophthegms
(Doom metal – Greece)
Self-released – 2015/02/07

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It’s a bit of a dog’s breakfast. The vocalist would be better served in a funeral doom act, rather than this somewhat sludgey affair. The drummer is wasted here; easily an A+ performer in a C band. Lays down a triumphant beat that gives the songs at least some semblance of energy. The guitar work is a buzzkill; there’s not a lot to enjoy here. They either need to be slower to pack some wallop or faster to build some energy. Tempo limbo is a killer.
Try before you buy: Asstray (Bandcamp)

Karmageddon – Preborn
(Southern metal – Hungary)
Self-released – 2015/02/08

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Southern metal: typically a term used by bands who owe so much to Dimebag and Vinnie Paul, they might as well drop a sack of royalties off directly at the House of Abbott. Karmageddon don’t exactly distance themselves from this assessment. They’re pretty hard to hate though. The vocals aren’t brilliant, but the rest of the music has an infectious energy to it that you can’t help but enjoy. They’ll never be critical darlings, but they are good, solid fun.
Try before you buy: Faith in Me (Bandcamp)

Marduk – Frontschwein
(Black metal – Sweden)
Century Media Records – 2015/01/19

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This is a punch in the face with black metal. The military theme is well executed, turning the album into a mighty blitzkrieg. I think what appeals to me more is that Frontschwein manages to arrest the Funeral Mist-ification that Marduk was undergoing. I love Mortuus’ other band, but I got into Marduk with Panzer Division Marduk. I’m all about the war themes and the militaristic rhythms, which this album delivers on in a big way. Brutal and hellish.
Try before you buy: Afrika (YouTube)

Misþyrming – Söngvar elds og óreiðu
(Black metal – Iceland)
Fallen Empire Records – 2015/02/07

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This is a fine addition to world of intellectual black metal. It sounds like it belongs to the wonderfully fruitful French scene that spawned Deathspell Omega and Arkhon Infaustus. Rhythm and melody are tortured into twisted abominations. The vocals, while mostly harshly intoned venom, have a range not commonly seen in this particular neck of the blackened woods. It’s an album that revels in bleak inhumanity. As monstrous and unforgiving as hell.
Try before you buy: Friðþæging blýþungra hjartna (Bandcamp)

Mortum – Ascending Calamity
(Black metal – United States of America)
Vanguard Productions – 2015/02/14

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Mortum, we need to talk. It’s about your intentions. Do you plan on remaining an underground act, only heard by the trve and the occasional falsey (such as myself) who stumbles upon you? Or do you want to be bigger and have wider exposure? I hope it’s the later, because your talent is wasted on basement recordings. I’m very grateful to Vanguard. They did put this out for you and I heard it as a result. But you have talent that deserves to be heard above tape hiss.
Try before you buy: Scourge of Suffering (Bandcamp)

Rusco – Demo 2015
(Grindcore – Italy)
Self-released – 2015/02/22

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As relentless and destructive as an archetypal slasher film villain, Rusco’s demo doesn’t mess about. There isn’t even the illusion of respite during the ten tracks on offer. Bass heavy and jammed to overflowing with blastbeats, they still manage to make each song stand out on its own; they have succeeded in cultivating relentlessness without falling into the trap of monotony. It’s also good to hear organ-gargling vocals outside of goregrind.
Try before you buy: Cloaca (Bandcamp

Seventh Dimension – Recognition
(Progressive metal – Sweden)
Self-released – 2015/02/13

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An entertaining effort from Seventh Dimension. They’re out on the power metal end of prog’s spectrum, so expect something closer to Symphony X, albeit without their panache, than Dream Theater. It maintains an upbeat pace and avoids self-indulgence. It’s crowd pleasing. The cynic in me thinks they have a specific label they’re trying to woo, but that shouldn’t take away from the fact that they have produced an album geared up for broad appeal.
Try before you buy: Third Eye (Bandcamp)

Sumac – The Deal
(Post-metal – United States of America)
Profound Lore Records – 2015/02/17

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Aaron Turner’s latest musical venture, in collaboration with Nick Yacyshyn and Brian Cook, sees him once again venturing into the realms of post-metal. It’s an impressive release. The Deal comes across like Jovian gossamer; delicately crafted but astronomically heavy. It’s so heavy it forms its own gravitational pull, keeping the listener drawn in until the final note fades. But it’s effortless in its heavyness, allowing the listener to bear the full brunt of its atmosphere.
Try before you buy: Hollow King (Bandcamp)