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.

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