December 2019 Review Round Up

Happy 2020, everybody. December turned out to be far more distracting than I thought it would. I figured I’d get the one or two things I missed, have a short month, and finalise my lists. Nope. It blew out a bit. Shouldn’t complain though; turns out I missed a lot of good stuff.

Best of the lot was Esoteric’s long awaited A Pyrrhic Existence. It’s a gruelling exercise in funeral doom, but it’s like running an ultramarathon; the pain is worth the endorphin rush at the end.

Next month is my Best of 2019 and Best of the Decade lists. Not sure if I’ll publish monthly reviews on top. We’ll see how we go.

As always, feel free to hit me on Facebook.

Until next month \m/

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Album of the Month
Esoteric – A Pyrrhic Existence
(Funeral Doom – United Kingdom)
Season of Mist – 2019/11/08

It’s been a long time between drinks, but good God am I glad Esoteric are back. I’m also glad they took the time, because it’s clear that found a way to make their already titanic sound even bigger, darker, and more funereal. They’ve created a swirling void of utter despair that threatens to suck all life into its infinite depths.

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Abigail Williams – Walk Beyond the Dark
(Black Metal – United States of America)
Blood Music – 2019/11/15

I’ve never truly known what to expect from Abigail Williams, but I’m more than happy to settle for surprisingly complex black metal. I say surprisingly because this initially seems to be very traditional, but the deeper you go, the more you listen to it, the broader its influences becomes clear. For something so dense, it’s pretty seamless.

Alcest – Spiritual Instinct
(Blackgaze – France)
Nuclear Blast – 2019/10/25

Good to see Neige put a little bit more black into his blackgaze. It still has the dreamy otherness that has been his signature throughout this project, but it’s an angrier sort of dream. A lucid nightmare. This isn’t some fae trickster or changeling; this is the wild hunt, riding high in saddle, their doomed quarry hounded by spirit and mist alike.

Blood Incantation – Hidden History of the Human Race
(Death Metal – United States of America)
Dark Descent – 2019/11/22

If you wondered what the History Channel at 1am would sound like as death metal, here’s your answer. In order to examine the aliens as masters theme, the band have dialled back the chaos in favour of a more atmospheric approach. They’re still Blood Incantation though. What they do is intensity. The approach may change, but the outcome doesn’t.

Cattle Decapitation – Death Atlas
(Death Metal – United States of America)
Metal Blade – 2019/11/25

Love the music. Am awed by the drumming (holy shit). Like the growls. Hate all the other attempts at vocals. It’s so tough to recommend an album that is so good on most levels, but has vocals that sound like Dani Filth with autotune. Maybe I’m being super picky, but their distraction value outweighs the talent of everything else.

Diocletian – Amongst the Flames of a Burning God
(Blackened Death Metal – New Zealand)
Profound Lore – 2019/08/16

Diocletian absolutely brutalise the listener here. War metal is nothing if not direct, but the ruthlessness that is unleashed by these Kiwis is direct in extremis. It tears from a to b to c in a line straight down to Planck scale. There’s no wavering. There is no vacillation. There is no respite. There is naught but furious hatred for all.

Diploid – Glorify
(Grindcore – Australia)
Art as Catharsis – 2019/11/22

Given the bands they name check and the literature they cite in the album’s Bandcamp blurb, it won’t come as a surprise to say Glorify isn’t an easy, accessible listen. But don’t let the elevated difficulty level of the album turn you off. This album yields rich, thoroughly satisfying rewards, but only if you put your shoulder to the yoke.

Life of Agony – The Sound of Scars
(Hard Rock – United States of America)
Napalm Records – 2019/10/11

Mina Caputo is one of music’s great survivors and it shows on The Sound of Scars. It’s an album that takes a lifetime of challenges and presents them with both the immediacy of the lived experience and the perspective of reflection. There’s nothing soft about it either; it’s all high-energy swagger and snarl from go to whoa.

Lingua Ignota – Caligula
(Experimental – United States of America)
Profound Lore – 2019/07/19

Equal parts Swans, Diamanda Galas, and raw black metal, Caligula is a harrowing experience. The unfiltered, unrestrained anger is horrifying. In many ways, I feel like I’m too sheltered to fully appreciate the devastating worldview that Kristin Hayter delivers. Her approach to violence is lived in and all the more terrifying and real as such.

Lord Mantis – Universal Death Church
(Blackened Sludge Metal – United States of America)
Profound Lore – 2019/11/22

With the untimely passing of Bill Baumgardner, and the previous acrimony between Charlie Fell and Andrew Markuszewski, I honestly didn’t expect another Lord Mantis album. But here we are and it’s great. Venomous and poisonous in equal measure, it’s mere existence is a hazard. It heaves vitriol and retches spite with every cursed note.

Nephilim’s Noose – Rites of a Death Merchant
(Death Doom – Canada)
Self-Released – 2019/10/11

As a death doom act, Nephilim’s Noose are supposed to sound monolithic and miserable. And, wow, do they do that. But they further that sound by infusing every cavernous riff with a malign violence; a threat to body and soul that is infectious rather than fearsome. You experience the destruction and you want it even more.

Nocturnus AD – Paradox
(Death Metal – United States of America)
Profound Lore – 2019/05/24

Reviving a classic band with a sequel to a classic album is fraught with risks. Fortunately, Paradox delivers everything that you could want from a follow up to The Key. The riffs are infectious and the scifi vibe is intoxicating. The band has lost absolutely nothing over the years; absolutely killer, high-octane death metal.

Öxxö Xööx – Ÿ
(Doom Metal – France)
Blood Music – 2019/11/29

Once again, Öxxö Xööx has come into my life just when I really needed a healthy dose of melodramatic doom. Ÿ is a rich, almost luxurious sounding album; it really allows and encourages you to wallow in its sumptuous riffs. You need to take the time to truly experience the full extent of all nine tracks, as there is a dark majesty on display throughout.