January 2015 Review Round Up

A new year and some changes with it. Looking over my Best Of for 2014, I realised that there weren’t many surprises because of how I structured my monthly reviews. Too many Honourable Mentions gave the game away. So from here on, one Album of the Month and one Honourable Mention.

I’ve also changed my tag cloud. Thought it would be a good idea to add some extra details. Probably still not perfect, but I like it.

On to the music, I was originally planning to give the Album of the Month to a January release, but Primordial killed that notion. Spectacular is an understatement. Had I followed through with my original intention, Marilyn Manson’s new album would have got the nod. He’s been in the wilderness quality-wise for a while, but he finally pulled himself together.

Enjoy.

Album of the Month
Primordial – Where Greater Men Have Fallen
(Blackened Celtic metal – Ireland)
Metal Blade Records – 2014/11/25

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Are Nemtheanga’s vocals some of the most powerful in metal? In terms of emotional content and raw volume, absolutely. He serves up a real tour de force on Where Greater Men Have Fallen. Fortunately, the rest of the band don’t just back him up; they shine brighter than the vast bulk of their contemporaries. Few bands can do what Primordial do; fewer still could match this effort. Frankly, I’m surprised they pulled it off do spectacularly too.
Try before you buy: Ghosts of the Charnel House (YouTube)

Honourable Mentions
Marilyn Manson – The Pale Emperor
(Gothic electric blues – United States of America)
Hell, etc – 2014/01/19

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I was hoping Manson had one last fantastic album in him. Born Villain gave me hope, even if it didn’t quite deliver. The Pale Emperor justifies my hope. It’s a very different album for him, which isn’t a bad thing. It’s the work of a man looking back at his legacy and taking stock of all his missed opportunities and regrets. Bitterness and isolation are recurring themes and are delivered with an achingly soulful approach. It’s a welcome return to form.
Try before you buy: Mephistopheles of Los Angeles (YouTube)

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Anaal Nathrakh – Desideratum
(Grinding industrial blackness – United Kingdom)
Metal Blade Records – 2014/10/24

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I was worried that Anaal Nathrakh had hit peak misanthropy with Hell is Empty. Black Widow had its moments and Passion was lucklustre. Vanitas was an improvement, but that’s like saying Death Magnetic is better than St Anger; it’s true, but it’s a low bar. Desideratum is a welcome return to form. It’s the sound of trying to wash flaming acid off your face with frozen lye. It burns in ways unimaginable. It’s pure sonic masochism done properly.
Try before you buy: The One Needful Thing (YouTube)

Ancient VVisdom – Sacrificial
(Occult rock – United States of America)
Magic Bullet Records – 2014/10/28

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I was hoping for a return to form from these occult crooners. Their previous album sounded like a compilation of shitty b-sides. But this is a roaring comeback. I mean that literally too, as this is a much heavier release. It’s almost a metal album. Almost. It works though. It enables the band to set a suitably dark tone to compliment the anti-cosmic lyrics. It sounds fantastic and feels like you are having your own damnation broadcast directly to you.
Try before you buy: I Am Your Sacrifice (Bandcamp)

Blut Aus Nord – Memoria Vetusta III: Saturnian Poetry
(Atmospheric black metal – France)
Debemur Morti Productions – 2014/10/10

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Blut Aus Nord have that special knack for taking archetypal black metal and tweaking it into something unique. Feels weird about saying that about the third album in a series, but it’s true. And of the Memoria Vetusta series, Saturnian Poetry is the one I’m most likely to return to. It’s an album that, knowing it already speaks to the other, seeks to engage rather than alienate. This gives the album an appropriately poetic touch and an air of sophistication.
Try before you buy: Forhist (Bandcamp)

Caïna – Setter of Unseen Snares
(Black metal – United Kingdom)
Broken Limbs Recordings – 2015/01/20

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Thank you, internecine scene politics; I had forgotten about Caïna. Frankly, I’m not entirely sure if they’re worth the fuss, as regardless of where they sit on the ideological spectrum, they sound like just another black metal act. The punk-esque drumming is a nice touch, and the closer, Orphan, is monstrous, so there are some things that separate Setter of Unseen Snares from the pack. It doesn’t change the fact that it doesn’t push far enough to distinguish itself.
Try before you buy: I am the Flail of the Lord (Bandcamp)

The Datsuns – Deep Sleep
(Garage rock – New Zealand)
Hellsquad Records – 2014/10/03

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The Datsuns are a rock band that keep me engaged with the genre and it’s criminal that my collection doesn’t have more of them. Deep Sleep helps redress that. Glad to get it too. It’s less frenetic than their, frankly, fantastic self-titled album, but it’s much more finely balanced; the sort of album that when it slows down, it doesn’t fall off the rails. Truth be told, the slower tracks are where it’s at. The fast tracks jab away, but the slow ones lay you out like a haymaker.
Try before you buy: Bad Taste (YouTube)

DawnRazor – Deus Ex Machina
(Death metal – United Kingdom)
Self-released – 2015/01/05

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Deus Ex Machina has smatterings of promise, but it’s a pretty dull effort overall. There are some catchy melodies and some memorable vocal work, but the pickings are slim. As the album rolls on, it becomes more and more of a chore as the songs all merge into one slightly chuggy snorefest. Oddly enough, I don’t thoroughly hate it. The opening few tracks do hold my attention. I can see why some folk would like it. But it wears out its charm.
Try before you buy: Ego Echo (Bandcamp)

The Grudge – Fortress Sessions
(Sludge metal – United Kingdom)
Self-released – 2015/01/05

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Okay, I get it, you guys really like Down. That infatuation creates a big problem, as Down really like Black Sabbath, so we’re way down the recycled riff rabbit hole here. Familiarity breeds contempt is an old saying for a reason. It also doesn’t help that the vocalist sounds like a Muppet Show version of Phil Anselmo. ‘Felt Anselmo’ may be appropriate for The Electric Mayhem, but it’s a distraction here. It’s a shame because there’s some potential buried in there.
Try before you buy: Rise of the Death Rates (Bandcamp)

Old Man Gloom – The Ape of God
(Sludge metal – United States of America)
Profound Lore Records – 2014/11/11

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I had to get in the right frame of mind for this. Listening to it while lying on the couch watching sport left me thinking, “It’s good, but so what?” Change of scenery and energy levels. Started doing yard work. Got the blood pumping. Then I got it. This is a visceral album. It’s not blood and guts like death metal, nor is fire and fury like black metal. It’s deeper than that. There’s a primalness to it that can’t be enjoyed passively. Turn it on and work up a sweat.
Try before you buy: Shoulder Meat (Bandcamp)

Old Man Gloom – The Ape of God
(Sludge metal – United States of America)
Profound Lore Records – 2014/11/11

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This is the superior of the Apes of God. The four long tracks hammer home with expertly delivered sludginess, but what really sets it apart is the incorporation of finely nuanced ambient noise. They’re not mere interludes; they are critical elements to each song, deftly crafting mood that wouldn’t otherwise be possible. There is a certain dark majesty at work here. Much like a mad emperor, it effortlessly commands you, but you cannot be at ease.
Try before you buy: Arrows to Our Hearts (Bandcamp)

Voices – London
(Blackened death metal – United Kingdom)
Candlelight Records – 2014/11/17

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I miss Akercocke. Seriously, Voices does nothing for me. In their effort to distinguish themselves from their predecessor, they seem to have stripped out all the passion and replaced it with faintly gothic melodrama. It’s a shame, as opening track, Suicide Note, demonstrated some genuine sophistication. But it quickly descends into a half-hearted display of disjointed rhythms and inconsistent vocals. It’s not for me at all.
Try before you buy: Vicarious Lover (Bandcamp)

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December Review Round Up

So here we are at the end of 2014. It’s been a big year and things are getting crowded in my provisional top 50. That gets published next month; I’m still waiting on a few albums to arrive by post and I don’t want to short-change anyone. I have, however, posted my top 50 self-released titles for the year. Please take it all in. Lots of good stuff there.

As for what’s happened this month, Death Fortress is an album you just can’t go past. It’s an absolute standout in a month with more than its fair share of good stuff.

So happy new year, everyone. 2014 was pretty spectacular and 2015 is shaping up nicely.

Album of the Month
Death Fortress – Among the Ranks of the Unconquerable
(Black metal – United States of America)
Fallen Empire Records – 2014/11/15

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This album reminds me of Cobalt’s debut album, War Metal. Aside from fact that it’s absolutely cracking black metal (one of the year’s best bm releases), it’s replete with the promise of dark things to come. Their take on darkness is a contagious invocation of malice and domination, infecting your soul with hatred most profane. Everything about this album is geared towards making you a worse person in the most magnificent way possible.
Try before you buy: Among the Ranks of the Unconquerable (Bandcamp)

Honourable Mentions
Autopsy – Tourniquets, Hacksaws and Graves
(Death metal – United States of America)
Peaceville Records – 2014/04/21

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I wasn’t sure about getting this. It’s their third album in four years and their brand of gory death, while excellent, doesn’t offer a lot of variety. Or so I thought. I’m so very glad I got over that misconception, as I think it’s the pick of their post-comeback albums. The thing I love most is the rock and roll swagger they manage to incorporate into their chainsaw guitars. It brought to mind a ZZ Top album penned purely for psychopaths. It’s a very wrong shade of right.
Try before you buy: The Howling Dead (YouTube)

The Hyle – Demo
(Doom metal – Denmark)
Caligari Records – 2014/09/17

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It’s demo quality, so it’s a little bit lo-fi. Don’t let that deter you; The Hyle’s debut demo is brilliant example of creeping occult doom. They deliver drawn out lamentations, gloriously heavy on the low end. The low and slow elegantly frames surprisingly delicate vocals. They have a message that they desperately need you to hear, so not a single second is wasted on unnecessary distortion or growls. This is doom at its most deliberately hypnotic.
Try before you buy: Lucifero/Serpent King (Bandcamp)

Interspersing Bone and Blood – Immix Rejectamenta
(Brutal death metal – United States of America)
Torn Flesh Records – 2014/12/01

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Every year there’s at least one brutal death album that reaffirms my love of the genre. Last year it was Devourment’s Conceived in Sewage. This year, although it took a bit to get here, is Immix Rejectamenta. Undeniably grindcore influenced, Interspersing Bone and Blood still give their tracks room to grow and metastasize. They don’t just deliver brutality; they do it in a way that is never dull, derivative, or repetitive.
Try before you buy: Molesting the Massacred (Bandcamp)

Mörkhimmel – Ostří černé kosy zní
(Crusty death thrash – Czech Republic)
Self-released – 2014/12/24

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This is good times music for fucked up folk. To take top quality, high tempo death thrash and then grime it all up with crust is a brilliant idea. Frankly, I’m surprised I don’t see more of it. The vocals are a dead ringer for Martin van Drunen, which, given my love of Hail of Bullets, is a pretty good thing. But the guitar work is the real star here. Nothing is held back, which results in a relentless sonic barrage perfect for fist pumping, furniture tossing, and casual arson.
Try before you buy: Na věky věků (Bandcamp)

Six Brew Bantha – Intravenously Commodified
(Grindcore – Canada)
Dead Heroes et al – 2014/11/12

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I was hoping against hope that I’d get a chance to throw in a Six Brew Bantha review this year. I’ve been a huge fan since their self-titled debut waaaaaay back in 2012. Intravenously Commodified is another brilliant addition to their canon of weird as hell grind. They managed to create an album that sounds as cohesive as a single track, while each individual track retains its own unique character. That’s a hell of an achievement for a grind album.
Try before you buy: Anti-Music Part 2 (Bandcamp)

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Abysmal Growls of Despair – Lovecraftian Drone
(Drone doom – France)
Self-released – 2014/09/05

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One of this year’s better drone releases. The band actually gets what Lovecraftian actually means. The album almost literally drips with inhuman dread. One of the crowning achievements is that monstrous guitar tone, which simultaneously sounds like the crackling static of a dimensional portal and the susurrus of oozing flesh. I don’t think they could have captured the sound of lurking extra-dimmensional horror any better.
Try before you buy: The Great Old Ones (Bandcamp)

AC/DC – Rock or Bust
(Rock – Australia)
Columbia – 2014/11/28

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Rock or Bust comes at a time of upheaval for the band not seen since the passing of Bon Scott. The departure of Malcolm Young is a huge deal, but Stevie Young is a more than capable replacement for his uncle. The album does lack a killer single, but the overall album is probably their best since The Razors Edge way back in 1990. That’s because AC/DC still rocks. They remain the quintessential rock band and I can’t see that changing anytime soon.
Try before you buy: Play Ball (YouTube – not mobile friendly)

Acid Dream – Lowly Sun Dies
(Stoner doom metal – United States of America)
Self-released – 2014/09/14

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A sub-par effort from these Yoopers. The main problem is that Lowly Sun Dies is a monotonous, soulless affair. It’s a big problem. The vocals lack desperately for range. They can be pretty inconsistent too. The guitar work hasn’t progressed past the “down tune then strum” section of the doom manual. The drumming starts out sloppy but does improve as the ep goes on. And the samples are clearly there to pad not add. Which is not rad.¹ It’s dull stuff.
Try before you buy: Voluntary Human Extinction (Bandcamp)

Barren Altar – A Monument to Endless Suffering
(Blackened doom metal – United States of America)
Self-released – 2014/10/08

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Going to get the criticism done first. The blackened vocals sound like a strangled Gollum. You won’t notice at first, but then they draw attention to those vocals and you can’t unhear it. That aside, this is a remarkable slab of darkness. The riffs are all about maximum impact and the low growls more than compensate for kvlt Sméagol. Everything about A Monument to Endless Suffering is constructed to grind hate into your soul.
Try before you buy: The Nectar of Human Blood (Bandcamp)

Black Reaper – Flames of Sitra Ahra
(Black metal – China)
Pest Productions – 2014/12/26

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Always good to find a band that gets the basics right on their debut. Especially in black metal, which suffers from a surplus of mediocre or worse basement bands. Black Reaper does even better by adding elements of musical sophistication usually seen in bands much further along in their career. It demonstrates that the band understand that black metal needs to be dynamic to matter. Schtick only goes so far.
Try before you buy: Marching Towards the Infinity (Bandcamp)

Blood Urn – … Of Gory Sorcery and Death
(Death metal – Austria)
Terrorghoul Productions – 2014/04/20

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I had to warm up to this one. I find the vocals extremely offputting. Whoever thought using that much reverb was a good idea was dead wrong. It sounds like they were recorded in a wind tunnel and is way more distracting than anything else. But the further I got in the album, the more I realised that the band are actually very talented. There are some amazing riffs and the drums are razor sharp. It’s flawed, but there’s a tonne of promise.
Try before you buy: Katakombic Veins of the Black Earth Below (Bandcamp)

Deadbeat – Demo 2014
(Hardcore – United States of America)
Self-released – 2014/03/23

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It might have taken until December for me to stumble upon these bruisers, but I’m glad I did. They take tracks that would be appropriate for the radio-friendly spectrum of core, strip out all the pretty (while leaving the catchy untouched), and then dial the mayhem up to 11. It’s only eight short tracks, so it’s over in a flash, but that’s kind of a good thing. The sheer immediacy of this demo gives it a visceral nature that draws the listener right into its heart of violence.
Try before you buy: Nuke Fear (Bandcamp)

Evig Hat – Evig Hat
(Black metal – Norway)
Bad Noise Records – 2014/10/22

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I’ll say one thing for Evig Hat; they’re prolific beyond all belief. Essentially a one man band, he has put out five albums and two eps this year. I figured I would start with the self-titled. I had some initial concerns that it would be yet another dose of cookie cutter black metal. Its relentless drum beats didn’t help that initial appraisal. But once I delved down into the depths, I realised I was wrong. There is a deep wellspring of talent in his guitars and vocals.
Try before you buy: Ensomhetens Offer (Bandcamp)

False Flag Attack – Everything is Shit
(Grindcore – Germany)
Self-released – 2014/12/26

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It’s a tough one to review is Everything is Shit. Very tough. The dilemma is that it’s a technically proficient album with a lot to like, but there’s not a great deal about it that lends itself to recommendation. If you like grindcore, you will love it. Guaranteed. If the genre isn’t something you ordinarily listen to, then there’s absolutely nothing here to change your mind. I think that appeal is the big difference between False Flag Attack and this year’s leading grinders.
Try before you buy: Galgenmännchen (Bandcamp)

Gnaw Their Tongues – Wir essen Seelen in der Nacht
(Blackened ambient noise – Netherlands)
Self-released – 2014/11/01

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It’s been a bit quiet on the Gnaw Their Tongues front. I suppose Mories has other projects to focus on, which is probably a good thing; GTT’s fetishism of death, sadism, and eroticism can’t be healthy long term. This ep, however, shows that he can still tap into that wellspring of horror and capture riveting descents into smothering bleakness. It’s jarring as a car crash and as discomforting as sitting on a spike, yet I can’t help but listen to it.
Try before you buy: Wir essen Seelen in der Nacht (Bandcamp)

Gorgonaut – The Foul and the Feral
(Death metal – Sweden)
Self-released – 2014/12/02

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Rough and ready death metal is what this demo is all about. No frills, just a bad attitude. It’s all they need though, as this is entertaining stuff. It’s not original and it is occasionally repetitive, but you can’t deny it’s definitely entertaining. It has just enough grime in its sound to give it an old school flavour. And they’ve borrowed one or two Slayerisms; just enough to give it a kick without turning death thrash. It’s not ground breaking, but it doesn’t need to be.
Try before you buy: Wendigo Psychosis (Bandcamp)

James Doesn’t Exist – The Kid Wins Again
(Grindcore – United States of America)
Self-released – 2014/08/06

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Grind eps can be sorely disappointing; their sheer brevity can be a real let down, especially when the music is as good as The Kid Wins Again. James Doesn’t Exist have that special knack of writing tracks that are as infectious as influenza. They put together all the other grind elements well, but that extra level of attention to detail goes a long way to ensuring that the four brief tracks stay firmly lodged in the brain long after the criminally short ep is finished.
Try before you buy: To High to Get High (Bandcamp)

Macerie – Demo
(Black metal – Italy)
Self-released – 2014/11/26

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Macerie is another band to keep an eye on. Sure, they don’t completely nail it here, but this is a demo. Moreover, they’re not a band that churns out demo after demo after demo of shit. This is their start point and there’s a lot to like. Their almost doom like approach to black metal is a selling point. It builds a foreboding malevolence that wouldn’t be possible if they hammered through at top speed. La Luce del Buio alone justifies getting it.
Try before you buy: La Luce del Buio (Bandcamp)

Saloth – Darkness
(Death metal – United States of America)
Music for the Dead – 2014/03/16

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I listened to it. I enjoyed it. I promptly forgot it. That’s not entirely fair; I do have fleeting memories of a satisfying guitar tone. The pinch in my neck would also indicate a degree of headbanging too. So it’s clearly not a bad release. It just suffers from a crippling lack of impetus. No song delivers enough oomph to leave any impact. It’s another fine example of a band having some promise but pissing it away on forgettable dross. Get it if you’re a death metal nut.
Try before you buy: Devil’s Mark (Bandcamp)

¹: Couldn’t help myself. So not sorry.

Best Self-released Titles for 2014

In December, a kind commenter, boo909, said I provided the best round up of Bandcamp metal. It’s a great compliment. It got me thinking too. There are many top notch bands out there that have released amazing albums this year via Bandcamp and have done so without a shred of label support.

I think that’s worthy of recognition. So I put together a list of the top 50 self-released titles for the year. Some bands on the list have gone on to find label support. Others were merely between labels or wanted to release something off label. And others still are steadfastly independent. It doesn’t matter though. Every release here demands attention in its own way. So check them out; you never know what you might have missed.

Congratulations go out to Horsehunter on taking top spot here. Caged in Flesh is an absolute monster and should be listened to by everybody. And congratulations to Amnesian for getting two mentions. If there’s any justice, they will be major label huge as soon as possible.

If I have failed at my due diligence and have included a release that was labelled all along, apologies. But I’m pretty sure I got everything right.

1) Horsehunter – Caged in Flesh

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Self-released – 2014/09/30
Originally reviewed in October
Try before you buy: Witchery

2) Woundvac – Woundvac

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Self-released – 2014/02/25
Originally reviewed in July
Try before you buy: Upon the Threshold

3) End Silence – The Waters

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Self-released – 2014/09/19
Originally reviewed in September
Try before you buy: Soul Charger

4) Lxs Jugadxs – Demo 2014

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Self-released – 2014/07/02
Originally reviewed in July
Try before you buy: Fallar

5) Ofghost – Eeva

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Self-released – 2014/08/01
Originally reviewed in August
Try before you buy: Dust

6) Außerwelt – Our Lives Out of Balance

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Self-released – 2014/09/21
Originally reviewed in September
Try before you buy: A Grey Matter

7) Black Khox – Akab

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Self-released – 2014/04/20
Originally reviewed in April
Try before you buy: Kong

8) Anopheli – A Hunger Rarely Sated

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Self-released – 2014/04/24
Originally reviewed in May
Try before you buy: Incompetent Sires

9) Amnesian – No Atonement

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Self-released – 2014/02/08
Originally reviewed in February
Try before you buy: …Mania

10) Fvck Mountain – Dead Dogs

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Self-released – 2014/10/02
Originally reviewed in October
Try before you buy: Violence

11) Of Doomed Morale – Ritual on Black Mountain

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Self-released – 2014/11/04
Originally reviewed in November
Try before you buy: The Haruspex

12) Iprit – Iprit

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Self-released – 2014/10/01
Originally reviewed in October
Try before you buy: Солнце не взойдет

13) El Hambre – El Hambre

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Self-released – 2014/01/13
Originally reviewed in March
Try before you buy: Valkiria

14) Pregnancy – Demo

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Self-released – 2014/01/19
Originally reviewed in July
Try before you buy: A Backing-Up of the Bowels

15) Mörkhimmel – Ostří černé kosy zní

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Self-released – 2014/12/24
Originally reviewed in December
Try before you buy: Na věky věků

16) Ironic Reversal – Clonus

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Self-released – 2014/10/15
Originally reviewed in October
Try before you buy: Simulants

17) Alder Glade – Demo I

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Self-released – 2014/08/28
Originally reviewed in August
Try before you buy: Imprisoned in the Stars

18) Abysmal Growls of Despair – Lovecraftian Drone

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Self-released – 2014/09/05
Originally reviewed in December
Try before you buy: The Great Old Ones

19) Hegeroth – Three Emperors’ Triangle

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Self-released – 2014/09/05
Originally reviewed in September
Try before you buy: The Enforcer

20) James Doesn’t Exist – The Kid Wins Again

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Self-released – 2014/08/06
Originally reviewed in December
Try before you buy: To High to Get High

21) Skinflint – Nyemba

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Self-released – 2014/09/06
Originally reviewed in September
Try before you buy: Veya

22) Coffin Birth – Necrotic Liquefaction

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Self-released – 2014/07/31
Originally reviewed in August
Try before you buy: The Ripping and the Tearing

23) Afterwalker – Afterwalker

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Self-released – 2014/10/19
Originally reviewed in November
Try before you buy: Denied

24) TarLung – TarLung

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Self-released – 2014/11/22
Originally reviewed in November
Try before you buy: Last Breath

25) Agonized – Consumed

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Self-released – 2014/02/22
Originally reviewed in June
Try before you buy: Indefinite

26) Videmur – Finality

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Self-released – 2014/08/25
Originally reviewed in September
Try before you buy: Desolate Essence

27) Amnesian – Inhospitable

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Self-released – 2014/09/28
Originally reviewed in September
Try before you buy: Symmetry Hymn

28) Gnaw Their Tongues – Wir essen Seelen in der Nacht

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Self-released – 2014/11/01
Originally reviewed in December
Try before you buy: Wir essen Seelen in der Nacht

29) Practically Extinct – Again

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Self-released – 2014/07/03
Originally reviewed in August
Try before you buy: WxFxFxFx

30) Omfalos – Fallacy

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Self-released – 2014/07/29
Originally reviewed in July
Try before you buy: Fallacy II

31) The Mark of Man – Exeunt

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Self-released – 2014/08/21
Originally reviewed in August
Try before you buy: The Craven

32) ExVx – Contra Violence

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Self-released – 2014/03/04
Originally reviewed in March
Try before you buy: Parochial

33) Ephemeral Ocean – Honour in the Mask

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Self-released – 2014/04/05
Originally reviewed in April
Try before you buy: Wrong Dismemberment

34) Voidcraeft – Disgust

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Self-released – 2014/02/18
Originally reviewed in March
Try before you buy: Where There is No Image

35) Aronious – Truth in Perception

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Self-released – 2014/04/04
Originally reviewed in April
Try before you buy: Truth in Perception

36) Al Goregrind – Asses

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Self-released – 2014/08/01
Originally reviewed in August
Try before you buy: Psychedelic Fart Symphony

37) Catapult the Dead – All is Sorrow

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Self-released – 2014/04/20
Originally reviewed in May
Try before you buy: Valencia

38) Larvae – Grave Descent

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Self-released – 2014/01/14
Originally reviewed in January
Try before you buy: Fallen, Left to Die

39) Muldjord – Color of My Soul

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Self-released – 2014/07/02
Originally reviewed in September
Try before you buy: A Thousand Paths

40) Oberion – Return

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Self-released – 2014/06/04
Originally reviewed in June
Try before you buy: Eerie

41) Jane Dark – Doors to Silence

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Self-released – 2014/07/29
Originally reviewed in July
Try before you buy: Fading of Flowers

42) Serpent View – From Darkness to Light

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Self-released – 2014/10/25
Originally reviewed in November
Try before you buy: The Sun is Going Down

43) Deadbeat – Demo 2014

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Self-released – 2014/03/23
Originally reviewed in December
Try before you buy: Nuke Fear

44) Barren Altar – A Monument to Endless Suffering

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Self-released – 2014/10/08
Originally reviewed in December
Try before you buy: The Nectar of Human Blood

45) The Tovver – The Tovver

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Self-released – 2014/11/22
Originally reviewed in November
Try before you buy: To Sleep and Awake Unafraid

46) A Red Nightmare – A Red Nightmare

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Self-released – 2014/06/02
Originally reviewed in June
Try before you buy: Enemy

47) Defamer – Monolith of Filth

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Self-released – 2014/08/19
Originally reviewed in October
Try before you buy: Conflagration of Divinity

48) The Apache Revolver – The Morningstar EP

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Self-released – 2014/05/01
Originally reviewed in July
Try before you buy: Morningstar, Son of the Dawn

49) Amora – Violence is Human

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Self-released – 2014/03/28
Originally reviewed in March
Try before you buy: For Those Slain

50) Pekla – Speed’n’Roll

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Self-released – 2014/07/07
Originally reviewed in July
Try before you buy: Nuo Sutemų iki Aušros

October Review Round Up

Took some time off reviews in October. Still got a fair bit done, but I had some Dream Theater related distractions going on. Seriously, if you ever get a chance to see them live, do it. We all know Petrucci’s talent is as colossal as his ego, but I was mesmerised by Mangini, Myung, and Rudess all night. A fantastic live performance.

Back to the reviews and Decapitated delivered the goods this month. Blood Mantra is polished death metal perfection, delivering non-stop pummelling action. It had competion though. Panopticon especially came close to the crown with their novel approach to black metal.

Back to it. November’s going to be huge too. Enjoy October’s releases and I’ll be back next month.

Album of the Month
Decapitated – Blood Mantra
(Death metal – Poland)
Nuclear Blast – 2014/09/26

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Decapitated are back and they have landed with an absolute killer of an album. Underscoring the success of this album is the stellar performance of Młody on drums. What this man can do with the sticks is amazing. From this unshakeable bedrock the rest of the band build a spectacular monument to the grandeur of death metal. The bass lines are monstrous, the riffs huge and memorable, and the vocals pack a hell of a punch. Blood Mantra is a deathly masterclass.
Try before you buy: Veins (YouTube)

Honourable Mentions
Ironic Reversal – Clonus
(Death metal – India)
Self-released – 2014/10/15

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A fantastic debut release, Ironic Reversal neatly straddle progressive and technical death metal while also incorporating traditional Indian song structures. I imagine that had it been poorly executed, it would have been an overwrought exercise in tedium. But they execute it brilliantly. Guitars, drums, vocals, all brilliant. There are so many moving pieces in Clonus; that they keep it all in order is the mark of a band who are masters of their craft.
Try before you buy: Simulants (Bandcamp)

Electric Wizard – Time to Die
(Doom metal – United Kingdom)
Spinefarm Records – 2014/09/29

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The doyens of distortion are back with a new album loaded with bonged out riffs and crushing misanthropy. Moving away from the Hammer Horror of their recent releases and revisiting the raw hatred of the Dopethrone era definitely makes for a more mature sounding album. I love songs about Drugula as much as the next person, it can get a bit much. Thematic chages aside, Time to Die is still loaded with the infectious riffs that make the band brilliant.
Try before you buy: We Love the Dead (YouTube)

Fvck Mountain – Dead Dogs
(Hardcore – Australia)
Self-released – 2014/10/02

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As I listened to Dead Dogs it slowly dawned on me that I may be listening to the best hardcore release of the year. It’s certainly the best of the year so far. I’ve listened to plenty of hardcore that matches them for anger, but no one comes close to them it terms of compositional skill. Other bands are thuggish arse-kickers; Fvck Mountain are professional boxers. They turn violence into a display of utmost technicality. Hardcore at its finest.
Try before you buy: Violence (Bandcamp)

Horsehunter – Caged in Flesh
(Sludge metal – Australia)
Self-released – 2014/09/30

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These Melbourne sludge lords get everything right on Caged in Flesh. Huge fuzzed riffs ooze along like some sort of monstrous Down/Electric Wizard hybrid. You don’t need to be told to bang your head; you just will. You have no choice. The solos are some of the most spirited efforts you will hear this year. The occasional rough edges somehow add to the atmosphere. Even the weakest track on the album will kill the competition. It’s that good.
Try before you buy: Witchery (Bandcamp)

Iprit – Iprit
(Black metal – Russia)
Self-released – 2014/10/01

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More of this, please. These Russians know exactly how to write top tier black metal. It sounds like they’ve reverse engineered progressive black metal bands, such as Enslaved or later Emperor, in order to make a more primitive version of that sound. This ensures an ep that maintains a rich tone, but always goes for the throat. Refusing to give in to traditionally kvlt tropes only makes the ep stronger. Powerful and dominant from start to finish.
Try before you buy: Солнце не взойдет (Bandcamp)

Panopticon – Roads to the North
(Blackgrass – United States of America)
Bindrune Recordings – 2014/08/01

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Panopticon stands as testimony to black metal’s ability to infest any other genre it chooses; in this case, it’s bluegrass. More importantly, it’s not a gimmick. Roads to the North is absolutely coruscating black metal that incorporates Southern song structure and fiddles in a way that pays due homage to the band’s Kentucky heritage. The end result is an album that is both ferocious and soulful. Thoroughly engaging from start to finish.
Try before you buy: Where Mountains Pierce the Sky (Bandcamp)

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Advent – Touched
(Doom metal – Russia)
Existential Delirium Records – 2014/10/09

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This is a doom album, so I’m kind of concerned that I can use criticisms that I usually level at metalcore. Firstly, the clean vocals are not good. But, thankfully, they are sparse. Secondly, and more importantly, is the music is thoroughly inconsequential. It maintains a simple rhythm that can be headbanged along to, but there isn’t anything beyond that to recommend. That they manage to not sound terrible is not a selling point to boast about.
Try before you buy: Anthem of Regrets (Bandcamp)

Albura – Origen
(Hardcore – Argentina)
Self-released – 2014/10/05

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Fuck pretty. Fuck complicated. Fuck it all. Albura write stripped back hardcore: big on catchy riffs, bigger on outright violence. Each track is the equivalent to a punch in the face. Even slower tracks have an air of lingering malevolence, like your attacker isn’t quite sure where to hit you. Yet. This whole panoply of aggression would fall apart at the seems but for the fact that the songs are memorable in their simplicity. Classic hardcore menace.
Try before you buy: Hipotensión (Bandcamp)

ColumnIII – Forrotian
(Noise rock – United States of America)
Self-released – 2014/10/15

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Noise rock (and noise metal for that matter) is not the easiest sound to pull off. Bands like Today is the Day and Unsane do it well; ColumnIII not so much. It’s unfortunate too, as they produce a racket that could be entertaining. They even produce flashes of brilliance that, if maintained, could make them huge. But that doesn’t make up for the fact that most of their tracks are stodgy, monotonous, and dull. I still have hope for the future though.
Try before you buy: Custom to Bury (Bandcamp)

Defamer – Monolith of Filth
(Death metal – Australia)
Self-released – 2014/08/19

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Monolith of Filth is an excellent example of evil condensed into sonic form. The guitar tone is ripe with sulfur and brimstone, while the vocalist spits pure balefire. But unlike other death metal acts who incorporate this sound, Defamer actually manage to keep the listening experience enjoyable. When you press play you can be confident that you’re not descending into a pit of murky, indistinguishable riffs. Lots of bands do evil, few try to look beyond it.
Try before you buy: Conflagration of Divinity (Bandcamp)

Ellorsith – 1959
(Raw black metal – United Kingdom)
Caligari Records – 2014/07/26

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I’ve mentioned before that raw black metal is a commitment to a style of music with a very limited range; only the grimmest and kvltest need apply. Bearing this in mind, Ellorsith have done something remarkable: they have created an ep that truly stands out. There’s no listening for the subtle tonal or thematic differences, as 1959 is wholly unique. It remains firmly entrenched in the raw style, but still outside it. Brilliantly original murk.
Try before you buy: Lichryre (Bandcamp)

Haunt – Solar Forest
(Black metal – Canada)
Self-released – 2014/10/09

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Bizarro World self-released black metal, in that it started off by killing my expectations before recovering and actually delivering a good release. The opening track rigidly adheres to traditional black metal tropes, to its detriment. It starts dull and stays there. But the remaining tracks repair all the harm, producing sophisticated tracks that hold the listener’s attention in all the ways that track 1 fails to. Excellent value for money for ¾ of the tracks.
Try before you buy: Solar Forest (Bandcamp)

Memest – Bastards and Liars
(Stoner metal – Spain)
Discos Macarras – 2014/10/01

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Nothing slow or lazy about Bastards and Liars. It may sound lush and fuzzy like any self-respecting stoner album should, but it maintains an upbeat energy that is far more in keeping with Judas Priest or Motörhead than anything sludgey or doomy. I like to think of them as spiritual descendants of Karma to Burn, except capable of including lyrics. The most important thing to take away here is that Memest know how to bring the rock and the fun.
Try before you buy: We Love Rats (Bandcamp)

Pig Pride – Demo 2014
(Crust – Hungary)
Black Moon Tapes – 2014/07/01

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I hope to hear more from Pig Pride, as their brand of punk is flat out enjoyable from start to finish. There’s never a dull moment. Not that you get a lot of moments for anything across its six and half minute run time. After briefly opening with whst I assume is a Magyar news broadcast (apologies if it’s not), they launch into song after song of the catchy punk. The execution, while not innovative, is close to flawless. It’s impossible not to like.
Try before you buy: Szilánk (Bandcamp)

P.S. Fuck You – You Still Suck
(Powerviolence – United States of America)
Self-released – 2014/10/17

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I kind of wish this was a straight up grindcore release. The noisey and swampy interludes, while well executed, seriously detract and distract from the excellently frenetic grind passages. I know that powerviolence is supposed to be jarring and uncomfortable, but that’s not the problem with You Still Suck. The problem is that too often it smashes everything with awesome grind, then takes an energy killing breather. A pity.
Try before you buy: Pass the Knife (Bandcamp)

Ragnell – Consumed by the Eternal Darkness
(Blackened death metal – Mexico)
Frozen Archives – 2014/10/23

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I’m going to summarise by saying Consumed… is pretty good, but the band need to work on their diversity. There is great potential for Ragnell to become a Belphegor-esque blast machine. It’s all there: menacing vocals, intimidating guitars, intense drums. They get thst right. The problem is they are repetitive. It’s only a five track ep and I found myself wondering if I left my player on repeat halfway through track three. Not a good thing.
Try before you buy: Embrace My Soul (Bandcamp)

Ride With Death – Endless Victories
(Heavy metal – Netherlands)
Come to the End – 2014/09/14

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Why can’t I hate this? It’s as derivative as you can get without being plagiarism. And it’s really not very good technically. It’s hit and miss even with simple riffs. WHY CAN’T I HATE YOU, DAMN IT!? It’s probably because it’s cheesy enough for bottomless nachos night. And although I can’t tell whether they’re taking the piss or just give zero fucks, it’s played with such exuberance that critical concerns vanish temporarily. I’m ashamed of not being scathing.
Try before you buy: Heavy Metal Takes Its Toll (Bandcamp)

Schizocaria/Ulgard – Fögrum Dauðr
(Depressive/ambient black metal – United States of America)
Cvlminis – 2014/09/28

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Ulgard’s the winner on this split, but both bands need to work on their song structure. Schizocaria’s one track is a mournful dirge that sounds like they use the one staticy riff for the first six minutes before finishing off with two minutes of spooky keyboards. Ulgard at least make their effort listenable, but bulking out their tracks with bird song and recorder seems unnecessary. Also, the keyboards sound like samples from Bubble Bobble. Mundane stuff.
Try before you buy: Zohungaar Bandcamp)

Seth.ECT – DiMethylTriptamine
(Deathly electronica- Turkey)
Self-released – 2014/10/19

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Based on their bio I was expecting something very different to this. I went in expecting Obituary meets Rammstein; I got heavy electronica for people who like to headbang while wearing furry parachute pants and pinging off guts on ecstacy. Having never actually tried DMT, I can only assume they were trying to replicate the experience musically. It starts out angry but becomes increasingly spaced out and psychedelic. An interesting diversion.
Try before you buy: Orison III (Bandcamp)

Silent Wood – III – Autumn’s Light
(Black ambient – United Kingdom)
Self-released – 2014/10/01

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Let me preface this review by saying I enjoyed this album. It has its flaws, but it’s still more than worth a listen. It can be a bit meandering, even by ambient standards. And there are times when you feel like the band blundered into a chill out tent at a bush doof and rolled with it. These grumbles aside, Silent Wood still succeed in creating an evocative piece of grimness that never comes close wearisome. In a genre that has raised boredom to art, that’s high praise.
Try before you buy: XIII (Bandcamp)

Slipknot -.5: The Gray Chapter
(Nu-metal – United States of America)
Roadrunner Records – 2014/10/17

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Grief and catharsis fit Slipknot much better these days and has seen the band make up for the meandering effort that was All Hope is Gone. Naysayers will still point to supposed Stonesourness, but that’s unfair; every song is appropriate to the tone of the album. The band has a lot to process with the death of Paul Gray and the departure of Joey Jordison. To their credit, they have turned this negativity into an album of maturity and depth.
Try before you buy: Custer (YouTube)

Spawning Abhorence – The Cursed Earth
(Brutal death metal – United Kingdom)
Self-released – 2014/10/05

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Seriously enjoyable brutality from Leeds. Resisting the urge to just chug away with grunt and slam, Spawning Abhorrence flirts with techdeath. While they never truly embrace technicality, it does allow the band to explore a sound that is truly brutal but is never repetitive or dull. They achieve this through a distinct guitar tone and one of this year’s best brutal rhythm sections. It also helps that the vocalist trades gutturalness for clarity. Nasty stuff.
Try before you buy: Delaying the Inevitable (Bandcamp)

Scott Walker and Sunn O))) – Soused
(Drone – United States of America)
4AD – 2014/10/21

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Sunn O)))’s second collaboration for the year 2014 is a little challenging to get into. Scott Walker’s vocals are, unsurprisingly, starkly different to Attila Csihar’s and initially don’t seem like a natural fit. But as the album progresses it becomes apparent that his vocals are as vital to the album as Sunn O)))’s performances are. This isn’t just Walker contributing to a drone album; it’s also Sunn O))) contributing to an avant-country album. It works.
Try before you buy: Herod 2014

The Walls Concave – Void
(Deathcore – Germany)
Self-released – 2014/10/05

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A few years ago, Brian Posehn wrote a song called, ‘Metal by Numbers’. After listening to Void, it popped straight into my head, as The Walls Concave have put together a generic as hell ep. It’s not bad. It’s pretty catchy to be honest. And it successfully naviagates around all the tropes that can kill a deathcore album. But there is nothing here to differentiate this band from any of the other core bands out there. It’s mosh fodder; engaging, but hardly special.
Try before you buy: Guts (Bandcamp)

Witchface – Skrekk and Gru
(Hardcore – Norway)
Self-released – 2014/10/31

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A little bit too raw for its own good, Skrekk and Gru has some absolutely killer riffs and top quality vocals buried beneath far too much distortion. I get it; I assume it’s an attempt to recapture the energy of a high energy gig in a traditional, punk-friendly dive bar. And it does sound like you’re at the rail, being covered in the vocalist’s spit and getting annihilated by crowdsurfers. The problem, of course, is that it’s not live and cleaner production would be appreciated.
Try before you buy: Kunsten Å Glemme (Bandcamp)

September Review Round Up

September was another milestone month: MORE THAN AN ALBUM PER DAY! Beers all round.

It’s also been the sort of month that makes me think I might be a little soft with the review stick, as a lot of albums landed in my honourable mentions. But in all honesty, it’s just been a spectacular month.

Sólstafir is the undeniable champion though. Ótta delivers in ways that continue to surprise me. Albums like Eparistera Daimones and Celestite immediately plateau at brilliance; Ótta continues to climb into the lofty heights. There is no plateauing. It gets more brilliant with each and every listen.

If I was forced to pick any other release to highlight, it would be Season of Mist’s compilation, One and All, Together, For Home. The earnest folk melodies are beautifully performed, even when played in the most blackened manner.

But, seriously, there is so much to admire this month. Click all the links, enjoy all the music. See you next month, first Monday of the month.

*Edit: amended Videmur’s place of origin. 2014/10/12

Album of the Month
Sólstafir – Ótta
(Post-metal – Iceland)
Season of Mist – 2014/08/29

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Ótta is an album that makes me want to tear up all my old reviews and start from scratch with unsullied adjectives. It also serves as the perfect reminder that metal, at its best, is a thing of abject beauty. Aðalbjörn Tryggvason’s vocals are by turns heartfelt and harrowing, while the music itself is truly and uniquely majestic. Meditative and bombastic, Ótta combines the impossible. If you can’t appreciate the wonder of this album, I weep for you.
Try before you buy: Miðaftann (Bandcamp)

Honourable Mentions
Außerwelt – Our Lives Out of Balance
(Post-black metal – Germany)
Self-released – 2014/09/21

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I lost myself in this album. It’s just as capable of invoking the permafrost as any other black metal band. More so, to be honest. But its true strength lies in its bending of the genre’s tropes, which turns traditional blackened melodies into extended meditations on alienation. It truly is a remarkable ep; every listen unearths something new, nuances in song structure that, while not immediately noticeable, make every song completely and truly vital.
Try before you buy: A Grey Matter (Bandcamp)

Earth – Primitive and Deadly
(Drone – United States of America)
Southern Lord – 2014/09/01

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Pretty sure there’s a blues album in here. Buried under mountains of fuzz and distorted into a drone album, sure, but it’s definitely blues in disguise. There’s something heartfelt, bittersweet, and earthy (pun unintended) about their guitar work. It’s captivating. The addition of vocals works. I was sceptical at first, but the finished product assuaged my fears. It can bring a tear to the eye while simultaneously destroying speakers.
Try before you buy: From the Zodiacal Light (Bandcamp)

End Silence – The Waters
(Progressive thrash – Canada)
Self-released – 2014/09/19

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Now THAT’S a thrash album. End Silence have produced the best thrash album I’ve heard in a long time. They did this by breaking from tradition and incorporating progressive elements in a way that shows commitment to making a mature sounding album. I only hope they don’t get a cease and desist notice for the Legend of Zelda homage. It’s awesome by the way. Everything from the vocalist’s range to the intriguing solos is near perfect.
Try before you buy: Soul Charger (Bandcamp)

The Haunted – Exit Wounds
(Death thrash – Sweden)
Century Media Records – 2014/08/25

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Confession time: I haven’t been the biggest fan of The Haunted up to this point. I didn’t find them objectionable, but they didn’t do anything for me either. That changes with Exit Wounds. This is a seemless blend of thrash and melodic death metal, keeping the invigorating energy of the former and the naked aggression of the latter. The end result is an album that delivers on pure enjoyment in a way few albums do. It’s one of those rare ‘anytime’ albums.
Try before you buy: Cutting Teeth (YouTube)

Nachtmystium – The World We Left Behind
(Progressive black metal – United States of America)
Century Media – 2014/08/05

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Leave aside the deep well of antipathy that Blake Judd has dug for himself and try to judge The World We Left Behind on its merits. Believe me, it’s worth it. This is not an album he could have done with Hate Meditation; this level of personalised introspection requires prog’s nuances not raw blackened aggression. Bitterness, regret, and occasional self-pity make for a surprisingly honest outcome. A fitting swansong for a troubled legacy.
Try before you buy: Tear You Down (YouTube)

Pallbearer – Foundations of Burden
(Doom metal – United States of America)
Profound Lore Records – 2014/08/19

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I enjoyed Pallbearer’s first album, but I love their second effort. This is true doom as its absolute best. Crisp guitar tones, clean vocals, elaborate melodies: all of these things come together perfectly on Foundations of Burden. The guitar work is fucking majestic. There is no other way to describe it. It draws you in and keeps you nestled in its heart. And Brett Campbell’s vocals are amazing. It helps that the guy can actually sing. Ride the beautiful gloom.
Try before you buy: The Ghost I Used to Be (Bandcamp)

Various Artists – One and All, Together, For Home
(Folk metal – Finland/France/Ireland/Netherlands/Norway/Portugal/Ukraine/United Kingdom)
Season of Mist – 2014/05/23

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Various Artists tells you nothing, so here’s the contributors: Ava Inferi, Drudkh, Häive, Himinbjorg, Kampfar, Mondvolland, Primordial, and Winterfylleth. It’s an impressive list. Good thing it’s an impressive compilation. Ranging from blackened folk all the way through true folk, this is a collection of heartfelt adaptations of traditional folk songs. Serious, moving, and proof that black metal can have some pride without going full Varg.
Try before you buy: John Barleycorn (Bandcamp)

Vermin Womb – Permanence
(Blackened deathgrind – United States of America)
Throatruiner Records – 2014/09/01

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The debut EP from these madmen from Denver sounds every bit as evil as you would expect from a blend of black, death and grind. It’s a testament to their skills that they pulled this together without a single wasted second. Its merciless, pitiless, remorseless blast-driven beat underscores some of the nastiest guitar work I’ve heard this year. This monstosity is further unhallowed by expertly growled vocals. Harrowing stuff.
Try before you buy: Gave (Bandcamp)

YOB – Clearing the Path to Ascend
(Doom metal – United States of America)
Neurot Recordings – 2014/08/29

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Another fantastic addition to Yob’s already outstanding catalogue of American heaviness. The beauty of Clearing the Path to Ascend, and what sets it apart from the rest of their discography, are the effortless transitions from crushing heaviness to deliberately wrenching introspection. Deliberate is the best word to describe this album. There is not a single wasted note or beat; everything is vital and necessary. Doom rarely crushes this totally.
Try before you buy: Unmask the Spectre (YouTube)

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Al’s Toy Barn – Al’s Toy Barn
(Mincecore – Australia)
Self-released – 2014/07/27

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This is the worst piece of shit I’ve ever heard, but that is kind of the point. I’m right aren’t I, you Tasmanian weirdos? Underneath the intentionally terrible music are genuinely enjoyable songs. Goddamn postmodern grind: it takes the genre to an illogical conclusion and along the way turns atrocious drumming, worse vocals, and simplistic guitars into songs worth listening to. I’m not sure how many repeat listens it’s worth, but everyone should hear it once.
Try before you buy: Free Parking (Bandcamp)

Amnesian – Inhospitable
(Hardgrind – Canada)
Self-released – 2014/09/28

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Second Amnesian release for 2014 and they’ve kept the high standard up. They’ve dialled back the tempo to make an ep that has just as much in common with hardcore as it does with grind. It loses some of the explosiveness that made No Atonement the brilliant release it is, but it still simmers with hostility. And while it never feels like it will boil over, the absolute persistence of Inhospitable’s seething justifies a listen.
Try before you buy: Symmetry Hymn (Bandcamp)

Belphegor – Conjuring the Dead
(Blackened death metal – Austria)
Nuclear Blast – 2014/08/08

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Austria’s favourite goat enthusiasts return with another ten tracks of what they do best: searing blackened death metal. There was never any question about what this album would be: a high tempo blast-a-rama paired with necrosadistic blasphemy. It’s what Belphegor do and they do it with consistently high quality, with smatterings of brilliance. Just don’t go looking for innovation; the concept is alien to them. I hope they never change.
Try before you buy: Conjuring the Dead (YouTube)

Chaotorynth – Eidola Hunter
(Black metal – Ireland)
Self-released – 2014/09/12

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Better than generic black metal played well is the order of the day for these Irish fiends. There’s nothing here that will win any converts to black metal, but if frostbitten fury is your thing, then there is lots to like here. What really sold the album for me was the intelligent use of interludes. Chaotorynth get interludes right, giving Eidola Hunter a sense of narative flow that other blackened bands lack. Highly recommended.
Try before you buy: IV. Breathing Wall (Bandcamp)

Enbilulugugal – The End is Extremely Fucking Nigh
(Blackened noise – United States of America)
Dipsomaniac Records – 2014/09/13

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I went into this expecting unlistenable screeching noise, so it was pretty cool to discover it was listenable screeching noise. It sounds like black metal from the nuclear wasteland. Static and distortion take a mid-paced sonic assault and turn it into an offputting radio signal swimming into range. It’s a promise of imminent violence, but ominousness of not knowing exactly where the threat is. It’s intimidating music written for people who eat skin.
Try before you buy: IX (Bandcamp)

Estigia – Born Guilty
(Thrash – Spain)
Self-released – 2014/09/15

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Born Guilty is proof positive that a band can absolutely nail the basics and still fail to produce a fantastic album. They have a rich, heavy guitar tone pumping out catchy melodies backed up by quality drumming. And the vocals, sung cleanly, are a revelation; crooning instead of shouting suits thrash surprisingly well. But there are no solos. Not a one. Of all Metallica’s lessons, why learn from St Anger? It sucks the virtuosity out of the whole affair.
Try before you buy: The Long Finger (Bandcamp)

Fukpig – This World is Weakening
(Blackened grindcore – United Kingdom)
Devizes Studios – 2014/01/20

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Not so much a new release, as it is a reinterpretation. The band weren’t happy with their previous album, 3, so they hit the studio and redid it. I was unsure at first. I, at least, liked 3. But This World is Weakening is worth the investment. It finalises Fukpig’s transition from slightly punkier Anaal Nathrakh to necrotic grind nightmare in their own right. I think they finally have made an album that lives up to their self-applied tag of necropunk.
Try before you buy: Fascist Moron (Bandcamp)

Galg – Afzicht
(Droning black metal – Netherlands)
Tartarus Records – 2014/09/20

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This is a tale of two tracks. Two tracks suffused with horror barely imaginable. The first, Afzicht, sounds like the inner workings of the worst kind of sexual sadist. It opens with the furious rush of the kill, settles into an uneasy satisfaction, before the violence builds again. The second, Caverns Strewn with Bone, is akin to being forcibly trapped in said cavern. It’s rich with creeping dread and bleak hopelessness, before going out on a whimper of inevitability.
Try before you buy: Afzicht (Bandcamp)

Hegeroth – Three Emperors’ Triangle
(Melodic black metal – Poland)
Self-released – 2014/09/05

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The young me would have lost his shit over this. It’s black metal in the vein of Cradle of Filth or Dimmu Borgir: high energy and accessible. It may lack the melodrama of the former and the flamboyance of the latter, but it more than makes up for those losses by playing straight up, catchy as hell metal. It’s actually pretty refreshing to listen to Three Emperors’ Triangle after enduring some of this year’s sonic maelstroms. Highly enjoyable extremity.
Try before you buy: The Enforcer (Bandcamp)

Home is Gone – Triptych
(Black metal – United States of America)
Self-released – 2014/08/18

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Bit of an odd one this. It opens with a particularly alienating brand of coruscating blackened rage. It’s immediately polarising, but it’s like they second-guessed themselves, as it soon falls into a weird type of symphonic, like Anaal Nathrakh stuck in second gear. Still not particularly accessible to outsiders, but very different to how they started. And the death metal chunks feel out of place. Lots of promise, but inconsistent.
Try before you buy: Just Another Way (Bandcamp)

Human Achievement – I
(Powerviolence – United States of America)
Self-released – 2014/04/02

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I reminded me of 1980s era Sick of It All: super intense with more than hint of implied violence. But further to this is a think layer of immediacy. Human Achievement want to spend the least amount of time ensuring total destruction. Seriously efficient malice. The final thing that really made me enjoy this was the level of technical skill the band employ. Any band can slam out abbreviated noise; it takes genuine skill to play technically this fast.
Try before you buy: III (Bandcamp)

Ice Dragon – Loaf of Head
(Stoner metal – United States of America)
Self-released – 2014/09/14

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This is mostly enjoyable, if a little disjointed. Some of the tracks are deep in desert rock, let’s do mushrooms and finger-paint territory. Some of them are rooted in Black Sabbath, bong-ripping on a Monday morning slackerdom. They certainly get the respective sounds right. They possibly fly a little close to the suns that are their influences, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Stops them from being great, but they’re still damn good fun.
Try before you buy: Walkin’ Tall (Bandcamp)

Irreversible – Surface
(Sludge metal – United States of America)
Self-released – 2014/09/13

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Surface manages to be hypnotic in the good and bad sense of the word. It draws you in and captivates you with just the right blend of heft and delicacy. It makes you believe that it’s a great album. But then, with a click of a finger (or push of the stop button), it’s gone. It’s like it was never there. I can’t think of another album that I enjoyed so thoroughly, but can’t remember a single riff from. It’s tough to draw a firm conclusion, but it’s good while it lasts.
Try before you buy: Degloving Injury (Bandcamp)

Muldjord – Color of My Soul
(Blackened death metal – Denmark)
Self-released – 2014/07/02

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Expectations are funny things. I really had this pegged as a vanity project and, as such, expectations were low. But I was wrong. There are no pretensions of novelty but the guy really knows his craft. The Color of My Soul is thumping death metal with enough black metal woven through to give it a much appreciated sinister edge. Importantly for a one man band he gets all the elements right. It’s an album that any death fan should enjoy.
Try before you buy: A Thousand Paths (Bandcamp)

Reverorum Ib Malacht – De Mysteriis dom Christi
(Unblack ambient – Sweden)
The Ajna Offensive – 2014/09/18

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I normally don’t bother with the running joke that is unblack metal, but the Ajna Offensive is a label I respect, so I gave this a shot. Closer to ambience than true metal, this is still every bit as unsettling as the best of black metal can be. They do execute this differently though, using ambient characteristics to build a cavernous, yet monastic atmosphere. At no stage is the listener allowed to get comfortable though. Challenging material.
Try before you buy: Nw thänthidh (YouTube)

Royal Blood – Royal Blood
(Garage rock – United Kingdom)
Warner Bros. – 2014/08/22

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This is what it sounds like when rock is done right. That such a rich rock sound came out of the humble two piece format is an impressive achievement. I can’t not make the comparison to the White Stripes, but where there is a certain quirkiness to Jack and Meg’s musical endeavours, Royal Blood punches through with a weird mix of noise rock and blues. I also like to think I hear titbits of Muse-esque oddness too. A raucous reaffirmation of rock’s heft.
Try before you buy: Figure It Out (YouTube)

Sineus – Demo
(Thrash – United States of America)
Torn Flesh Records – 2014/09/21

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Nothing like a bit of primitive Slayer worship. There’s something very endearing about these four tracks. It sounds like it was recorded in a bedroom. The drums are more papery than basement black metal. And there’s a general hollowness to the sound. But none of this detracts from the fact that they play an entertaining brand of thrash. It’s a tad light on solos, but those they do have are pretty sweet. Cracking first effort.
Try before you buy: Sodom’s Depravity (Bandcamp)

Skinflint – Nyemba
(Heavy metal – Botswana)
Self-released – 2014/09/06

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This is a seriously enjoyable album. It occasionally lapses into moments when you wonder, “Where is this going?” But then it will click into gear with a kick-ass solo or a change of rhythm, so all is forgiven. It’s an album that is as fun as it is because it draws on metal’s earliest heritage, a time when heavy metal and hard rock weren’t all that dissimilar. Nyemba is just as often Led Zeppelin or AC/DC, as it is Iron Maiden or Judas Priest. Good times.
Try before you buy: Veya (YouTube)

Torture Chamber – Qayin
(Black metal – United States of America)
Self-released – 2014/06/09

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This has tremolo picking, blastbeats, and inhuman vocals; all the hallmarks of a band who really want you to know they’re evil. And they’re a technically proficient group too. So if evil music played well is all you look for in black metal, Qayin is all you need. Myself, I look for a little bit more depth. Something that makes a band truly stand out. Black metal is littered with bands that can do the basics well, but is championed by bands that go further.
Try before you buy: The Blood of Angels (Bandcamp)

Videmur – Finality
(Black metal – Belgium/Puerto Rico)
Self-released – 2014/08/25

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I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t had a great strike rate with the depressing stuff in 2014. Videmur changes that. Aside from being an album that encapsulates both the joy of accepting oblivion’s permanent embrace and self-loathing that drives a person to that point, Finality is loaded with surprising musical flourishes. This ensures that the album is consistently engaging, beguiling the listener deeper into the abyss. Beautiful bleakness.
Try before you buy: Desolate Essence (Bandcamp)

Wretched Excess – Away From This World
(Dark ambient – United States of America)
Illuminated Paths – 2014/07/17

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There’s something deeply unsettling about this release. It’s akin to being tortured under heavy sedation; you know it can’t be good for you, but not only do you not care, you actually find the whole process pretty entertaining. The use of subtle atmospherics is remarkably well done, successfully turning dreamy soundscapes into eerie excursions into discomfort. The sheer amount of tact and delicacy it takes to make an album like this is incredible.
Try before you buy: Atlantis (Bandcamp)

August Review Round Up

It’s been a good month. I’m a huge fan of the new Wolves in the Throne Room album. I’m sure the shift to pure instrumental ambience will disappoint genre purists, but narrow-mindedness is not a virtue.

There was lots to like this month on top of Celestite too. Obviously, the honourable mentions deserve attention, but there’s even more on top of that. Read, listen, enjoy.

Album of Month
Wolves in the Throne Room – Celestite
(Ambient – United States of America)
Artemisia Records – 2014/07/08

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Some people are going to automatically dismiss this because it’s not metal, but that’s their loss. Listening to Celestite made me feel like I was in the presence of greatness. The emotional impact this album has is transformative. I was listening to it while driving and what was an ordinary trip through suburbia, soon became a haunting sojourn through an alien wilderness. It takes alienation and isolation, and makes them beautiful.
Try before you buy: Celestite Mirror (Bandcamp)

Honourable Mentions
Alder Glade – Demo I
(Black metal – Australia)
Self-released – 2014/08/28

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The black and white cover photo of a mangrove is representative of this fantastic demo’s entire direction: traditionally blackened with an Australian bent. It’s not so much grim and frostbitten, as it is oppressive and hailstruck. That’s what I love about Alder Glade; it takes all the traditional elements of second wave black metal, does them well, and makes it sound as though the genre was always an Aussie invention. An impressive new band.
Try before you buy: Imprisoned in the Stars (Bandcamp)

Gnaw Their Tongues & Alkerdeel – Dyodyo Asema
(Blackened sludge – The Netherlands/Belgium)
ConSouling Sounds – 2014/01/01

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Be transported to a scene of abject horror. A man is chained to the ground and is being eaten from the inside out by insects. As his suffering reaches a peak, a rabid death cult bursts forth to cavort and writhe through a ceremony most blasphemous. But, as an unintended consequence of their evil, at the crescendo of their mad rite, the sacrifice bursts forth and cultists are swarmed by ravenous insects. Spoiler alert: the insects win. Impressive for a single.
Try before you buy: All of it. Every second of it. (Bandcamp)

Ofghost – Eeva
(Neue Deutsche Schwärze – Finland)
Self-released – 2014/08/01

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Okay, so the play on Neue Deutsche Härte is a bit off, what with them being Finns. Suomen Uusi Musta (according to Google Translate) would be more accurate. The comparison is accurate enough though, as Ofghost’s incorporation of industrial into black metal, or vice-versa, is seemless. The driving rhythms speak to a post-humanity environment; mankind is dead and this is the music of the machines. Merciless, inhuman hatred.
Try before you buy: Dust (Bandcamp)

Opeth – Pale Communion
(Progressive rock – Sweden)
Roadrunner Records – 2014/08/24

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Opeth exists in a creative sphere that only a select few inhabit. They have the ability to create wondrously engaging soundscapes and to make it seem absolutely effortless. The decision to further explore the depths of progessive rock pays rich dividends. Rich, evocative rhythms are woven through with striking string passages and delicate accoustic movements, creating sumptuously dark listening experience. Sublime from start to finish.
Try before you buy: Moon Above, Sun Below (YouTube)

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Al Goregrind – Asses
(Grinding brutal death- Germany)
Self-released – 2014/08/01

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This is a thoroughly delightful romp. The sheer ridiculousness of the puerile subject matter meshes perfectly the over the top blend of brutal death and grindcore. I’ve often been suspicious of humorous death metal, but Al Goregrind proves that there is a home for bum and fart jokes amidst the brutal. This success lies in the band’s ability to play high quality music. It blasts; it slams; it even deviates into a brutal form of space opera. Fantastic.
Try before you buy: Psychedelic Fart Symphony (Bandcamp)

Alcoholicaust/Arduous Task – Mutilation of the Holy
(Blackened death metal/death metal – United States of America)
Self-released – 2014/08/16

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As far as things go, this isn’t bad. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s good though. Alcoholicaust’s five tracks come across as being more bare bones than no frills. And I was left with the nagging suspicion that it could have been produced in Mario Paint’s music suite. Arduous Task’s four tracks are better. They’re a fine example of knuckle-dragging brutal death. It’s far from subtle and has all the variation of a metronome, but not without its charms.
Try before you buy: Across the Northern Atlantic (Bandcamp)

Apocryphal – Ritual Entombment
(Death metal – United States of America)
Self-released – 2014/08/23

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I call it orc metal. It’s ugly as an open wound, evil as hell, and dumb as dog shit. I’m perfectly happy to concede that, while this certainly isn’t my cup of tea, there is definitely a market for this Neanderthal-like smashing of instruments. And I’ve got to further concede that once I got my inner monobrow aligned, I could see the appeal. The doomy slow riffs combine with the latent violence to make a hell of a deathly, but dumb, monstrosity.
Try before you buy: Calcified Death (Bandcamp)

Coffin Birth – Necrotic Liquefaction
(Deathgrind – Australia)
Self-released – 2014/07/31

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If Necrotic Liquefaction were a person, it would be a spree killer armed with claw hammers, mindlessly smashing everything and everyone until being gunned down mid-strike. Bloody-minded and ruthlessly punishing guitars are paired with unrelenting drums to create a soundtrack for violence. It’s good to find a deathgrind band that actually succeeds in embodying the visceral nature of grindcore and the raw evil of death.
Try before you buy: The Ripping and Tearing (Bandcamp)

Downfall of Nur – Umbras e Forestas
(Ambient black metal – Argentina)
Self-released – 2014/08/10

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This feels like black metal made under laboratory conditions; it sounds as though adherence to the scientific method was of forefront concern. I say this because track one is black metal, track two is ambient, track three is an incomplete blend of the two, and track four is the complete synthesis. It’s an interesting experiment with solid performances, but it’s not perfect. It can be a bit overwrought and the overuse of thunder effects gets a bit much.
Try before you buy: Umbras e Forestas (Bandcamp)

Failgiver – Failgiver
(Hardcore – Canada)
Self-released – 2014/08/01

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On the first spin, I hated it. On the second, I loved it. By the third time, I had settled in somewhere in between and I’ve stayed there. This is some very promising hardcore with some moments of brilliance, but you’ve got to be in a punk frame of mind to enjoy it. The production has led to the instruments all being mashed together, to create some sort of unwholesome core stew, with the vocals barked out on top. It works well because it’s punk.
Try before you buy: Animals Like Us (Bandcamp)

Funerary – Starless Aeon
(Funeral doom – United States of America)
Midnight Collective – 2014/08/12

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If you like your doom slow, then Starless Aeon is perfect. Sure, all funeral doom is slow, but Funerary is absolutely glacial. The riffs play out over geological time. And bleak? You betcha. The whole tone speaks to that time when the universe is so old, the lights in the sky are all extinct, all life but dust. The most important thing is that the band is capable of creating this bottomless pit of despair without becoming repetitive. A new vision of hell.
Try before you buy: Beneath the Black Veil (Bandcamp)

Judas Priest – Redeemer of Souls
(Heavy metal – United Kingdom)
Sony Music Entertainment – 2014/07/11

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Judas Priest have been around for-Goddamn-ever, so it’s reassuring to see that they are still capable of releasing an album that sounds fresh. I love Redeemer of Souls. It’s catchy. I often catch myself whistling Dragonaut or Metalizer long after I’ve turned the music off. It’s engaging. My critical brain switches off and I let the enjoyment wash over me. For a band that really has nothing to prove, it’s fantastic to see them still going hard.
Try before you buy: Dragonaut (YouTube)

The Mark of Man – Exeunt
(Melodic death metal – New Zealand)
Self-released – 2014/08/21

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Good to see melodeath done properly. The Mark of Man have successfully adopted the Gothenburg sound to such a degree that you would swear they were locals like At The Gates or In Flames. They get the energy right by absolutely nailing the rhythms and the guitar tone. The vocals, while core leaning, are spot on too. It’s almost hard to believe they’re Aucklanders sometimes. There’s nothing novel here, just non-stop, top-notch melodeath.
Try before you buy: The Craven (Bandcamp)

Misery Index – The Killing Gods
(Death metal – United States of America)
Season of Mist – 2014/05/23

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Misery Index are not world leaders at what they do, but I will cheerily throw money at them every time they release an album. Why? Because they are one of the most consistent purveyors of death metal violence out there. The Killing Gods continues this record, blasting out twelve tracks of brutality tweaked with just enough grindcore to make the songs especially unforgiving. It’s the sort of album that absolutely begs to played louder than all the rest.
Try before you buy: Gallows Humor (YouTube)

Origin – Omnipresent
(Technical death metal – United States of America)
Agonia Records/Nuclear Blast – 2014/07/04

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Origin are the most skilled acrobats in techdeath today. Throughout their career they have walked the finest of high wires, pushing the limits of technicality while striving to always preserve listenability. And on first listen, I thought they might have reigned that in, gone for a safer, more strictly brutal approach. But with each additional listen, I picked out more and more technical flourishes. That they pulled that trick off, truly sets them apart.
Try before you buy: The Absurdity of What I Am (YouTube)

Practically Extinct – Again
(Cybergrind – Finland)
Self-released – 2014/07/03

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This one man grinder has made himself quite an interesting sound. It sounds like it was recorded underground or in a tunnel somewhere, with the mic at one end and the man himself down the other. But even though it sounds eerily far off, it doesn’t resound with echo. The music itself wends from the shortest blasts to long oddly accoustic passages. The end result sounds like the aggressive thrashing of a mad sewer dweller, and that’s a result that works.
Try before you buy: WxFxFxFx (Bandcamp)

Predatory Light – MMXIV
(Blackened doom metal – United States of America)
Self-released – 2014/02/20

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Holy crap, these guys need to stick to the doom. It’s not like the blackened part of their music is bad. It’s not, but it’s not fantastic either. Shrugworthy is my best description. But when they stick to the low and slow, it’s devastating. It’s heavy like galaxies collapsing in on themselves and equally awe-inspiring. But just as it’s about to reach a singularity, the blackened creeps back in and kills the atmosphere. It’s worth the highlights though.
Try before you buy: Spiritual Flesh (Bandcamp)

Strife Machine – Radiant Guilt and Agony
(Black metal – New Zealand)
Self-released – 2014/08/17

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I’ve got to admit that I’m getting quite sick of bands opening with a promising intro, only to dash my misplaced hopes upon the rocks of mediocrity. Strife Machine did this quite spectacularly, diving from a high point of promised grim introspection to a nadir of crappy drum machines, elementary level guitars, and inconsistent vocals. It regularly transitions through passable, poor, and terrible, leaving the listener with a sense of jarring dissatisfaction.
Try before you buy: Dawnflock (Bandcamp)

Tenchu – Demo
(Powerviolence – Canada)
Self-released – 2014/08/08

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I’m going to just call this powerviolence. I may be wrong, but this is short, fast, loud, and weird. I have often seen pv described as mutant hardcore; if Tenchu were an animal, it would have been stillborn it’s so damn mutated. It opens with a four minute sludge-grind mishmash and proceeds to delve into further sonic oddness. I’m perfectly willing to dismiss the dodgy demo quality. The roughness adds an appropriate murkiness.
Try before you buy: Nisei (Bandcamp)

The Terrordactyls – Terminally Chill
(Blackened crossover- United States of America)
Self-released – 2014/08/23

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This really comes across bro metal for satanists. WOOOOOO SATAN! *chest bumps* CHUG CHUG CHUG! Honestly, I spent much of this album wishing they would simply stick to the crossover; the blackened grimness doesn’t add a whole lot to it. I’m not saying their attempts at kvltosity are bad; it’s just not a natural fit with the stoner, party vibe of crossover, so it ends up sounding a bit odd. Definitely worth a crack for curiosity’s sake though.
Try before you buy: Whirling Dervish (Bandcamp)

Vaiya – Remnant Light
(Ambient black metal – Australia)
Natural World Records – 2014/08/08

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This is an absolutely gut-wrenching experience. A lot of ambient black metal tends towards the melancholy, but this pushes way past that. This is distressing. The utter relentlessness of the sonic barrage combined with subtle tonal shifts, appropriate segues into true ambience, and some of the best blackened vocals I’ve heard this year make for an album that packs a truly devastating punch. And it’s all crammed into three thirteen minute tracks.
Try before you buy: Confrontation (Bandcamp)

Verstecktengång – Matters of the Ineffable
(Ambient black metal – Canada)
Self-released – 2014/08/01

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Matters of the Ineffable has some flaws that mar an otherwise excellent album. Using two introductions is odd, especially when they clash stylistically. And the production value fluctuates song to song, with some tracks sounding like they had major label backing, while others sound like they were recorded in a forest with cardboard gear. But once you get past the issues, you discover a surprisingly engaging slab of blackened ambience.
Try before you buy: Kammer der Engel (Bandcamp)

Vertigo Index – Posthuman v1.1
(Grindcore – United States of America)
Self-released – 2014/08/07

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Starting off well is something every band should aim to do with every release. And Vertigo Index do that. Very powerful, high intensity grind is clearly top of their agenda. The problem is they don’t build on this strong foundation and it quickly subsides into monotony. There just isn’t enough about Posthuman v1.1 to hold the listener’s attention for the duration. The songs don’t sound alike, thankfully, but that’s the best thing that can be said.
Try before you buy: Mother Boxx (Bandcamp)

Water Torture – Pillbox
(Powerviolence – United States of America)
Nerve Altar – 2014/08/05

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If you like your music aggressive in an odd way, Pillbox is the release for you. Vocals, bass, drums, and noise are Water Torture’s weapons of choice. These weapons are used to make a fearsome and alienating brand of punk, designed as much to discomfort the listener as whip them into a fury. The bass throbs through the body, while the diversions into feedback set the soul on edge. Pillbox is a release designed to show pv at its destructive best.
Try before you buy: Field of View (Bandcamp)

Xothist – Simulacrum
(Harsh black metal – United States of America)
Fallen Empire Records – 2014/08/09

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This is the sound of being trapped in a burning building with no exits. Of almost drowning in a raging river, barely clinging to a rescue rope. The death of the soul by a thousand cuts. Cacophonous, unrelenting, and horrifying, Simulacrum is an undeniably tough listen, but that very toughness is the mark of twisted genius. The screeching wall of noise forces the listener to grab hold of the melody or risk their sanity. Pure sonic evil.
Try before you buy: Side A (Bandcamp)

July Review Round Up

It’s been a punk heavy month here at Metalshopped. Especially if you consider grind to be an extension of punk.

Special attention does need to be drawn to Trap Them. Many a band have been willing to chance a concept album. Sometimes even two. But show me a band willing to extend one concept across four albums, two eps, and a split that isn’t Trap Them. It’s a phenomenal achievement that’s made even more impressive by the consistently high quality of the music. From Day 1 (Insomniawesome) right through to the final hellish hour of Night 77 (Let Fall Each and Every Sedition Symptom), the band has crafted a brutally full-on narative and has kept the intensity building and brooding through uncompromising musical aggression. Kudos to you messrs Izzi and McKenney for your commitment to your vision, and thanks to all who have filled out your rhythm section over the years. Barren Praise may lie abandoned, but Trap Them will continue. I cannot wait to hear what will come next.

As you can probably tell, Trap Them snagged my album of the month. But backing them up are vicious Arizona grinders, two fantastic Argentinian blasters, some gore obsessed Aussies, and the post-metal behemoths who aren’t Neurosis.

Album of the Month
Trap Them – Blissfucker
(Crust grind – United States of America)
Prosthetic Records – 2014/06/10

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So it’s come to this: the final night in Barren Praise. I don’t pretend to understand the narative that Trap Them have crafted across their discography, but this is where it ends. And from the sounds of it, things didn’t end well for the protagonists. You are pummled with fury and defiance, and yet, track by track, desperation and exhaustion creep in. There is a horror that lies beneath the rage and it’s an entirely fitting end to this sordid tale.
Try before you buy: Lungrunners (Bandcamp)

Honourable Mentions
Lxs Jugadxs – Demo 2014
(Grindcore – Argentina)
Self-released – 2014/07/02

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I fell in love with these mad grinders when I heard their 2013 demo, regrettably too late for my end of year list. So imagine my joy when they put out another demo this month. Now double it. The best part about this demo is that it shows how the band has developed. Most importantly, there are new nuances to their sound. There is more to this than naked rage; there’s something darker in there, possibly grief, possibly melancholy. Spectacular.
Try before you buy: Fallar (Bandcamp)

Pregnancy – Demo
(Goregrind – Australia)
Self-released – 2014/01/19

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Another fine addition to the already outstanding Australian grindcore canon. The five tracks are thick with rot; each riff sounds like it was freshly sluiced off a putrescent corpse. The drums are precise when they need to be and a wondrously horrid cacophony otherwise. And the vocals are abhorrently inhuman, sounding as beastial and guttural as is possible for the human larynx. It’s easily one of the most memorable grind releases this year.
Try before you buy: A Backing-Up of the Bowels (Bandcamp)

Rotten Soil – Los Caretas
(Grinding deathcore – Argentina)
The Olmo Records – 2014/06/02

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Up is now down and black is now white; I’m officially a fan of deathcore. Granted, Rotten Soil’s take on the genre runs the death metal/hardcore mishmash through the grindcore meat grinder, so an already intense sound is condensed for maximum potency. Aside from the in your face immediacy, Los Caretas succeeds in combining hardcore rhythms with death metal tuning in a way that few of their genremates do. Consider me a convert.
Try before you buy: Acércate (Bandcamp)

Tombs – Savage Gold
(Post-metal – United States of America)
Relapse Records – 2014/06/10

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Densely symbolic. Thematically complicated. Tantalisingly unknowable. The superlatives could keep on flowing for Savage Gold, but I think those three best sum it up. Closer to black metal than previous releases, this is about as close as Tombs will let themselves get to convenient genre labelling. It’s still more distinctly Tombs than it is anything else. The things this band can do with vocals, rhythms, and melodies defy expectation and reward the listener.
Try before you buy: Deathtripper (Bandcamp)

Woundvac – Woundvac
(Grindcore – United States of America)
Self-released – 2014/02/25

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This is more than good; this is exceptional. Woundvac’s self-titled debut is the sound of emerging from a mosh pit, covered in sweat and blood (not all of it mine), nose busted across my face, spitting teeth, and smiling like a madman. Unafraid to take their time, the songs sprawl through all the shades of implied and overt violence. This is beyond a mere sonic mugging; Woundvac is a four-man angry mob, looting and igniting everything in sight.
Try before you buy: Upon the Threshold (Bandcamp)

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Anathema – Distant Satellites
(Progressive rock – United Kingdom)
Kscope Music – 2014/06/09

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When I need a palate cleanser after indulging in too much scorching metal, I always feel comfortable reaching for Anathema. Distant Satelites doesn’t deviate from the formula laid out in Weather Systems, but it does consolidate it. Gently progressive rock is delivered with utmost care, bolstered with an expert blend of male and female vocals. I think the previous three albums are stronger, but it is still far and away better than their doom days.
Try before you buy: Ariel (YouTube)

The Apache Revolver – The Morningstar EP
(Post-black metal – United States of America)
Self-released – 2014/05/01

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Who would have thought a band whose biggest influences are, presumably, Burzum and the Beach Boys would end up sounding like a cross between Alcest and Deafheaven? The combination of black metal and surf rock was always going to produce an interesting result, but I didn’t quite expect that. I don’t think it’s derivative either; I’m pretty sure they achieved this sound through their own unique process. I’m still mystified that it works.
Try before you buy: Morningstar, Son of the Dawn (Bandcamp)

Blown Out – Sun Rot
(Stoner rock – United Kingdom)
Box Records – 2014/03/04

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They must get some quality dope in Blown Out’s part of the world, because this reeks of sativa. The 70s-styled analogue recording is fuzzed out with smoke. The guitar strings are liberally caked in the resin of 1,000 bongs. It’s hazy and slow enough to give you a contact high. In many ways, it reminds me of Earth’s recent albums, but it’s too fast to be drone. It does, however, use repetition to its advantage. You just get drawn in, tune out, and feel the bliss.
Try before you buy: Sun Rot Pt. 1 (Bandcamp)

Earth Mover – Winter Introduction
(Shoegaze – United States of America)
Self-released – 2014/02/03

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Shoegaze, by its very nature, is a contemplative genre. Introspective and meditative, it has the potential to uplifting or withdrawn. Earth Mover tends towards the later. In many ways, Winter Introduction feels like it was recorded with the listener as an afterthought. Everything is faded down in the mix. The vocals especially sound as though they were sung for no one outside the band. It shrugs past intimate and pushes deep into isolation.
Try before you buy: Hill (Bandcamp)

Enabler – La Fin Absolue du Monde
(Hardcore – United States of America)
Earsplit Compound – 2014/05/27

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This is not as good as their debut, All Hail the Void, but that album crushed all, so I can’t say I’m surprised. What La Fin Absolue du Monde does do is cement Enabler’s place near the top of the hardcore tree. Short, angry songs are played with genuine emotion and some serious heaviness. I wish it had the shock and awe of its predecessor, but it’s still packed start to finish with quality riffs and deftly spat vocals. A genuinely enjoyable foray into the punksphere.
Try before you buy: Balance of Terror(Bandcamp)

Fucked Up – Glass Boys
(Hardcore – Canada)
Matador – 2014/06/03

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I’ve listened to a good bit more punk than I would have thought this year, but it’s all come from deep in the blood, sweat, and spit end of things. So listening to Glass Boys was like stepping out from some dingy fight club into glorious sunshine. It’s just so damn luxurious. It’s not just the lush guitar work or the infectiously upbeat rhythms that make this such a joy. It’s the sophisticated combination of pathos and optimism that leaves the smile.
Try before you buy: Paper the House (YouTube)

Guilty Parents – The Black Ooze
(Garage punk – United Kingdom)
Self-released – 2014/06/13

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The Black Ooze is bile fuelled invective played with the too drunk to give a fuck quality of garage rock. It’s a pretty effective combination, but risky. Very risky. Intentionally lo-fi recordings can easily turn in to all-too-forgetable mires of poor production. But, to their credit, Guilty Parents got it right. For me, every track harkens back to a smoke filled club with terrible audio being absolutely dominated by a band that knows their craft. Halcyon days punk.
Try before you buy: Head/Basket/Dance/Casket (Bandcamp)

Infección Crónica – El Sotano
(Brutal death metal – Argentina)
Self-released – 2014/07/30

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Infección Crónica took a slightly unusual tack when approaching their brand of brutality. I’m used to brutal death sounding like a soundtrack to murder; this sounds like the dismemberment and other assorted horrors that follow. This is, in comparison to their genremates, slow and deliberate; every note scored to achieve maximum horror. It’s far from the glacial pace of death doom, but it is certainly indicative paraphilic madness.
Try before you buy: Armonia Hacia el Final (Bandcamp)

Jane Dark – Doors to Silence
(Death metal – Serbia)
Self-released – 2014/07/29

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There’s something so very satisfying about no frills death metal, so long as it’s done well. It scratches a specific, visceral itch. Jane Dark doesn’t just scratch said itch; they rake over it with sharpened nails. Part of their success lies in accepting the broader scope of the genre. There are nods to techdeath and progressive death throughout, but they are flourishes applied to highlight the overall level of skill the band bring to their pummelling btand of death.
Try before you buy: Fading of Flowers (Bandcamp)

Juventud Podrida – La Naturaleza de la Bestia
(Crust – Panama)
Self-released – 2014/06/24

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Ever get the feeling that a band is much better live than on record? That’s what I’m getting from these Panamanians. There’s definitely some hints of greatness here; the leads are harsh, while the slow downs are positively smouldering. But there’s a dearth of energy to the EP and I can’t blame the band. It’s like something vital was lost in the studio. They’re definitely a band I’m going to keep an eye on, as they will kill once they get it right.
Try before you buy: Criando Cuervos (Bandcamp)

Kurrakä – Kurrakä
(Hardcore – United States of America)
Self-released – 2014/04/25

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Blistering all-female punk in the old school hardcore tradition. And by old school, I mean Minor Threat, Gorilla Biscuits, and the whole host of the genre’s godfathers. It positively seethes with agitation and discontent. But scratch beneath the surface and there’s more than just a hardcore act. There are dark edges to the production and the vocals that draw inspiration from death rock. High energy sophistication wrapped in punk.
Try before you buy: Mundo Oscuro (Bandcamp)

Omfalos – Fallacy
(Brutal black metal – Brazil)
Self-released – 2014/07/29

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This certainly came with a twist. A kick in the teeth is probably more accurate. The cover, with its hanged and humiliated imagery, positively screams depressed, possibly suicidal grimness. Imagine my surprise when it launches into a mutant hybrid of black metal and brutal death. Sensibly, they have eschewed the traditionally screeched vocals of the former and the slams of the later. This ensures the resulting three tracks reach maximum hostility.
Try before you buy: Fallacy II (Bandcamp)

Paths – Where the Oakenhearted Dwell
(Psychedelic black metal – Canada)
Self-released – 2014/07/07

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There are worse things than paying homage to a great band. The important thing is that the band giving tribute do a good job of it. Paths do an excellent job of aping Enslaved. They incorporate the Norwegian’s quite distinct guitar tone into sweeping soundscapes dedicated to the Canadian wilderness. It works as it clearly pays homage to another band, but does it in a personalised way. Hopefully their sound will develop from here.
Try before you buy: Oakenheart (Bandcamp)

Pekla – Speed’n’Roll
(Heavy metal – Lithuania)
Self-released – 2014/07/07

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Landing somewhere between Lemmy approved rock and the current crop of Swedish traditional heavy metal, with a dusting of black metal for character, it really is impossible to dislike this album. I just wish my Lithuanian wasn’t so, how should I put it, non-existant, as I really want to shout along. Packed with solid hooks and catchy solos, each song feels like a party. But the vocals are aggressive enough to sound like the party’s getting rough. Good times all round.
Try before you buy: Nuo Sutemų iki Aušros (Bandcamp)

Portrait – Crossroads
(Heavy metal – Sweden)
Metal Blade – 2014/04/25

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Portrait have grown up a little on this release. It’s still hard to not make the comparison to Mercyful Fate and King Diamond; the vocalist’s range approaches the King’s and the music still maintains that level of grandiose seriousness. This album gives you impression that snide comments about being a tribute band (albeit a cracking one) are a thing of the past. Its galloping guitar work and pantomime grimness have earned their own praise.
Try before you buy: In Time (YouTube)

Qualm – Passive
(Hardcore – The Netherlands)
тide øf тhe εnd – 2014/07/16

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This is hardcore at its most abrasive. It’s lo-fi, angry as enraged hornets, and has the attention span of a three year old dosed up on sugar and speed. These angry Dutch psychos are furious about everything. So it’s pretty representative of hardcore taken to its logical extreme. Impressive, but it comes at a price: it’s really hard to listen to. As a listener, you are given no opportunity to settle in to the experience. Relentlessly discomforting. Try before you buy: Stretch Marks (Bandcamp)

Scalped – Demo 2014
(Hardcore – United States of America)
Self-released – 2014/03/31

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If you like abrasive, dirty, fast, loud, short hardcore, then this will be right up your alley. But a discussion about band differentiation is necessary at this point. There’s nothing wrong with this release, but it does nothing to stand out from its peers. I can’t point to any particular stylistic highlight. That being said, bands like this are great at keeping local scenes vibrant and, for that, we should be thankful.
Try before you buy: Charred Hands (Bandcamp)

Skáphe – Skáphe
(Black metal – United States of America)
Fallen Empire – 2014/05/04

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This may not be the best black metal release I’ve listened to this year, but it succeeds in a way that so many newcomers fail: it sounds unique. With so many other fresh faces, I’m able to say they sound like Mayhem, Marduk, Deathspell, et cetera. Skáphe sound like Skáphe. Like a bubbling pit of volcanic mud, they sound scorching yet sludgey. They are also, to keep the volcanic theme going, capable of great eruptions of fury. A pyroclastic nightmare.
Try before you buy: The Obelisk Gleam (Bandcamp)

Tartarus – Of Grimness and Atrocity
(Black metal – United Arab Emirates)
Self-released – 2014/07/31

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Another addition to the modern black metal canon. The question, as always, is how does it differentiate itself from the rest of the blackened horde. Not being terrible is a big positive. Especially since this EP sounds so vividly similar to both In the Nightside Eclipse and Sworn to the Dark. I suppose if derivative black metal is your oeuvre, setting such a high bar isn’t a bad thing. It’s hardly original, but it’s hard to fault beyond that.
Try before you buy: Axes (of Hatred) (Bandcamp)