June Review Round Up

June felt like a slow month, but I still ended up with twenty reviews. The new Mayhem album justly deserves its top billing. I was a big fan of Ordo ad Chao, but Esoteric Warfare is something else again. It would also seem that I’m one of the few to truly enjoy Mastodon’s new album, but I think that’s because I really like the space rock vibe they’re rocking at the moment.

We’re at the half-year mark and I’ve got to admit, 2014 has already exceeded many of my expectations. I’m a pretty generous reviewer; I can usually find some redeeming features in whatever I’m listening to, but I’ve got to admit that there has been a succession of genuinely top quality releases so far. Bring on the second half of the year.

Album of the Month
Mayhem – Esoteric Warfare
(Black metal – Norway)
Season of Mist – 2014/06/06

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I read more than a few reviews of Esoteric Warfare before I penned my own. I’m pretty sure every single one of them referenced De Mysteriis dom Sathanas and they did so by way of positive comparison. I’m going to add my voice to this chorus, as this album is spectacular. It’s easily the best thing they’ve done since they defined the genre all those years ago. Credit must go to Teloch; the man’s songwriting skills would make Euronymous proud.
Try before you buy: MILAB (YouTube)

Honourable Mentions
ACxDC – Antichrist Demoncore
(Powerviolence – United States of America)
Melotov Records – 2014/06/24

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Okay. Technically it’s a blend of grindcore and powerviolence, but I personally believe it lands further on the pv side of the line. Nomenclature quibbles aside, this is one hell of an awesome racket. Catchy and disorientating in equal measure, only after repeated listens was I able to pick exactly where songs ended. That’s not a criticism either. The sheer level of audio violence crammed into these twenty odd minutes is truly inspiring.
Try before you buy: Vegangelical (Bandcamp)

Eyehategod – Eyehategod
(Sludge metal – United States of America)
Housecore Records – 2014/05/27

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I don’t think any band is quite as emblematic of NOLA as Eyehategod. Seedy and swampy, yet possessed of a unique vigour, the comparisons go deeper. Both have been broken, yet they remain unbowed. Thanks to Hurricane Katrina and their own personal demons, the notorious sludge lords truly have been through hell and back. This has translated directly to their music. It’s no wonder they put their name to the album. It is truly theirs.
Try before you buy: Medicine Noose (YouTube)

Mastodon – Once More ‘Round the Sun
(Progressive sludge – United States of America)
Reprise Records – 2014/06/24

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Ordinarily the phrase ‘meets expectations’ implies a faint level of disappointment, as though more could have expected. But that’s not the case with Mastodon. When they meet your expectations, you just know you will be blown away. It’s just what they do. Once More ‘Round the Sun takes what they did with The Hunter and blasts even further into space. It’s a beautiful expedition into progressive expanses, that is challenging, uplifting, and hard rocking.
Try before you buy: Aunt Lisa (YouTube)

Shores of Null – Quiescence
(Gothic death metal – Italy)
Candlelight Records – 2014/03/24

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You don’t often get to associate the word ‘beautiful’ with death metal, but that’s what Quiescence is: beautiful death metal. The use of clean vocals is inspired and, fortunately, the vocalist is absolutely spot on in his delivery. Musically, the album is clearly rooted in melodeath, but is gloomy in its delivery. This combination of clean vocals, gloomy delivery, and traditional melodeath is absolutely stunning. And this is their first release. They should be huge.
Try before you buy: Night Will Come (Bandcamp)

An Anomaly
Jesus Egg – Discography
(Ska grind – United States of America)
Self-released – ????/??/??

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From deep in the grind underground comes Jesus Egg. I don’t know when this was released. I don’t know what the tracks are called. Hell, I can’t even be sure if it’s called ‘Discography’. What I do know is that this is some of the most violent, intense, and downright weird grindcore you will come across. The ska influence ranges between subtle and blunt, but is always undeniably there, turning this blastbeat barrage into something truly out there.
Try before you buy: Discography (YouTube). Available for free download here.

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
A Red Nightmare – A Red Nightmare
(Good deathcore – Brazil)
Self-released – 2014/06/02

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I’ve come to the conclusion that there are two distinct deathcore genres: hardcore infused with death metal elements, which is inevitably terrible and death metal infused with hardcore elements, which is often pretty good. This is in the later category. Its production is super crisp; if there were a fly outside, you would have heard it. The music itself comes in on the techdeath end of things, with a tactful use of breakdowns. Damn entertaining.
Try before you buy: Enemy (Bandcamp)

Adversary – Adversary
(Black metal – United Kingdom)
Exitium Productions – 2014/02/12

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There’s a lot of dross in black metal; so many bands trying to make themselves heard, but all of them sounding largely the same. It’s very easy to lose quality bands in the wash. And based on their second demo, it would be a crime against the genre to lose track of Adversary. They deal in frostbitten misanthropy, doing their damned best to channel their inner Mayhem. It’s the sort of release that draws you in from the outset and keeps you totally engaged.
Try before you buy: Illusionary Benefactor (Bandcamp)

Agonized – Consumed
(Grindcore – Malaysia)
Self-released – 2014/02/22

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I love true grindcore: the raw punk spit, the blastbeat barrages, the chainsaw guitars. At it’s best, it’s music that stokes the fires of my inner activist. But there is always the twinge knowing that many a good band will go unnoticed in the fertile underground. That’s why it’s always such a treat to come across awesome demo material, such as Consumed. I know no one grinds for the money, but I hope these guys get some label support. Bloody fantastic.
Try before you buy: Indefinite (Bandcamp)

Barghest – The Virtuous Purge
(Black metal – United States of America)
Gilead Media – 2014/06/17

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When talking about black metal, there are a few adjectives that turn up over and over again. Icy is one. Profane is another. But the term that The Virtuous Purge truly exemplifies is furious. Barghest have produced an album of the purest rage known to man. Ordinarily, this level of blind fury bores me; it becomes one dimensional very quickly. But this held my attention from start to finish. Why? Because Barghest write songs that rock their rage.
Try before you buy: Spent Brass (Bandcamp)

Beastplague – Beastplague
(Deathgrind – United States of America)
Torn Flesh Records – 2014/06/15

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This is a really solid example of deathgrind. It has all the hallmarks of death metal, but is played at breakneck speed and is totally unforgiving in its use of blastbeats. It’s non-stop assault and battery from the get go. And while the ten tracks pass in the blink of an eye, you don’t feel shortchanged. It probably helps that each track has a unique feel, so that they don’t bleed into each other. It’s that sort of creative vitality that grind needs.
Try before you buy: Fortis Quadramanus (Bandcamp)

Choriachi – S.U.F.F.E.R. (Set Us Free From Evil Rewards)
(Stoner metal – Italy)
Red Sound Records – 2014/06/06

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This is one of the most quintessentially stoner albums I’ve ever heard, both in its positives and its negatives. The riffs are chunky and can’t help but raise a smile. And the vocalist has a crooning voice that sounds like he’s in all your friends’ favourite bands: familiar but not instantly recognisable. He is good though. But they, like most stoners, do tend to forget what they’re doing. It’s like they lose focus mid-song, so they tend to get stuck in loops of repetitive riffs.
Try before you buy: Our Vice is a Locked Room (Bandcamp)

Deep-pression – Slave of Events
(Ambient – Italy/Poland)
Self-released – 2014/06/06

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Neatly straddling ambient, drone, and doom, Slave of Events is an album that’s big on depression and small on accessibility. The songs are genuinely engaging, but they weigh on your psyche like ten tonne weights. The synths and guitars are drip melancholy, while the sparse drum work is the pulse of a dying man; desperate, but fleeting. The quality production values ensure this is an album that begs to be heard, but leaves you feeling terrible.
Try before you buy: Star Whispers (Bandcamp)

Ghost Bath – Funeral
(Depressive black metal – China)
Pest Productions – 2014/02/04

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I feel like I’m missing some important cultural nuance when listening to Funeral, as the vocals are jarring to the point of cringeworthiness. They sound like the terrified shriek of a little girl who just stumbled upon a tarantula and they never seem in time with the music. Possibly, this is incorporating a blackened form of traditional Chinese singing; possibly it’s just awful wailing. It’s a shame, as the haunting music holds your attention like a vice.
Try before you buy: Procession (Bandcamp)

Husk – Hymns
(Blackened crust – United Kingdom)
Art as Catharsis – 2014/04/10

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I just couldn’t get into this. It’s high energy and well produced, but it’s soulless. The rhythm section is supposed to propel the music forward, but Husk’s drum and bass gets monotonous quickly, and frustratingly monotonous shortly after that. The leads are punchy. I can’t deny them that and the vocals aren’t attrocious either. But I can’t get past the fact that this ends up sounding like a test run for riffs. Technically sound, but not enjoyable.
Try before you buy: Keelhaul (Bandcamp)

Kognitiv Tod – Dysphoric Whispers
(Atmospheric black metal – United States of America)
Self-released – 2014/06/03

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It’s a hard album to get into. The band have attempted to incorporate a lot of different elements, but they haven’t been wholly successful. It’s too up-tempo to be ambiet, lacks the bombast to be symphonic, and is too jaunty to be trve while not being jaunty enough to be folk. They do some things quite well. I especially like the vocals. But overall it’s too much of an obvious mishmash to really hold the attention. I don’t hate it, I just don’t really want it.
Try before you buy: Behind the Veil of Eternal Fog (Bandcamp)

Meatpacker/Fetus Christ – Split
(Grindcore – United Kingdom)
Samizdat Records – 2014/02/16

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Another fine 2014 grind release, these mad Brits don’t have any intention of catering to people with healthy attention spans. Meatpacker, especially, rush through their tracks at an insane pace. Intense riffs and blasts abound. Fetus Christ seem positively glacial by comparison, but then you realise that their tempos may not be as intense but their short, punky tracks are still the stuff fucked up grind is made of. A delighfully biohazardous romp.
Try before you buy: Golden Arches (Bandcamp)

Mother Brain – Rise and Grind
(Grindcore – United States of America)
Mannequin Rein Recordings – 2014/03/01

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Rise and Grind is wholly proficient grindcore that I just can’t get behind. Don’t get me wrong, if grind is your thing, you will like this. And I do too, while I’m listening to it. But once it stops, it’s gone, leaving behind nothing but a faint memory of blastbeats. A specific problem I have is that there is a preponderance of slowdowns. One or two are nice for effect, but there are limits. But I can’t shake the notion that if this were memorable, I could get over that.
Try before you buy: I Didn’t Sign Up for This (Bandcamp)

Nyarlathotep – The Shadow Over Innsmouth
(Blackened doom – United States of America)
Self-released – 2014/06/21

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Your name is Nyarlathotep and your album is called The Shadow Over Innsmouth, which indicates more than a passing interest in Lovecraft. I only have one question: where’s the madness? In the lyrics possibly, but it’s not evident in the music. To be fair, I do enjoy their blend of Mysticum and Cathedral. They might need to trim a bit of the fat, but overall it’s a pleasing aggressive sound. But if you’re going full Cthulu, you have to sound fucked up.
Try before you buy: The Gilman House (Bandcamp)

Oberion – Return
(Death metal – Sweden)
Self-released – 2014/06/04

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Another entry in the old school before all else brand of Swedish death metal. It’s a pretty good one too. What absolutely makes this album is, despite the fact it is very much a death metal album, there is a heart of solid rock ‘n’ roll in there. This is positively toe tapping at times. And there are guitar leads that really put Thin Lizzy or Van Halen in my mind. But, as I said, this is death metal. Dirty and unforgiving as any other Swedeath band. But with a soul.
Try before you buy: Eerie (Bandcamp)

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May Review Round Up

This has been a landmark month. In the space of a few weeks, my previous contender for album of the year has been relegated to fifth place. Triptykon only just managed to outshine a fistful of other amazing releases. We also have a new contender for steaming loaf of the year too. So, yeah, it’s been a full on month of May.

Album of the Month
Triptykon – Melana Chasmata
(Doom metal – Switzerland)
Century Media Records – 2014/04/14

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Given that I consider Triptykon’s previous album, Eparistera Daimones, to be a perfect album, Melana Chasmata had mighty big shoes to fill. But I need not have worried; this is easily the equal if its predecessor. Tom G Warrior may have decided to up the pace a few notches, but the album is replete with the seething contempt and haunting introspection that make his work so engaging. Dark and alluring, this is doom at its most majestic.
Try before you buy: Altar of Deceit (YouTube)

Honourable Mentions
Agalloch – The Serpent & the Sphere
(Post-black metal – United States of America)
Profound Lore Records – 2014/05/13

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I dare say this is some of easiest metal to listen to I’ve come across this year. It’s not that it’s loaded with radio friendly shit singles. Far from it. The rhythms and melodies flow with a natural progression that turn lengthy songs into meaningful reflective experiences. And the songs are wonderfully evocative too; you can close your eyes and feel yourself standing alone in the autumnal wilderness at dusk. A work of stark beauty.
Try before you buy: Celestial Effigy (YouTube)

Anopheli – A Hunger Rarely Sated
(Post-crust – United States of America)
Self-released – 2014/04/24

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Coming from the same feminist, anti-speciesist collective that gave us Carnist and Light Bearer, it really shouldn’t surprise anyone that their take on crust is very different. They call themselves emo crust; I call that trolling. Genre purists may cringe, but I did not. The combination of harsh, crusty guitars and more elegant string sections create an e.p. that is beautiful in its anger, furious in its eloquence. Boundries are supposed to pushed this way.
Try before you buy: Incompetent Sires(Bandcamp)

Lord Mantis – Death Mask
(Blackened sludge – United States of America)
Profound Lore Records – 2014/04/29

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Death Mask is a concentrated mass of metastasised malignancy. Slow, swampy riffs are played with ritualistic fervour. Although it’s played at a higher tempo, this album has drone’s ability to build an oppressive atmosphere. The vocals are hateful shrieks, perfectly suited to the ugly lyrical content. It comes together to create an album that effortlessly draws you in, but never lets you get comfortable. A febrile monstrosity.
Try before you buy: Death Mask (Bandcamp)

Swans – To Be Kind
(Post-punk – United States of America)
Young God Records – 2014/05/12

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There is something truly sublime about To Be Kind. Walls of dissonant sound build soundscapes that are simultaneously trance inducing and deeply unsettling. Meanwhile, the vocals range between the mystic chant of shamanic ritual and the fevered intonation of a tortured call to prayer. That an album can be so dense and seemingly impenetrable, but be utterly compelling is a mark of true genius. But I expect nothing less of Swans.
Try before you buy: Oxygen (YouTube)

Wovenhand – Refractory Obdurate
(Apocalyptic post-country – United States of America)
Deathwish Inc – 2014/04/29

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This is a monster of an album to classify, as Wovenhand don’t just mash genres together; they elegantly craft songs that deliberately defy labels. My surprise to find them on Deathwish is immense, by the way. Regardless of how you want to classify them, the songs are beautiful. Just as the band deftly tiptoes around classification, so too do the songs dance gracefully across the emotional spectrum. You must hear it; it’s impact is lost in text.
Try before you buy: Hiss (YouTube)

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Aptrgangr – Maps of Reality
(Blackened death metal – United States of America)
E.E.E. Recordings – 2014/05/13

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Unlistenably bad. I hate to be this level of critical, but this e.p. is particularly awful. The uninspiring album art is just the start. The music itself is painfully generic; it could be any black death band warming up. And the paper thin production values destroy whatever uniqueness there was. The vocals are what truly kills this release. Sounding like a combination of severe asthmatic wheezing and a dentist’s drill, nails on a chalkboard have more appeal. Woeful.
Try before you buy: Iron and Pine (Bandcamp)

Bleed the Pigs – Mortis Fatum
(Blackened grindcore – United States of America)
Self-released – 2014/01/24

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Straight out of the country music heartland, comes this poisoned cut of reactionary violence. I can’t say I’m surprised that this is the product of Nashville’s metal underground. It’s fast and nasty, revelling in the destruction of conventional melody. The vocals, similarly, are growled and spat projections of hate. Hateful and ugly it may be, but it’s far from flawless. It always feels like it’s stuck in second gear. Not a good sound for grindcore.
Try before you buy: Endless Void (Bandcamp)

Catapult the Dead – All is Sorrow
(Post-doom – United States of America)
Self-released – 2014/04/20

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Doom is the genre that carries the torch for heaviness in metal, and when I saw that this album is best treated as one colossal track, I figured it would be another crushing funeral doom act. As a result I wasn’t quite prepared for the elegance and sophistication this band puts into their music. That they have learned vital songcraft lessons from Neurosis is clear. This is still bone-crushingly heavy, but it is achieved with a dancer’s grace, not a troll’s fist.
Try before you buy: Valencia (Bandcamp)

Grst – Fire Therein
(Black metal – United States of America)
Glossolalia Records – 2014/05/01

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A two track e.p. comprising nothing but Weakling covers. I probably should have glossed over it, but I gave it a go. It’s a release that would receive a solid 50% if I were given to numerical scores. The first track highlights everything wrong with ecological black metal. It’s a monotonous tremolo barrage that outstays its welcome by seven minutes. Track two is a soaring reaffirmation of everything that’s right with the genre. Majestic and emotional.
Try before you buy: Dead as Dreams (Bandcamp)

Impetuous Ritual – Unholy Congregation of Hypocritical Ambivalence
(Death metal – Australia)
Profound Lore Records – 2014/04/15

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Impetuous Ritual and Portal are the Dunwich Horror of death metal. Portal is the unknowable horror, while Impetuous Ritual is the brother of madness. And Lovecraftian madness is what this album propagates. An atmosphere of creeping dread is meshed with an undeniable sense of rage to create a release that is both challenging and enthralling. It’s certainly not an easy listen, but it’s equally difficult to turn off.
Try before you buy: Venality in Worship (Bandcamp)

Mannveira – Von Er Eitur
(Black metal – Iceland)
Self-released – 2014/03/10

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A confession: any band that tries to incorporate a Deathspell Omega-esque sound into their black metal is going to attract my attention. I know I complain a lot about derivative black metal, but I’d rather listen to a rip off of the French intellectuals than yet another clone of Bergen, circa 1994. And rip off is probably too strong a term for Von Er Eitur. It incorporates an element of distressing disorientation, but doesn’t plumb the deepest darkness.
Try before you buy: Eðjan (Bandcamp)

Massacre – Back From Beyond
(Death metal – United States of America)
Century Media Records – 2014/03/24

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I remain sceptical regarding comeback albums. I am doubly sceptical about sequel albums. Needless to say, this left me very hesitant about Back From Beyond. I need not have worried though; Massacre have returned with an album of pure Florida death metal murk. It may have been a long time between innings, especially if you discount their lamentable Promise era, but it’s like they never left. They sound like Massacre should and that’s all I need.
Try before you buy: False Revelation (YouTube)

Maur – Elegy
(Blackened atmosoheric doom – Indonesia)
Self-released – 2014/05/25

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I have a lot of respect for the Indonesian metal scene. It routinely puts out bands that are crying out for more attention. Maur is no exception. This two track demo is rife with deft touches. The fearless use of repetition builds a ritualistic atmosphere. The clean vocals are deliberately quietened, drawing the listener in, only to bludgeon them with full force blackened growls once enrhralled. A deceptively complex offering.
Try before you buy: Elegy (Bandcamp)

November 13th – Stadt in Flammen
(Crust – Germany)
Alerta Antifascista Records – 2014/05/08

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After giving this a listen, all I can think of is how this makes me think of what Trap Them would sound like if they were washed out in fifteen or twenty years. The growled vocals sound out of place, as though the vocalist can’t bark out the lyrics anymore. The melodies have heft, but they’re arthritic and seem stuck in second gear. It even sounds like a Kurt Ballou production job, only apathetic. I did enjoy it, but it doesn’t do much to distinguish itself.
Try before you buy: Veränderung 0.9b (Bandcamp)

Olema – Felis Catus (Versus Homo Sapiens) (Remixed and Remastered Version)
(Avant-garde metal – Finland)
Self-released – 2014/05/05

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I ordinarily take the term avant-garde with a grain of salt; it’s more often than not just a byword for bizarreness for bizarreness’ sake. And this is a bizarre release. At its core this could be a progressive death album, but it incorporates jazz arrangements, electronica, k-pop vocals, and all manner of other weirdness. They use kazoos for God’s sake. But the truly weird thing is that it works. The songs are magnificently coherent in their madness.
Try before you buy: Tämä Laulu on Taidetta (Bandcamp)

Pryapisme – Blastbit Rococollider
(8-bit – France)
Apathia Records – 2014/02/03

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Is it Nintendocore. No, thankfully. Is it bitcore? No. This is a legitimately 8-bit sounding e.p. It sounds like Alex Kidd Shroomed Out in Castlevanialand™. The next important question to ask is how quickly does the gimmick wear out its welcome? Honestly, it remains consistently listenable throughout. Given that it’s a remix of earlier releases, it kind of makes me curious to know what the band sounds like on a regular release. An interesting diversion.
Try before you buy: Un Druide est Giboyeux Lorsqu’il se Prend Pour un Neutrino ( Platform ) (Bandcamp)

Serpents Lair – Demo MMXIV
(Black metal – Denmark)
Self-released – 2014/05/02

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A pretty good introduction to a new Danish black metal act. Only two tracks long, but it provides ample opportunity to get to the roots of their sound. They do a reasonable job of channelling the cacophony; not as well as Deathspell Omega, but that’s hardly unsurprising. The vocal style has more in common with Mortus’ vocals with Funeral Mist: raw, barking, and tortured. Swirling with borderline disorientation, this band has potential.
Try before you buy: Epistemology of Death (Bandcamp)

Thou – Heathen
(Doom metal – United States of America)
Gilead Media – 2014/02/25

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My second Thou review for the year. As much as I’m hesitant to review multiple releases from the same artist in a given year, Heathen totally justifies the time. Frankly, I’m amazed a band this prolific maintains such high quality. This is doom in the truest sense of the genre; it’s slow, bleak, and heavy as hell. But the songs are memorable and you’ll find yourself humming them later like they were some rock hit on drivetime radio. A seriously impressive achievement.
Try before you buy: In Defiance of the Sages (Bandcamp)

Vallenfyre – Splinters
(Death metal – United Kingdom)
Century Media Records – 2014/05/12

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The second album from the Britain’s gloomiest death metal act proves that they have no intention of reinventing the wheel. But, then, when their brand of hostility is so well done, they don’t really need to make too many changes. The songs definitely let the band’s doomy heritage shine through, but don’t arbitrarily slow the pace down. The end result is a collection of fiercely downtuned riffs that are grimey, putrid, fetid, all the synonyms for nastiness.
Try before you buy: Odious Bliss (YouTube)

April Review Round Up

It took an almighty amount of time for my album of the month to turn up. The hazards of international ordering and shipping. Shelter is totally worth it though. It had some serious competition to contend with, in the form of Akab, III: Beneath Trident’s Tomb, and Sweven. Any one of those releases could have made the cut in any other month.

There’s also been a lot of crap this month. I’ve needed the awesome releases to clean my mind after such disappointment.

Album of the Month
Alcest – Shelter
(Shoegaze – France)
Prophecy Productions – 2014/01/17

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Alcest has dropped any pretence of metal on their fourth full length and have fully embraced the gentler nature of shoegaze. In doing so, Neige and his collaborators have created an album of light and space, which gives this sonic dreamscape room to soar. Neige’s vocals have a joyous melancholy, which is a wondrous oxymoron. The guitars and synths add a concentrated etherealness. The end result is a sun-drenched journey through the ether.
Try before you buy: Voix Sereines (YouTube)

Honourable Mentions
Black Khox – Akab
(Stoner sludge – Canada)
Self-released – 2014/04/20

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Instantly likeable, high intensity, super fuzzed, stoner sludge. The riffs have that High on Fire-approved heft, but aren’t loaded with the inherent negativity. The other band I feel compelled to name drop is Church of Misery, as Black Khox share that party rock vibe I get from the Japanese rifflords. But with substantially less serial killer obsession. Once the sample fanfare ended and the rock started, I was left with an ear to ear grin.
Try before you buy: Kong (Bandcamp)

Morbus Chron – Sweven
(Death metal – Sweden)
Century Media Records – 2014/02/24

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I have to admit, I’m impressed by Sweven. Morbus Chron’s first album was part of spate of ‘old school above all else’ releases out of Sweden and, while they were promising, they were just another zombie obsessed death metal act. Sweven breaks them from this mould. Their music has an otherworldly quality to it now, which allows them to expand their songwriting into progressive territory, while still indulging in the supernatural.
Try before you buy: The Perennial Link (YouTube)

Twilight – III: Beneath Trident’s Tomb
(Black Metal – United States of America)
Century Media – 2014/03/17

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The black metal supergroup is back with slightly less Nachtmystium and slightly more Sonic Youth. Not entirely sure what prompted Thurston Moore to join up with this assortment of USBM’s finest, but his contribution works. I want to call it psychedelic, but it’s no greyscale rainbow. It’s more like the iridescent sheen on an oil slick; grimey and obviously unpleasant. Twilight is black metal that embodies the death of light of their namesake phenomena.
Try before you buy: Lungs (YouTube)

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Aronious – Truth in Perception
(Technical death metal – United States of America)
Self-released – 2014/04/04

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I like over the top fret masturbation as much as the next techdeath aficionado, but I have to admit that, sometimes, awe inspiring technicality comes at the expense of listenability. Which is probably why I enjoyed Truth in Perception as much as I did, as they incorporate progressive elements in order to mitigate technical excess. This in turn allows space for the technical elements to truly shine. Aronious have crafted quite the sophisticated album.
Try before you buy: Truth in Perception (Bandcamp)

Ego Depths – Oligoria Blodd
(Funeral doom metal – Ukraine)
Self-released – 2014/04/16

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The second piece of Ukrainian funeral doom I’ve listened to this month, and in terms of album construction, they’re similar. First track sets the tone, second track defines the theme, and tracks three through five flesh it out. The similarities end there though. Ego Depths’ brand of mournful dirge is heavy on the futility of existence, from the depths of space to the tiniest spaces between cells, and light on hope, even false hope. Bleak stuff.
Try before you buy: Endosphere (Bandcamp)

Ephemeral Ocean – Honour in the Mask
(Progressive death doom – Russia)
Self-released – 2014/04/05

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Ephemeral Ocean sounds very much like a lower, slower Opeth. They may not have the full range of technical flourishes that Åkerfeldt and co put into their music, but they compensate by bringing the doom. What really puts them in the same ballpark is the feeling of space in their melodies and the organic flow of their song structures. Of course, this is just a three song e.p., so such flattering comparisons may be premature, but they are certainly worth a listen.
Try before you buy: Wrong Dismemberment (Bandcamp)

Execució – Demo
(Thrash – Spain)
Trabuc Records – 2014/02/23

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A big band of the future, right here. Assuming the metal gods will shine down kindly. This is five tracks of old school, no frills thrash. And I mean this in the best possible way. As someone who got into metal via thrash, this is a reminder of everything that’s good. The vocals are on the death metal growl spectrum, but the rest of the music is 100% eighties goodness. And, as much as its old school, it sounds unique. And it’s free. Go get it. Now.
Try before you buy: SSS (Bandcamp)

Firecult – The Essence of the Fallen
(Melodic black metal – Canada)
Self-released – 2014/04/04

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I’m sure when Firecult formed with the intent of playing melodic black metal, they hoped it would come across as a cross between Watain and In Flames. Regrettably, it ended up sounding like Dimmu or Cradle, but without all the pretty keyboard bits. And not their reasonably solid early work either. It’s a shame, as Firecult aren’t bad musicians; what they play, they play well. The problem lies in their compositional skills. Dull music played well.
Try before you buy: Revelations of the New Aeon (Bandcamp)

Forest of Tygers – Bruises
(Sludge metal – United States of America)
Acteon – 2014/04/29

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Ever so slightly singed sludge metal performed by a Nashville couple. It’s technically proficient, but also insubstantial. It’s the sort of release that you can listen to and have completely forgotten about the second it ends. It’s as ephemeral as a puff of smoke. This makes it a problematic release, because it’s enjoyable enough, but without the staying power, what’s the point? It’s a shame, as there is potential for greatness, but it’s wasted.
Try before you buy: Tigerstripe (Bandcamp)

Giza – I Am the Ocean, I Am the Sea
(Instrumental sludge metal – United States of America)
Self-released – 2014/04/29

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For an album that calls itself ‘I Am the Ocean, I Am the Sea’, it sure does lack the raw, surging power of its elemental namesakes. Its heaviness is technical or scientific in nature; much less of the power of the tidal surge and much more of water being pressurised under lab conditions. This ensures that the e.p. comes across as an oddity. Neither truly good or bad, Giza has crafted a soundscape in homage to a great natural force in a way alien to it.
Try before you buy: Molecular Tsunami (Bandcamp)

Human Collapse – Darkness to Fall
(Death doom – Russia)
Self-released – 2014/04/05

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Another interesting take on death doom. It’s kind of like what Licrest were trying to do last month, but done with more tact. There is still a distinction between the death doom and the true doom, but where this distinction can seem hamfisted in other hands, Human Collapse gets it right. It allows the band to juxtapose anger and grief, highlighting their differences, while acknowledging their commonalities. An earthy and genuine approach to negativity.
Try before you buy: Novembersmile (Bandcamp)

Mashet – The Unconsciousness Acts
(Death metal – Chile)
Self-released – 2014/04/13

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What a waste of potential. When the album kicks off, it sounds like a discount store knock off of Obituary. Standard issue chuggy riffs and public domain death growls seemed to be where the album was headed. Then the first solo started, and I realised that the guitarists are much better than their band. This is a trend that continues throughout the album: completely interchangeable death metal interspersed with top notch solos.
Try before you buy: Kymatic Darkness (Bandcamp)

Neptune’s Inferno – Abyss
(Doom metal – United States of America)
Death Valley Records – 2014/04/25

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I’m often critical of black and death metal for being too by the numbers or, to be rude, lazy. But at least there’s an element of skill in tremolo picking or windmilling death slams. Lazy doom metal? Bah! It’s the fucking worst. When you’re playing at 60bpm or less, you had better make your output menorable. As it stands, Abyss doesn’t pass the test. Prime example: I couldn’t even tell the first two tracks apart. Completely lacking stylistic nuance.
Try before you buy: Night Fever (Bandcamp)

Reivers – State Effects//Trait Effects
(D-beat – United States of America)
Self-released – 2014/02/25

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I forgot how much I enjoy D-beat until these Oakland face-smashers reminded me. It’s a four track e.p. that starts off short and sharp, but builds intensity quickly, culminating in a brooding finale that simply crushes. Special mention goes out to the female vocalist, Kate. Her vox reminds me of H.R., of Bad Brains fame, and it just makes the e.p. sound complete. The rest of the band are no slouches either. An excellent example of modern punk.
Try before you buy: Save Face (Bandcamp)

Ringworm – Hammer of the Witch
(Thrashcore – United States of America)
Relapse Records – 2014/03/18

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Thrashcore. Not a term I like, and I’m probably not using it correctly. But when it’s too close to metalcore to be crossover and too close to crossover to be metalcore, I’m left in an awkward position. Nomenclature aside, these thugs throw down ugly, bruising music. And that is precisely what makes this album work. Ringworm have been around a long time; they’re not about to reinvent the wheel. But their genuine bile-fuelled anger is timeless.
Try before you buy: Psychic Vampires (Bandcamp)

Sagas – Traumwanderer
(Black metal – Germany)
Self-released – 2014/04/18

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The first time I’ve come across an Alcest clone. Probably being a bit harsh there, but the combination of black metal and shoegaze is very closely associated with Alcest in my mind. I do like this combination of sounds and I like some of the rhythms Sagas have put to wax. But it’s far from perfect. What’s really lacking is nuance. The insistence on using growls and snarls, where clean vocals would be appropriate is an unfortunate example. Not bad overall though.
Try before you buy: Einsamkeit (Bandcamp)

Sights of War – Annihilate to Survive
(Blackened punk – Canada)
HSP Productions – 2014/04/25

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The tempo and rhythm of dirty gutter punk are matched with the tuning and production values of first wave black metal. It’s a perfect match for those whose disaffection has given way to outright contempt. There’s nothing complicated or pretty about this album; it’s raw, visceral, and blunt. It operates within rigorous self-defined parameters, but does manage to avoid the pitfall of monotony though. It’s an album that lets its anger run riot.
Try before you buy: Terror Unfold (Bandcamp)

Slayer – Implode
(Thrash – United States of America)
Self-released – 2014/04/24

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I ummed and ahed over including this review. It is, after all, a self-released tester single. But (BUT) it is the first piece of recorded material to hit the air in the post-Hanneman era, so it’s a bit of a landmark. Gary Holt more than capably fills the role of axeman, but doesn’t merely imitate the dear departed. His contributions are vibrant. It’s no masterpiece though. It could’ve come from World Painted Blood. Most importantly, it still sounds like Slayer.
Try before you buy: Implode (duh…) (YouTube)

Slough Feg – Digital Resistance
(Heavy metal – United States of America)
Metal Blade Records – 2014/02/18

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The Lord Weird returns and, by God, I hate reviewing them. Don’t get me wrong; I love America’s answer to Iron Maiden, but much like their NWOBHM inspiration, they produce metal of such consistent quality that it’s barely worth reviewing. Does it sound like Slough Feg? Yes. Have they deviated from their traditional sound? Not at all. For the unitiated, Slough Feg play traditional heavy metal, in a slightly less expansive way than Iron Maiden. Always worth a listen.
Try before you buy: Digital Resistance (YouTube)

Slow – Unsleep
(Funeral doom metal – United States of America)
Black Plague Records – 2014/04/13

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Apologies if I completely missed the point, but this is how I interpreted Unsleep. It’s an album based on someone committing suicide by drowning, only to have their soul remain trapped within their corpse. It opens with trepidation and a sort of numb euphoria, but quickly turns horrific. Sickly, there are occasional lapses into false acceptance, but by the end there is only bleak resignation. Warning: the bass will ruin speakers.
Try before you buy: Drowned II: Unsleep (Bandcamp)

Стены Льда [Steny Lda] – Белое Безмолвие [White Silence]
(Sludgey Post-hardcore – Russia)
Slow Burn Records – 2014/04/07

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An interesting combination of progressive sludge and post-hardcore. For the most part, it’s quite contemplative. In many ways it sounds like a collaboration between Baroness and Sunny Day Real Estate. The songs are largely instrumental, with the sparse vocals being used just as much to affect a thematic change, as convey a message. It’s an album that is intelligently constructed, well played, and, above all else, a joy to listen to.
Try before you buy: Дрейфующие В Тумане Айсберги, Несущие Гибель И Разрушение [The Icebergs Drifting In A Fog And Bringing Loss And Destruction] (Bandcamp)

Stoic Violence – Chained
(Hardcore – United States of America)
Deranged Records – 2014/04/27

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I would slap the shit out of these guys while screaming, “It’s not the bloody eighties!”, but their output is just too good to get mad at. The songs are short bursts of manic anger, in keeping the truest spirit of early days of the genre. And they’re catchy too, but not because of cheap theatrics that ‘modern’ hardcore acts are prone to. These songs may lack a pro-arena sound, but they don’t lack for bombast. Turn it up, get drunk, and smash shit.
Try before you buy: No Escape (Bandcamp)

Teitanblood – Death
(Blackened death metal – Spain)
Norma Evangelium Diaboli – 2014/03/13

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Teitanblood are purveyors of the filthiest, nastiest, most putrescent death metal there is. Death is an album that strips away whatever few friperies they previously allowed themselves. What remains is a hellraising racket, ripe with mildew of the crypt and the sulphurous tang of damnation. Ferocious blackened riffs relentlessly batter the speakers, while drums blast an infernal, manic beat. These Spaniards are deeply invested in their evil.
Try before you buy: Cadaver Synod (YouTube)

Tetragrammaton – Descendere
(Black metal – United States of America)
Dying God Records – 2014/04/18

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I don’t know what these guys think they’re doing, but they’re doing it wrong. Black metal should not be this soporific. Seriously, this e.p. could easily double as a soothing white noise device. I’m not sure whether it’s the swampy tempos, the deadpan shrieks, or cliché guitar tone that knocks me out. It could just be that they’re taking what was done by second wave black metal and playing it back slower. A disappointing effort that wouldn’t engage die hard genre buffs.
Try before you buy: Filth Goddess (Bandcamp)

This Cold Night – We of Like Minds
(Post-punk – United States of America)
Self-released – 2014/03/06

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I found this album infuriating. A less subjective voice may say it’s not terrible, just dull. But I want to be subjective. The vocalist sounds as though he discovered that he can pass off being flat as singing in a minor key. His range isn’t great either. And the guitar work is sub-pop punk in ability. Judicious use of reverb can’t hide that for more than one song. But worst of all is the lack of variation. If I wanted monotonous riffs, I’d listen to drone.
Try before you buy: Eighties Goth Suicide Note (Bandcamp)

Throat Slitter – Demo 2014
(Fastcore – Canada)
Self-released – 2014/01/05

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Odd release date; I got my copy in late April and not because I’m an influential blogger. Meh. Anyhow, I’m a fan of how Throat Slitter approach grindcore. It takes a certain level of skill to release something with no tracks over a minute while ensuring that every track sounds fully developed. These songs sound so well fleshed out that they feel much longer. And not in the ‘oh God, why won’t they stop?’ way. Get this, enjoy it, hope they put out more soon.
Try before you buy: Misanthropic Lunatic (Bandcamp)

WTCHDR – Triumph and Despair
(Metalcore – Canada)
Self-released – 2014/04/02

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Always good to find a band that gives me hope for a genre I consider in decline. It does this by embracing metalcore’s hardcore roots. Rather than trying to wad in as many breakdowns as possible, WTCHDR keep their songs short and to the point, with the majority coming in under ninety seconds. Its fury is lean and precise. Revitalised hardcore with metal tuning, this reminds us what the portmanteau ‘metalcore’ actually means.
Try before you buy: The Sheep (Bandcamp)

Zombie X Incest – Live Demo
(Powerviolence – Nepal)
Self-released – 2014/03/11

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I was going to pass this over. The term ‘live demo’ doesn’t fill me with hope. But how often does Nepalese powerviolence crop up? Obscure much? To be 100% honest, I’m glad I gave in to the hipster urge, as this is an excellent introduction to a really talented band. The audio is admittedly terrible; the vocals and guitars tend to meld. But the genuine raw edge that the band has shines through. I hope a clean release happens. They deserve it.
Try before you buy: Why So Serious? (Bandcamp)

March Review Round Up

Happy April, everybody. As you can tell I never got around to writing longer reviews. I do like my blurbs though.

Come March 31, I was prepared to hand over my album of the month gong to Tengger Cavalry and their frankly fantastic Ancient Call. But then Plebeian Grandstand came along and blew away all competition. Tengger Cavalry and, now, fellow runner up El Hambre are both fantastic, but Plebeian Grandstand are something else again.

To make up for the previous two months’ lack of links, I’ll post them now. I try to link to official sites, but sometimes it’s just not an option.

Aleph Null: Bandcamp
AlNamrood: YouTube
Amaranthine Lament: Bandcamp
Amnesian: Bandcamp
Behemoth: Official YouTube
Castration Rite/Nihilistic Holiday: Bandcamp (there’s a link to Nihilistic Holiday’s page there too)
Corpsessed: Bandcamp
Cynic: YouTube
Decades/Failures: Bandcamp
Dragons Bane: Bandcamp
Gilla Bruja: Bandcamp
Grand Magus: YouTube
Jackals: Bandcamp
Kindergarten Hazing Ritual: Bandcamp (the Cedric’s Lettuce part of the split is there too)
巨人大虐殺 [Kyojin Daigyakusatsu]: Bandcamp
Larvae: Bandcamp
Lascaille’s Shroud: Bandcamp
Lazarus Blackstar: Bandcamp (the Black Shape of Nexus part is there too)
Parfumerie: Bandcamp
Perfect Beauty: Bandcamp
The Seaford Monster: Bandcamp
Sun Worship: Bandcamp
Sunn O))) & Ulver: Bandcamp
Thou: Bandcamp
The Vintage Caravan: Bandcamp
Waldgeflüster: Bandcamp

Album of the Month
Plebeian Grandstand – Lowgazers
(Technical black metal – France)
Throatruiner Records – 2014/03/31

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I haven’t been this impressed by a black metal album this decade. Demented time signatures are overlaid with uncompromising riffs that border on the mathematical in complexity. It’s a combination of avant-garde darkness and technical fury that creates an atmosphere of relentless misanthropy. This doesn’t simply follow the genre forerunners; it forges a new path. Stunning blackened perfection.
Try before you buy: Flail in the Bliss (Bandcamp)

Honourable Mentions
铁骑 [Tengger Cavalry] – 远古呼唤 / Ancient Call
(Blackened folk metal – China)
Metal Hell Records – 2014/02/01

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I cannot sing the praises of this band loudly enough. The combination of black metal fury and traditional Mongolian music works so well; it’s entirely befitting to celebrate a warrior culture of the frozen steppe. Ancient Call is more blackened than their last album, but it is still an utter joy to listen to. Where Black Steed was a homage to high plains riders, Ancient Call takes said riders to dark, supernatural realms.
Try before you buy: Hymn of the Earth (Bandcamp)

El Hambre – El Hambre
(Grindcore – Spain)
Self-released – 2014/01/13

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What a shameless tease. Five damn tracks, that’s all they give us. Five. Damn. Tracks. And then it’s gone. This is a short, sharp shock of blistering grind, that roughs you up and is gone before you know what happened. I love grindcore for its absolute immediacy and El Hambre is right there, in your face, not giving you the choice to back down. I just wish it was longer. Five tracks of violence isn’t enough.
Try before you buy: Valkiria (Bandcamp)

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Amora – Violence is Human
(Thrash – Australia)
Self-released – 2014/03/28

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Amora boldly goes where thrash has gone before. I hear the Big Four, the Teutonic three, and all manner of other notable thrashers in their rhythms. It’s essentially a tribute band dedicated to the genre. But, damn it, I just love this e.p. It may be derivative, but it’s put together so well I don’t even care. It’s fast, heavy, and intelligently constructed. It’s a release that celebrates the high energy history of thrash.
Try before you buy: For Those Slain (Bandcamp)

Black i Dekker – Demo
(Powerviolence – Spain)
Self-released – 2014/01/28

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Short songs? Check. Abrasive vocals? Sandpapery indeed. Distortion galore? Yep. A non-commital attitude to time signatures? Very non-commital actually. This demo is packed with what I have come to expect from powerviolence. So what does it do to differentiate itself from the rest? The no guitar approach is a nice touch. Bass, drum, and vox is all this band needs. Occasionally samey, but a fine first effort.
Try before you buy: Estilo Reputado De Hoy (Bandcamp)

ExVx – Contra Violence
(Venncore – United States of America)
Self-released – 2014/03/04

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Venncore: the crossroads of grindcore, hardcore, and powerviolence. The songs are short, fast, and punk as fuck. They are also backed up with awesome selection of samples, starting the e.p. with a quote from a juggalo documentary and rounding it out with some South Park. It’s a whirlwind of sound that still remains balanced and coherent. That the band can keep the reins on this fury is impressive.
Try before you buy: Parochial (Bandcamp)

Hashe – El Espíritu del Árbol Muerto
(Atmospheric black metal – Chile)
Self-released – 2014/03/06

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The trick to good atmospheric black metal is striking the balance between the atmosphere and the fury. Hashe weaves a strong thread of sinister ambience through his songs, demonstrating that it’s actually possible to have keyboard driven black metal that leaves an emotional mark. This isn’t just an album for the frozen heart of winter, but also for the thin air of altitude. This is exposure given a score.
Try before you buy: El Llamado de los Viejos Robles y Alerces (Bandcamp)

Istrulity – Realm of Disturbed Hopes
(Death thrash – Serbia)
Self-released – 2014/03/06

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Once again, the difference between critical me and the rest of me rears its head. Only, this time, critical me is reminding the rest of me that just because a band plays a brand of music I’m partial too, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s fantastic. That being said, Istrulity do play an entertaining brand of midpaced, heavy-end thrash. It’s just a little bit derivative. Pretty good for a demo though.
Try before you buy: R.I.P (Return is Possible) (Bandcamp)

Licrest – Misery
(Doom death – United States of America)
Self-released – 2014/03/01

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I like what this one man band is trying to do. It’s a tad generic, but it’s still likeable. There’s a nice, crisp guitar tone and the drumming lays down a sinister undertone. But those vocals are a real enthusiasm killer. Or at least they are for roughly half the tracks. The problem is the album straddles the line between doom and doom death, and the vocals don’t fit with the songs on the doom side of the fence. Stick to the death.
Try before you buy: I Want to Watch You Die (Bandcamp)

Limbs Bin – Only Toture
(Harsh Noise – United States of America)
Self-released – 2014/01/03

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How would you review 52 tracks of feedback only distinguishable by the occasional shift in tone and the garble of lyrics? How would you pick just one track out of the maddening clatter of similarities? As luck would have it, a guy drove past me during this period of doubt, listening to skip hop, and I realised that Only Torture was still more listenable than that. It challenged rather than bored me.
Try before you buy: Holy Grove (Bandcamp)

Lurid Reign – Omniscient in the Realm of Despair
(Depressive suicidal black metal – Canada)
SomberLife Productions – 2014/03/21

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My experiences with dsbm, while admittedly limited, indicate that a key element to the subgenre is seduction. Not with the swagger of rock or the sleaze of glam; it’s more like the drag of succubi claws across naked flesh. Dark and painful, yet undeniably alluring. With that in mind, this four track homage to Transylvanian Hunger era Darkthrone didn’t tick the boxes. Depressingly unoriginal.
Try before you buy: Awakened From Inside (Bandcamp)

Masses – Horde Mentality
(Post-punk – Australia)
Rust and Machine Records – 2014/01/31

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Press play and find yourself transported to the early 80s and soak up the vibes of a band that sounds like it could be on the same bill as Killing Joke. Hard to believe they’re Melbournians. The guitar tone is ethereal, yet jaunty. To me it sounds like the saddest surf rock band ever. And the twin male/female leads ensure the traditionally dissonant post-punk vocals have a depth of tone. A genuinely enjoyable patch of sonic shadow.
Try before you buy: Blind (Bandcamp)

Multinational Corporations – Jamat-al-Maut
(Grindcore – Pakistan)
Self-released – 2014/03/23

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Mid-paced grind. It’s a phrase that should be as abhorrent as easy-listening thrash. But these up and comers from Pakistan do it surprisingly well. It’s like they’ve taken Diatribes era Napalm Death and reintroduced the punk to it. It’s a sound that has a lot of potential, but they need to beef it up, as it sounds a little bit too stripped back right now. It’s anticapitalist grind in desperate need of funds for stomp boxes.
Try before you buy: White Collar Communism (Bandcamp)

Nightfell – The Living Ever Mourn
(Frankenmetal – United States of America)
Parasitic Records – 2014/02/03

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I think at its core The Living Ever Mourn is a black metal album, but the blending of additional doom, death, crust, and gothic elements make it an experience that goes much deeper than traditional blackened tropes. In lesser hands this genre melding would be a disjointed listening experience but this two piece handles it with aplomb. This is an album that demonstrates the true sophistication that metal can achieve.
Try before you buy: The Hollowing (Bandcamp)

Satvrnia Tellvs – De Constantia Sapientis
(Blackened something something – Italy)
Self-released – 2014/03/10

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Ugh. Generic black metal trying to disguise its generic nature by using generic flourishes. Generic. I first thought it was trying to be black ‘n’ roll, then I thought it was blackened power metal. Finally, I came to the realisation that, at its core, De Constantia Sapientis is nothing more than black metal suffering an identity crisis. The synths and the solos can’t truly cover what is essentially very mundane.
Try before you buy: De Ira (Bandcamp)

Storm{O} – Sospesi Nel Vuoto Bruceremo In Un Attimo E Il Cerchio Sarà Chiuso
(Post-hardcore – Italy)
Shove et al – 2014/02/21

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A minor critique to start off with: the vocals occasionally sound disconnected from the rest of the music. Once past that I was able to truly appreciate one of the better post-hardcore albums to appear of late. Better because it’s not hung up on ‘feelings’. Better because it’s ‘post’ in the technical sense. Better because these guys play with a grindcore-esque intensity. Best 0.50€ I’ve spent really.
Try before you buy: D’istanti (Bandcamp)

Voidcraeft – Disgust
(Black metal – Germany)
Self-released – 2014/02/18

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This German one piece act openly name drops Deathspell Omega and Portal as influences on his work and it shows. This twenty seven and a half minute, two track excursion into madness drips with the avant-garde esotericism that make the French misanthropes and Aussie cultists notorious. Voidcraeft is not a creation of stolen riffs however. It is a creature that embodies the primal chaos that exists beyond.
Try before you buy: Where There is No Image (SoundCloud)

Winterfiend – Forest of the Full Moon
(Raw black metal – United States of America)
Self-released – 2014/03/18

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Paleolithic production values, a drum kit consisting of a snare and a cymbal, no bass, vocals that sound like they were recorded at distance, and a one guitar tremolo assault – yep, it’s raw. This necro demo is firmly in the ‘no mosh, no fun’ mould of black metal. Which means that it paints with a very restricted palette. Ensuring suitable levels of cvltness and trveness doesn’t allow for innovation.
Try before you buy: Vomit the Blood of Christ (Bandcamp)

X-Box Murder – In the First Circle
(Death metal – Ukraine)
Self-released – 2014/03/30

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In many ways, this Ukrainian band reminds me of Devildriver. Born out of the ashes of a nu metal act, the new band actually puts out pretty solid death metal. But where Devildriver put out Florida-esque death, X-Box Murder sound distinctly Polish. This came as a surprise, as they self-describe as techdeath and deathcore, which this release certainly isn’t. Hardly groundbreaking, but fun nonetheless.
Try before you buy: Kelvin (Bandcamp)

February Review Round Up

Lots to like this month, but nothing could quite top Grand Magus’ latest effort, although Amnesian’s No Atonement came soooooo very close. I strongly recommend getting them both.

I’m thinking about expanding my reviews, making them a bit longer. Can’t help but feel I’m restricting myself. No promises though, because as much as I can write forever about the top albums, getting those extra words out for the mediocre albums is going to be tough.

See you next month, first Monday as usual.

Album of the Month
Grand Magus – Triumph and Power
(Heavy metal – Sweden)
Nuclear Blast – 2014/31/01

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Gotta paraphrase Homer Simpson, because at first I was like, ‘Yes. YES! This rocks!’ and then I was, ‘No. NO! Don’t stop rocking!’ Triumph and Power has everything you could possibly want in a metal album: anthemic choruses, towering solos, fist-pumping rhythms. Even the quiet, folkish instrumental tracks work, because you just know they’re building to something. It’s a masterfully crafted piece of modern heavy metal.
Try before you buy: Triumph and Power

Honourable Mention
Amnesian – No Atonement
(Grindcore – Canada)
Self-released – 2014/02/08

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I love a surprise and this visceral slab of grind nastiness more than fit the bill for me. I simply didn’t expect such a well developed sound from a self-released album. More on the punk end of the grind spectrum, No Atonement allows each song to develop its own character. I could easily ramble about the quality of the performers, but I’d rather marvel in the creation of a sound that is distinctly, and uniquely, Amnesian.
Try before you buy: …Mania

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Aleph Null – Nocturnal
(Stoner doom metal – Germany)
Self-released – 2014/02/15

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A tough one. The critical me acknowledges this is a good album. It’s uptempo by doom standards, it’s well performed, it’s catchy, and it’s well produced. By rights, it has everything I look for in this sort of album. And, yet, I don’t like it. I know I should; it ticks all my critical boxes, but I still don’t like it. It sounds like it was recorded to earn a record deal. The end result is it sounds good, but lacks the soul of a great album.
Try before you buy: Muzzle of a Sleeping God

Behemoth – The Satanist
(Black metal – Poland)
Nuclear Blast – 2014/02/03

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The blackened titans have sailed through uncertain seas over the last few years with Nergal’s cancer diagnosis casting a pall over the band’s future. But he survived, the band have thrived, and this is a glorious reaffirmation of what Behemoth is. More blackened than their last couple of albums, The Satanist’s infernal sonic wrecking ball should annhilate any doubt about the band’s future. Revel in their balefire.
Try before you buy: Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer

Castration Rite/Nihilistic Holiday – Split
(Noisecore/Grindcore – United States of America/Pakistan)
Subsidence Recordings – 2014/01/12

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Castration Rite don’t really do music. It’s more like crescendos of anger expressed with instruments as well as shrieks. Disjointed and jarring, the songs don’t allow you to fall into any rhythm. Nihilistic Holiday’s take on grind is more coherent than their splitmate’s, but that doesn’t make it any less furious. Their four tracks compliment the previous fourteen by providing direction to the mindless fury.
Try before you buy: Too Sober

Corpsessed – Abysmal Thresholds
(Death metal – Finland)
Dark Descent Records – 2014/02/04

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The debut album by these twisted Finns harkens back to the early days of the Florida death metal scene. It’s willfully dirty production trades crispness for evil and the end result is a wall of Lovecraftian malevolence that crawls across your soul as well as hammers your ear drums. This is a reminder of what death metal in its purist form should be: an ugly noise that gives voice to the primal, raging darkness.
Try before you buy: Trepanation

Cynic – Kindly Bent to Free Us
(Progressive rock – United States of America)
Season of Mist – 2014/02/14

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If Focus is their metal album, and Traced in Air is their transitional album, that means Kindly Bent to Free Us is Cynic’s rock album. People may disagree with my assessment, but it’s hard to call this shining beacon of light and spiritual fulfilment, ‘metal’. There’s something fundamentally uplifting about this album; the lyrics, vocal style, and instrumental rhythms all come together to make this a joy to listen to.
Try before you buy: Moon Heart Sun Head

Decades/Failures – 002
(Darkwave – United States of America)
Dead Tank Records – 2014/02/06

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What I know about the goth approved subgenres could fit on a postage stamp, but I know what I like. And I like this. The sythns and drum machine are looped and fuzzed out to create an ethereal dreamscape, while the vocals are washed out and distant. To my mind, this is what a shadow would sound like. It’s an album that would feel appropriate being spun at a goth club around 3am, just as the pills are wearing off.
Try before you buy: City Streets

Dragons Bane – Harbingers of Glory
(Stoner metal – United States of America)
Self-released – 2014/02/08

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Not going to lie: the artwork for this E.P. didn’t get my hopes up. Seemed cheesy as hell to me. But the music well and truly exceeded expectations. What becomes clear very quickly is that these guys have spent a lot of time listening to High on Fire and Kyuss, because they’ve clearly learned that you don’t need to play low and slow while off guts. It’s not terribly original, but who cares? Good time chunky riffs all round.
Try before you buy: The Wolf Goddess

Gilla Bruja – Clubbed Hands and Fist Full of Snakes
(Sludgey death metal – United Kingdom)
Self-released – 2014/02/11

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It’s not a bad E.P., it’s just dull. There. I said it. It’s not that the band is unskilled or incompetent but there is little to nothing to distinguish these five tracks from the myriad of downtuned growlers. It doesn’t help that it also sounds like nu-metal played at half speed. I guess the best way to sum up is that it’s festival filler. It’d kill time before another band without irritation, but it’s not what you came for.
Try before you buy: One Pinch of Blackleaf and Three Across the Eyes

Jackals – No Solution
(Hardcore – United Kingdom)
Hardware Records – 2014/01/15

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With the alternative festival season passing at the time of review, you would be forgiven for having a sense of despair regarding the hardcore scene. Juvenile mindsets and psuedoactivism do seem to dominate. In this light, Jackals came as a warm hug of anarcho-punk fire. Ten blistering tracks, none of them over two minutes, all of them stuffed full of piss and vinegar. Good to see true punk lives on.
Try before you buy: Manipulation

Kindergarten Hazing Ritual/Cedric’s Lettuce – Kindergarten Hazing Ritual x Cedric’s Lettuce
(Grindcore/Harsh Noise – United States of America/United States of America)
37564 Recordings – 2014/02/09

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Kindergarten Hazing Ritual’s blend of 8-bit sound effects, samples, and a.d.d. grind is always entertaining. Thirteen blistering tracks, all with tongue planted firmly in cheek. Good time party grind. Not a description applicable to Cedric’s Lettuce. I truly worry about the sanity of those who listen to this for fun. It sounds like server noise and a car crash run twice through a moog. When I say harsh noise, I mean it.
Try before you buy: I Just Wanted to Show Her My Pokemanz

Lazarus Blackstar/Black Shape of Nexus – Black Shape of Nexus/Lazarus Blackstar
(Sludge metal/doom metal – United Kingdom/Germany)
Alerta Antifascista Records – 2014/02/20

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Going into this, I knew very little about Lazarus Blackstar and some about BSoN. Both bands surprised me. The former’s downtuned, swampy riffs really draw the listener in. Ordinarily, I like low and slow sludge, but I think it often lacks catchiness. Not a problem here. The later surprised me by not being a black hole of drone. Not that I’m complaining. This foray into doom is immensely satisfying. And, again, very catchy.
Try before you buy: Whispering Through Broken Teeth

Parfumerie – Transmundane and Unprofessional Delocation of Superfluous Extremities and Rare Tissues
(Goregrind – Canada)
Self-released – 2014/01/10
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A band I’ll continue to keep my eye on, because, as much as I feel this particular E.P. was merely average, they have the potential to be great. The blastbeats are pummelling, the guitars are dirty yet precise, and the vocalist is so guttural he sounds like he’s gargling organs. The technical elements are all there, but too many tracks sounded the same. They need to improve the sophistication of their songwriting.
Try before you buy: Irrational Phobia of an Untied Navel

Perfect Beauty – Obsidian
(Drone doom – Poland)
Self-released – 2014/01/16

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I have a soft spot for drone; I love how bands operate within such repetitive parameters. Perfect Beauty, in transforming from industrial electronica to drone doom, have produced an album that embraces the repetitive nature of the genre with open arms. One heavily distorted bottom end note feels like it is played continuously, while other notes rise up from it. Its intentional monotony is a thing of beauty.
Try before you buy: III

The Seaford Monster – Live at ‘303’
(Brutal death metal – Australia)
Self-released – 2014/02/25

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Ahhh, the interchangeable chug of mediocre brutal death combined with the terrible audio quality of what sounds like a straight to iPod live recording. Drums dominate the mix, with guitars and vox fighting for what little audibility is left. And there’s more bass in a castrato choir. Still, gotta give ’em props for the entertainingly puerile song titles and admitting that brutal death can be pretty funny.
Try before you buy: Backpack Full of Shit

Sun Worship – Elder Giants
(Black metal – Germany)
View from the Coffin – 2014/02/22

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These Teutonic misanthropes specialise in drawn out sonic barrages. In many ways they remind of the USBM band, Krallice. And I love Krallice. Minimalist lyrics and hypnotic guitars are meshed seamlessly with blasting drum rolls. It all comes together to create three tracks of malicious menace, which in turn are rounded out by a final track of droning alienation designed to leave the listener unsettled.
Try before you buy: The Absolute is Becoming

Sunn O))) & Ulver – Terrestrials
(Ambient drone – United States of America/Norway)
Southern Lord – 2014/02/03

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It’s amazing what can be done with a minimalist attitude; that so much can be conveyed with seemingly very little. Both bands’ styles are blended to create an album that simultaneously portrays a sense of great desperation and a feeling of total resignation. Sunn O)))’s rumbling bass and distortion combines with Ulver’s judicious use of synths and horns to ably foster this juxtaposition. It’s haunting in its simplicity.
Try before you buy: Western Horn

Thou – Ceremonies of Humiliation
(Doom metal – United States of America)
Dead Tank Records – 2014/01/29

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A compilation of these prolific doomster’s split releases, this is a solid introduction to the band and great warm up to their upcoming fourth LP. It shows the length and breadth of Thou’s talents, from the crushing downtuning to the bile-fuelled vocals and all the way through to the gentler movements that allow a brief respite from the negativity. This may be my first exposure to the band, but it won’t be my last.
Try before you buy: Fleurs de Mal

The Vintage Caravan – Voyage
(Rock – Iceland)
Nuclear Blast – 2014/01/10

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Possibly the best thing to happen to rock since Clutch, The Vintage Caravan is what happens when you take three lads from Iceland and feed them a steady diet of Hendrix and Led Zeppelin. Voyage is no mere nostalgia trip though; it’s packed solid with infectious grooves and memorable hooks. It’s the sort of album that instantly lodges in the brain. Air guitar; desk drumming; and bad singalongs are inevitable.
Try before you buy: M.A.R.S.W.A.T.T

January Review Round Up

Slim pickings in January, but there are still some gems and curiosities.

Album of the Month
Larvae – Grave Descent
(Blackened doom death – United States of America)
Self-released – 2014/01/14

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An underground Venn metal masterpiece, this album seamlessly melds its three component genres to create toxic aura of black bile and venom. Pitch paced dirges are interspersed with comparatively faster blackened passages, with vocals that land somewhere between a growl and a rasp. Overall, Grave Descent portrays an atmosphere of creeping malevolence that all doom death albums should seek to emulate.
Try before you buy: Fallen, Left to Die

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
AlNamrood – Heen Yadhar Al Ghasq
(Blackened folk metal – Saudi Arabia)
Shaytan Productions – 2014/01/06

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Bonus points for producing black metal in a country that executes blasphemers, but what about the music itself? The distinctly Middle Eastern compositions lend themselves quite well to blackened folk, sounding suitably sinister, and the vocalist sounds like he was trained by Anaal Nathrakh’s V.I.T.R.I.O.L. However, it lacks the level of spite necessary to make it a spectacular blackened nightmare. It’s still a good listen though.
Try before you buy: Bat Al Tha Ar Nar Muheja

Amaranthine Lament – Spirit Geist
(Atmospheric black metal – United Kingdom)
Self-released – 2014/01/06

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A demo that, more than anything, leaves me confused. Sometimes it’s synth heavy like prison Burzum and sometimes it’s blasting icy venom like Mayhem. But then it channels industrial black metal in the vein of Mysticum and follows it up with pop metal a la Ghost. It even manages to throw some folk in too. The songs are interesting and the musicianship is excellent, but does it work? I don’t know honestly. I really don’t.
Try before you buy: Ulalume

巨人大虐殺 [Kyojin Daigyakusatsu] – Muhaka
(Brutal death metal – Japan/United States of America)
Amputated Vein Records – 2014/01/14

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I’ve said before that brutal death metal often leaves me cold, but I keep on trying it because at his best, it’s amazing. Which brings us to Muhaka. Amazing might be a bit of a stretch, but it certainly is entertaining. It left me a smiling, happy mosh monkey, cheerily daydreaming about windmilling. It has its flaws, such as occasionally tinny drums, but its chunky riffs and bullfrog vocals make it worthwhile.
Try before you buy: Preta Lovers

Lascaille’s Shroud – Interval 02: Parallel Infinities – The Abscinded Universe
(Progressive metal – United States of America)
Self-released – 2014/01/28

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Lascaille’s Shroud is a one man, progressive death band and Interval 02 is an almost two hour long, cosmic odyssey based on science fiction novels, Mass Effect, and a sprinkling of BioShock. Sounds like a self-indulgent wankfest, doesn’t it? And yet, somehow, it’s not. The songs wend and weave in an engaging way, with strong guitar leads and spot on drumming. I just wish it was short enough to enjoy in one sitting.
Try before you buy: Obscured: The Great Aphotic Barriers

Waldgeflüster – Meine Fesseln
(Black metal – Germany)
Bindrune Recordings – 2014/01/10

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Waldgeflüster sits alongside Drudkh and Winterfylleth as a proponent of what I like to call ‘heritage metal’. But their take on pagan heritage is absolutely mournful. The pride in Germany’s pagan history is absolutely washed out with loss, regret, and bitterness. The music speaks of a nationalism that is thoroughly jaded. Depressive suicidal acts could take lessons in emotional songwriting from Meine Fesseln.
Try before you buy: Karhunkierros