November 2019 Review Round Up

It’s almost the end of the year and I figured, as a treat to myself, I’d break the mold a little bit and do a label spotlight.

It didn’t really take a lot of mulling over for me to settle on Sentient Ruin Laboratories. They were the first label to ever reach out to me and request I look at their material, so I really do consider them friends of Metalshopped (despite never having met anyone at the label and living on opposite sides of the planet). It also helps that they maintain an excellent standard for their releases. Abstracter, Altarage, Atrament, Friendship, and 夢遊病者 are all amazing bands that I only know about because of Sentient Ruin. And they keep finding bands of similar calibre. It’s uncanny.

So read on and discover some of the best releases from one of metal’s foremost vanguard labels.

As always, I can be contacted via Facebook.

See everyone next month. It’ll be the new year, so it will be best of season.

Buy me a coffee

Album of the Month
Pseudocommando – A Home Beneath the Floorboards
(Harsh Noise – United States of America)
Sentient Ruin Laboratories – 2019/08/23

I’m normally able to use harsh noise as a way to meditate, to scrub the mind of consciousness and simply be. Pseudcommando don’t allow me that luxury. Their take on noise is so aggressive that you can’t escape it. It fills your reality with noise to the point that even the air starts to feel heavy. Embrace your masochism and listen.

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Black Earth – Gnarled Ritual of Self Annihilation
(Black Ambient – Spain)
Sentient Ruin Laboratories – 2019/09/27

It took me a long time to wrap my head around this. It initially sounds like an impenetrable wall of cold metal. But it clicked. I got it. This is ritual. The album unfolds in movements, but it is all one hadal ritual. The sorcery at its core is dark and this is reflected in its horrific ambience. Brilliant, but not for the faint of heart.

Cthonica – Typhomanteia: Sacred Triarchy of Spiritual Putrefaction
(Blackened Death Doom – Venezuela)
Sentient Ruin Laboratories – 2019/10/25

Blackened death doom should sound like a band is bringing hell with them, as it combines three distinct shades of evil. Cthonica absolutely live up to this, while adding a certain earthiness that all too appropriately goes with their name. This is an album of suffocating weight and lightless depths. It’s music for the damned and rotting.

Hold Me Down – Hold Me Down
(Industrial Metal – United States of America)
Sentient Ruin Laboratories – 2019/04/05

Don’t for one second think this is KMFDM, Ministry, or Rammstein. Hold Me Down do oppressive, anti-human noise and they do it so well. Evocative is what I look for in an album, and this does it in spades. Sure, the image is an infernal, planet-wide factory where humans sweat, toil, and die at the hands of malevolent ai, but it’s very well done.

Imperial Cult – Spasm of Light
(Black Metal – Netherlands)
Sentient Ruin Laboratories – 2019/08/23

I love bands that experiment with form and Imperial Cult is no exception. Spasm of Light is one track of blasting raw black metal stretched out over thirty-odd minutes. The warping effect the persistent assault has on the senses is something worth experiencing. It sucks you in and traps you. Time distorts and leaves you gasping.

Nightfucker – Nightfucker
(Sludge – Canada)
Sentient Ruin Laboratories – 2019/07/12

This is a miserable dirge, suitable for playing at an open casket funeral for someone who died alone and had mostly liquified before being found. It’s real noisome, fetid stuff. Slow and tortuous too. It really puts the sludge back into sludge. Each note is mired in viscous, enervating grime that constantly threatens to envelop you.

Suspiral – Chasm
(Black Metal – Spain)
Sentient Ruin Laboratories – 2019/05/10

Symbolism is one of black metal’s best friends. Why beat the listener over the head, when you can let them beat themselves. Suspiral gets this. Chasm is a yawning lightless abyss of an album; you can plumb its depths, searching but never finding meaning. But that futility is meaningful in and of itself. Purpose and hope are the enemy here.

Sutekh Hexen – Sutekh Hexen
(Black Ambient – United States of America)
Sentient Ruin Laboratories – 2019/03/29

Ominous and unsettling, Sutekh Hexen have put their name to an album that uses ambience as a weapon. It conjures images of howling winds, cutting sleet, sheer crags, and unrelenting bleakness. Otherworldly and esoteric, but still terrifyingly coherent, it’s a madman’s vision of hell put to music. Sends shivers down the spine.

Sutekh Hexen/夢遊病者 – Split

I don’t cover a lot of splits, but when they’re done as well as this, they’re worth a mention. Sutekh Hexen sounds like they’ve taken field recordings from Venus then incorporated them into black metal.夢遊病者 are malevolent and creeping, like they plan violence and it might come soon. Combined, the two tracks come together as one cohesive nightmare.

Previously Reviewed But Worth A Revisit Since It’s A Label Spotlight
Miscarriage – Imminent Horror
(Atmospheric Sludge – United States of America/Sweden)
Sentient Ruin Laboratories – 2019/02/22

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I know what they were attempting. I know they succeeded. But it’s way outside my comfort levels. It’s the fetishisation of suffering. It’s a perverse, transgressive ritual that starts with erotic vivisection and culminates in a noisome, necrophillic hatefuck. It’s definitely not my sonic kink, but if it’s yours listen to it, watch some Salo, and leave me alone.

夢遊病者 – Ѫ
(Avantgarde Black Metal – Japan)
Sentient Ruin Laboratories – 2019/04/26

Discordant and dissonant, 夢遊病者 have produced an ep that is overwhelming in its auditory assault. It’s a serenade and a lullaby and howl of rage and scream of madness all at once. Schizophrenic in its delivery of a spectrum of emotions, the end result are two tracks of harrowing, terrifying, captivating grandeur.

May 2018 Review Round Up

Hoo boy, June kind of just appeared, didn’t it? Was still hammering out a review or two in the wee hours of publishing day morn. It was a pretty easy month to get distracted by though.

I started the month by travelling to see Ihsahn. As far as I’m concerned he’s one of the great icons of metal and it showed in his live performance. Credit too goes to Direct Touring for matching him up with some great support. Mar Mortuum were frosty and aggressive like black metal should be. The ludicrously good Ylva gave me vertigo through sheer heaviness. And Hybrid Nightmares were so over the top it was pretty well impossible to not enjoy them. But the man himself put them all to shame. Cracking night out.

On that topic of Ihsahn, Àmr is my album of the month. I expect high quality from him. We all should by now. But this is a step beyond. It’s probably the finest album in his catalogue. I’m sure some Emperor purists will disagree, but they should know they’re wrong.

Shout outs go to Altarage and Woundvac for some kick ass merch. Always appreciated when bands do merch in big guy sizes.

I’ll be back next month. As usual, if you have comments or critique, you can hit me up on Facebook.

Enjoy

Album of the Month
Ihsahn – Àmr
(Progressive Metal – Norway)
Candlelight – 2018/05/04

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If you only have one Ihsahn album in your collection, make sure it’s Àmr. It takes all the good things from his previous solo works and distils them down to nine tracks of perfection. It’s technically superb, emotionally vivid, and memorable in a way that defies expectation. From its opening moments I haven’t wanted to listen to anything else. It has completely dominated this month.

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Amorphis – Queen of Time
(Progressive Metal – Finland)
Nuclear Blast – 2018/05/18

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This is all over the place. I can’t remember another album quite like it to be honest. It has some songs that are contenders for track of the year. It also has a couple of appalling tracks that you just can’t listen to. The production values are universally top notch, so this is all about stylistic choices. And I just can’t fathom how it all came together.

Blood Tsunami – Grave Condition
(Thrash – Norway)
Soulseller Records – 2018/04/27

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Kudos to these mad thrashers. This started life as a four track ep, which they then bulked out with some unreleased material. But for Dungeon of the Rats (originally from For Faen!), I wouldn’t have noticed. It’s real impressive that it sounds so cohesive. Better than cohesive, it’s high quality and entertaining as hell. Quality musicianship from all involved.

Depravity – Evil Upheaval
(Death Metal – Australia)
Transcending Obscurity Records – 2018/04/30

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The toughest albums to review aren’t the great nor the grating. They’re the merely good. And that’s what Evil Upheaval is. Heavy without being crushing. Fast without being blistering. Entertaining without being memorable. And that’s the key point; if you like death metal, you will definitely like this, but don’t expect it to linger in your consciousness.

Drudkh – Їм часто сниться капіж (They Often See Dreams About the Spring)
(Black Metal – Ukraine)
Season of Mist – 2018/03/09

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Following up the terrific A Furrow Cut Short was going to be a tall order, but They Often See Dreams is a resounding success. Invigorated and pissed off, Drudkh’s signature invocation of misery has never sounded so vital. A dark undercurrent of furious energy drives this, never allowing it to settle. The Drudkh renaissance continues.

Ekranoplan – Hypnopædia
(Sludge Metal with a dash of Grind – Germany)
Narshardaa Records – 2018/01/30

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I remember Ekranoplan’s demo being much more of an Entombedcore affair, so this progression was a surprise. While there is still a mighty fistful of HM2 going on, the sound has been built on and enriched by adding aggressive, pounding, High on Fire-esque sludge. It’s not straight up mean; it’s complex layers of mean.

Mesarthim – The Density Parameter
(Black Metal – Australia)
Avantgarde Music – 2018/04/03

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Mesarthim want you to know that if you stare into the void, the void will never stare back. The void does not care that you exist. There is nothing out there but a vast frozen emptiness, occasionally lit by beautiful clouds of radiation capable of flaying flesh from bone and burning bone to ash. Existence is a perilous, bleak, and futile endeavour.

夢遊病者 (Muyūbyō-sha – Sleepwalker) – 一期一会 (Ichi-go ichi-e – For this time only, never again)
(Avantgarde Black Metal – Japan)
Sentient Ruin Laboratories – 2018/05/25

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I have quietly anticipated this album since it was announced. It just seemed so intriguing. It delivered on that promise. It mesmerises as it slowly unveils its many secrets. Such esoteric bleakness really shouldn’t sound this welcoming and warm. And, yet, it’s distant and almost unknowable. This is deliberate, challenging, masterful.

Petrification – Hollow of the Void
(Death Metal – United States of America)
Sentient Ruin Laboratories – 2018/04/23

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I could have been harsh and just written “See review of Depraved – Evil Upheaval”, but that would have doing them an unkindness. What we have here is an album that gives the listener the most tantalising hint of what a live experience would be. It’s evocative of headbanging front rows, circle pits, and windmilling hair. Definitely would see this live.

Serum Dreg – Lustful Vengeance
(Black metal – United States of America)
Vrasubatlat – 2018/04/20

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There’s something about this merciless slab of blackened nastiness that really makes me think of Nachtmystium at their finest. Aside from that being high praise, it comes with the added benefit of being Blake free. It’s more than just aggressive; it has a pervasive, creeping dread that gives it a febrile touch of madness. Sinister at all levels.

Thou – The House Primordial
(Drone Doom – United States of America)
Robotic Empire – 2018/05/01

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Ethereal and beguiling. Bleak and distressing. Horrific and vile. The House Primordial is all these things at once. It creates a maliciously pressurised sonic landscape so catastrophically heavy that light (joy, hope…) struggle to escape it. Thou specialise in these nightmares, but everything on display here still sounds as novel as the freshest hell.

Turbonegro – RockNRoll Machine
(Deathpunk – Norway)
Mercury Records – 2018/02/02

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Something got under the skin of the band in the years between Sexual Harassment and this. Deliberate throwbacks and obvious homages to other rock greats are delivered with their characteristic shit eating grin. It’s like their saying “Didn’t like what we did last time? Want us to only do things how you like it? Fine. RockNRoll Machine beep boop.” And yet, it’s still pretty damn good.

Woundvac – Terrorizing the Swarm
(Grindcore – United States of America)
Self-Released – 2018/05/04

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Listening to this, you might be tricked into thinking that Phoenix, Arizona is some sort of frozen wasteland. Why else would Woundvac need to bring this level of blistering heat? Believe me; this is an absolute scorcher and it rendered me slightly insensible for a bit. So much so that I temporarily forgot the US has other grind acts. It’s that good.