August 2016 Review Round Up

August has been one of those months that make me question whether or not I should keep going. So much top quality music passed through my ears that I found it difficult to say a bad thing. Even the album I’m most critical of is, in all honesty, pretty good.

Am I too soft? Possibly.

Or it could just be that August was one of those lucky months that came without a dud.

Altarage shone the brightest over all the other gems this month. Bit of an ironic description; they are a bleak experience. But within their withering contempt lies a brilliant stroke of death metal genius.

Grave Miasma gets the nod for honourable mention. Any other month would see them at the top of the tree. Their latest ep is a death metal masterclass.

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Until September, enjoy.

Album of the Month
Altarage – Nihl
(Blackened death metal – Spain)
Sentient Ruin Laboratories/Doomentia Records/Iron Bonehead Productions – 2016/02/26

Dear GOD, that’s an aggressive album. Damn. But more than that, it’s an invigorating album. It’s an album that makes the genre sound vital and new in every way. It’s horrifying. It’s malevolent. Its every note and growl are invocations to indulge in all of humanity’s worst. Captivating in its darkness, Nihl doesn’t let up. Not for one second.
Try before you buy: Vortex Pyramid (Bandcamp)

Honourable Mention
Grave Miasma – Endless Pilgrimage
(Death metal – United Kingdom)
Profound Lore Records/Sepulchral Voice Records – 2016/05/06

I missed Grave Miasma on their last spin through critical country. I’m guessing that was a mistake, as this EP is exactly what death metal should sound like. It is a paragon of death metal, if you will. It absolutely, and perfectly, nails the balance between blistering fury and sinister malice that the genre was built upon.
Try before you buy: Utterance of the Foulest Spirit (Bandcamp)

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Atrament – Eternal Downfall
(Blackened death crust – United States of America)
Sentient Ruin Laboratories – 2016/03/04

A swirling cacophony of bleakness, Eternal Downfall puts it all out there and all it is is horror. The raw spit and venom of crust turns the blackened death metal into a nightmarish amalgamation of cult and gangland initiations. A flurry of fists and feet pummelling you while thick, noisome incense chokes you.
Try before you buy: Rotting Twilight (Bandcamp)

Karcavul – Intersaone
(Blackened sludge – France)
Sentient Ruin Laboratories – 2016/07/01

Sometimes muddy production aids an album. That is definitely the case here. Karcavul’s take on sludge is venomous in the extreme and the ‘recorded in a sewer’ vibe they have going on here only serves to highlight this. Torrid, toxic, and downright sinister, Intersaone is a reminder that metal often hates you.
Try before you buy: Mangepierres (Bandcamp)

Katatonia – The Fall of Hearts
(Depressive rock – Sweden)
Peaceville Records – 2016/05/20

This is what a band embracing their maturity sounds like. The music is always finely balanced between melancholic and bleak. This is further complemented by vocals that are somehow achingly delicate and powerfully desperate. It certainly has its tonally heavy moments, but it is the thematic heaviness that leaves the biggest mark.
Try before you buy: Old Heart Falls (YouTube)

Leather Glove – Skin on Glass
(Crusty death metal – United States of America)
Sentient Ruin Laboratories – 2016/05/05

Always good to listen to death metal that doesn’t sacrifice entertainment in the name of brutality or technicality. Make no mistake, this is aggressive, but the crust influence gives it a degree of punk swagger. Over the course of the three tracks, this demo brings death metal down to the gutter and lets the dirty rock rhythms reign.
Try before you buy: Skin on Glass (Bandcamp)

Mesarthim – .- -… … . -. -.-. .
(Atmospheric black metal – Australia)
Self-released – 2016/08/28

Points awarded straight away for being an atmospheric black metal act that looks beyond the sylvan and verdant. Looking to the broader cosmos is a theme I feel is surprisingly underused in black metal. This album takes mankind’s insignificance in the universe and twists it into knots of futility and rage.
Try before you buy: …– (Bandcamp)

מזמור — Yodh
(Blackened doom metal – United States of America)
Gilead Media – 2016/08/12

Did you ever get the feeling something was going to be brilliant before experiencing it? You try to manage your expectations and keep your hopes in check. Most of the time you will be let down. Not the case with מזמור, aka Mizmor. Harrowing and mournful, Yodh is a death rattle amplified and distorted
Try before you buy: iii. The Serpent Eats Its Tail (Bandcamp)

Psalm Zero – Stranger to Violence
(Metallic post-punk – United States of America)
Profound Lore Records – 2016/06/15

Some solid love for Killing Joke is on display here. I don’t mean to make them sound derivative, as they’re not. It’s more that they push the limits of post-punk far out into the murky waters of metal. It’s a hypnotic affair; swirling synths and meticulous guitar work produce an album furious in its deliberation.
Try before you buy: White Psyche (Bandcamp)

Revocation – Great is Our Sin
(Death thrash – United States of America)
Metal Blade Records – 2016/07/22

I first got into Revocation with their titanic release, Chaos of Forms. It’s a beast of an album. Great is Our Sin is easily its equal. Probably its superior, once I excise the nostalgia. Its speed and heaviness are rounded out by flourishes of technicality. It’s instantly accessible and deeply complicated.
Try before you buy: Only the Spineless Survive (Bandcamp)

Ritual Chamber – Obscurations (To Feast On The Seraphim)
(Death metal – United States of America)
Profound Lore Records – 2016/02/26

The curse of being merely good made manifest. Everything about Obscurations is on point. The riffs sound like Satan blowing off steam. The rhythms are relentless. The growls are low and guttural invocations of damnation. And, yet, for all this positivity, it’s not memorable. Definitely for genre fans, but it’s charm is ephemeral.
Try before you buy: Beings of Entropy (Bandcamp)

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July 2016 Review Round Up

So. Here it is. The first triumphant post of my glorious return! Or, at least, a collection of assorted words I hope are entertaining.

But what of the first half of the year? It’s gone but not forgotten. I won’t be going back over anything I’ve listened to prior to July 1, but quality albums are still eligible for my end of year list. That’ll add a bit of extra mystery. Also, regrettably, I won’t be doing a Best Self-Released list this year. I haven’t listened to enough independent releases and it would only represent the best of July through December.

Leading the charge is Swans’ latest masterpiece, The Glowing Man. I don’t think Gira et al have put a step wrong since returning and it’s all led to this; eight tracks of dense, complicated beauty.

Getting the Honourable Mention is Eximperituserqethhzebibšiptugakkathšulweliarzaxułum. I’m pretty sure I’ll just refer to them as E-dawg from here on out. Ignoring their deliberately inaccessible name, I was left with a brutal techdeath album that reinvigorated my love of the genre.

It’s not the most review heavy month. I’m still getting back into the groove of things, but damn it feels good to be back.

Album of the Month
Swans – The Glowing Man
(Post-punk – United States of America)
Young God Records – 2016/06/17

As someone whose experiences with psychedelics have been universally bad, the feeling of disconcerting expectation this album is saturated with is uncomfortably familiar. It makes the expected uneasily unexpected. The eight monumental tracks thrum with an energy so fundamental it could spawn new life.
Try before you buy: The World Looks Red / The World Looks Black (Bandcamp)

Honourable Mention
Eximperituserqethhzebibšiptugakkathšulweliarzaxułum –  Prajecyrujučy sinhuliarnaje wypramieńwańnie Daktryny Absaliutnaha j Usiopahłynaĺnaha Zła skroź šaścihrannuju pryzmu Sîn-Ahhī-Erība na hipierpawierchniu zadyjakaĺnaha kaŭčęha zasnawaĺnikaŭ kosmatęchničnaha ordęna palieakantakta, najstaražytnyja ipastasi dawosiewych cywilizacyj prywodziać u ruch ręzanansny transfarmatar časowapadobnaj biaskoncaści budučyni u ćwiardyniach absierwatoryi Nwn-Hu-Kek-Amon, uwasabliajučy ŭ ęfirnuju matęryju prach Ałulima na zachad ad ękzapłaniety PSRB 1620-26b
(Brutal techdeath – Belarus)
Amputated Vein Records – 2016/07/10

A ridiculous album title by a ridiculously named band playing ridiculous brutal techdeath. I haven’t enjoyed a brutal album this much in a long time. I’ve payed lip service here or there to quality albums, but none have given me that sublime feeling of pure enjoyment. High-concept slamming goodness.
Try before you buy: Da pytańniaŭ ab suziraĺnym paznańni naradžęńnia trahiedyi j niaŭchiĺnaści hibeli isnaha ŭ Wučeńni Anihiliacyi, jak pra pieršaęliemienty praŭdziwaj pryrody askietyčnych praliehamienaŭ mižhałaktyčnaha smutku smierciśćwiardžajučaj mudraści Šapienhaŭęra, jakaja kuje apakatastasičnym połymiem hietęradaksaĺnaha katarsisu artęryi mietafizičnych siłahizmaŭ u liazo Liucyfieryjanskaha rozumu j Akaŭzaĺnaha Waliuntaryzmu, zwiartajučy ŭ prach saliarnyja zikkuraty apošniaha świtańnia nadychodziačaj Juhi Nicšęanstwa (Bandcamp)

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Caïna – Christ Clad in White Phosphorus
(Black metal – United Kingdom)
Apocalyptic Witchcraft Recordings – 2016/07/15

My last experience with Caïna didn’t light my fires, but they have a certain critical appeal, so I’ll try again. Good idea. This is a tumultuous affair; a blast of unhallowed negativity that is emotionally exhausting on a level beyond most black metal’s limits. As precise as in utero surgery, as destructive as a cyclone.
Try before you buy: Fumes of God (Bandcamp)

EDxKEMPER – Cut Her Head and Love Her
(Grindcore – Greece)
Symbol of Domination/VEX Microlab – 2016/01/30

This is a deceptive release. It’s straight up, back to basics grindcore. No frills. Nothing pretty. But it’s done so damn well. Violence gushes from every note. Grind is inherently furious, but these Greeks take it to a further, darker level. Dan Swanö’s mastering puts the cherry on top. Ugly, brutal, satisfying.
Try before you buy: Desperate Cries (Bandcamp)

Gevurah – Hallelujah!
(Black metal – Canada)
Profound Lore – 2016/06/03

Some black metal bands approach their Satanism with evangelical zeal; others with intellectual rigour. Not Gevurah. They hate. Sometimes with fury, sometimes with ice in their veins, but always with as much hate as they can humanly muster. It leads to a refreshing listen to be honest. Intimidation made spiritual
Try before you buy: Un Feu Indomptable (Bandcamp)

Goolagoon – Life of Crime
(Powerviolence – United States of America)
Self-released – 2016/06/28

I genuinely enjoyed Goolagoon’s Patrickviolence Demo, so it’s interesting to see how the band has progressed their sound. For one thing, they’ve eschewed a lot of their quirkiness. Only two Spongebob samples this time round. In its place is a doubling down on their manic energy. The eight tracks are a relentless blitz of furious punk.
Try before you buy: Pressure (Bandcamp)

Oligarch – Hypocrisy Oath
(Blackened death metal – Australia)
Self-released – 2016/05/19

Think of a blackened death metal album you want to listen to. Imagine the overlap between fury and violence. Factor in the musical skill necessary to make the album worth both your time and multiple listens. That leaves you with Hypocrisy Oath. Oligarch have put this together with apocalyptic violence in mind.
Try before you buy: Winds of Apocalyptic Incineration (Bandcamp)

Through – Manuskript
(Black metal – Ukraine)
Hell Division Productions – 2016/07/13

Always a shame to come across a quality band after they’ve broken up. Through are fantastic. Each track on Manuskript starts with crackling fire and a whispered incantation. It sets the atmosphere perfectly before launching into fretwork that is equally cryptic and pitiless. A dark and sinister swansong.
Try before you buy: Сфера (Bandcamp)