October 2015 Review Round Up

When I started writing this month’s instalment, I forgot to set it to draft. So, there’s most of a month’s worth of spoilers there. No matter. I’ll be more careful next time.

Windhand killed it for album of the month. They get that great doom requires great emotional investment. And there is an almighty heaviness to their commitment on Grief’s Infernal Flower.

Despite being a bit spoiled for choice, it was hard to go past Deafheaven for the honourable mention. They may not be the trvest band ever. Far from it frankly. But fuck that petty scene shit. They play some of the most innovative metal there is and fully deserve their plaudits.

Getting close to the business end of the year. Still hanging out for some big releases though. It’s good to be this engaged.

Hit me up on Facebook.

Until next month.

Album of the Month
Windhand – Grief’s Infernal Flower
(Stoner doom metal – United States of America)
Relapse Records – 2015/09/18

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I get the feeling there’s a personal tragedy at the heart of this album. I could be wrong, but it sounds like someone trying to cope with unfathomable loss. At its core there is self-loathing and rage, which is obfuscated by clouds numbing dope smoke. It makes for a powerful but depressing experience. It’s fantastic to see a band approach stoner doom from an angle different than fuzzed out melancholy.
Try before you buy: Hesperus (Bandcamp)

Honourable Mention
Deafheaven – New Bermuda
(Post-black metal – United States of America)
Anti Records – 2015/10/02

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Hipster cred will soon fade. Beards will recede. Ironic tattoos will be regretted. Once this happens, all that will remain is song-writing talent. It’s a good thing then that Deafheaven has more talent than they know what to do with. The five tracks on New Bermuda have that rare knack of being instantly memorable without being simplistic. Even for a forward thinking band, such an evolution is impressive.
Try before you buy: Come Back (Bandcamp)

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Archivist – Archivist
(Post-black metal – Austria/Germany/United Kingdom)
Alerta Antifascista Records/Grain of Sand Records – 2015/06/02

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How does one mend a broken heart? Light Bearer going on permanent hiatus halfway through a four album conceptual piece was gutting. Good thing Archivist is here to fill the void. They do the contemplative hard work of Light Bearer, but with substantially more aggression. It makes for a very intense listen. I was concerned going in that it would just be a rebound. But there’s potential for a lasting relationship here.
Try before you buy: Hades (Bandcamp)

Boar Worship – Boar Worship
(Sludge metal – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/07/08

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I love a release that has strong narative flow. I’m not talking about a concept; I’m talking about how well-crafted music draws the listener in, builds tension, and closes in appropriately climactic fashion. Boar Worship have a crystal clear understanding of these principles. The four tracks of dark, harsh sludge build (and release) tension like a classic horror film. The pervasive misery is masterful.
Try before you buy: Two (Bandcamp)

Children of Bodom – I Worship Chaos
(Melodic death metal – Finland)
Nuclear Blast – 2015/10/02

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This is the sound of a band treading water. It’s still distinctly Bodom and it’s not objectively bad, but they’re not exactly pushing things to the limit here. I am prepared to say it’s a better album than Halo of Blood or Relentless Reckless Forever. That doesn’t excuse the band for getting stuck in a deep well of creative ennui. The question now is, where do Laiho et al go from here? Hopefully there’s some forward momentum left in them.
Try before you buy: Morrigan (YouTube)

Christian Mistress – To Your Death
(Heavy metal – United States of America)
Relapse Records – 2015/09/18

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Christian Mistress continue to be one of the most consistently entertaining purveyors of old school heavy metal. The key is that they don’t nakedly imitate NWOBHM. They take that glorious 80s sound and bring it into the new millennium. To that end, To Your Death is loaded with riffs that bring out your air guitar. And I don’t think there’s been a greater female voice since Doro than Christine Davis. Strong, energetic metal.
Try before you buy: Eclipse (Bandcamp)

Clutch – Psychic Warfare
(Rock – United States of America)
Weathermaker Music – 2015/10/02

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This album is so much more entertaining when you treat it as the rambling legal statement of a conspiracy nut trying to stave off whatever actual trouble his life, loves, adventures, and misadventures have created. It’s high quality rock and roll, as you’d expect from Clutch, but the concept makes it all the better. Make sure you use your equaliser properly though. It suffers without levelling.
Try before you buy: X-Ray Visions (YouTube)

Cruciamentum – Charnel Passages
(Death metal – United Kingdom)
Profound Lore Records – 2015/09/04

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Charnel Passages is kind of like being trapped aboard an aggressively haunted ship while it’s being buffeted by a severe storm. I may have drawn inspiration from the cover art for that, but it’s more than appropriate. The cacophonous darkness of the rhythms is punctuated by howling melodies which swell into fierce solos. It’s a sinister sounding album, with no space for light or hope.
Try before you buy: Piety Carved From Flesh (Bandcamp)

Hate Eternal – Infernus
(Death metal – United States of America)
Season of Mist – 2015/08/21

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Hate Eternal is much like the Ferrari of the death metal world. They don’t reinvent the wheel, but they do use it with great precision and at high speed. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. Sometimes you just want to hit play and know exactly what you’re going to get. With such aggressive fret work on display, there’s no possible way to be disappointed. When your riffs are earth-shattering, you don’t need to be ground-breaking.
Try before you buy: Pathogenic Apathy (Bandcamp)

Ironic Reversal – Dysgenic
(Progressive death metal – India)
Self-released – 2015/10/15

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I felt like a real shitheel leaving Ironic Reversal off my overall best of last year. They are a genuinely fantastic death metal act. Their follow up ep, Dysgenic, cements this. It’s a tightly constructed concept piece that allows both progressive and technical expertise to shine through. Make no mistake: these guys can write riffs that put most other death metallers to shame. Innovative, intelligent and severe.
Try before you buy: Consume (Bandcamp)

Kylesa – Exhausting Flame
(Sludge metal – United States of America)
Season of Mist – 2015/10/02

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I’m waiting for Kylesa to make a bad album. I’m curious as to how they’d manage to do it. Exhausting Flame is another excellent addition to their discography. Lush, verdant riffs played over one of the most indomitable rhythm sections in metal. It’s what they do and, yet, it’s not more of the same. Groovy in the good way, but possessed of a gnawing melancholy, this may just be the most upbeat sad album you’ll hear.
Try before you buy: Out of My Mind (Bandcamp)

Mudbath – Corrado Zeller
(Stoner sludge – France)
Lost Pilgrims Records – 2015/01/31

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It’s not a happy type of stoner here. There’s a bleakness at play here that isn’t typically found among the stoner folk. The drawn out riffs verge on the psychedelic, looping around and fuzzed out like the worst kind of sonic psilocybin. It does start to actually feel mind altering after a while. It has some flaws, the chief of which is the repetition is occasionally dull rather than atmospheric. But the misery they put to wax is definitely worth a listen.
Try before you buy: Salmonella (Bandcamp)

O – Pietra
(Grinding black metal – Italy)
Grindpromotion/Unquiet Records – 2015/10/02

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O (pronounced Circular Sign) have an odd but satisfying aesthetic going here. To my ears, it’s a reimagining of Enslaved, where the fascination with Pink Floyd and King Crimson is replaced with an overdose of Napalm Death and Brutal Truth. That may sound impossible, but there are key tonal agreements that more than make it work. It packs a hell of a punch as well. Always a bonus when an experiment works out.
Try before you buy: Maledetto (Bandcamp)

Panopticon – Autumn Eternal
(Blackgrass – United States of America)
Bindrune Recordings/Nordvis Produktion – 2015/10/16

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I continue to be impressed with the blackened take on Kentucky that Panopticon produce. They understand nuance in a way that great bands do. They’re not a folk metal band; loading their laments with fiddle would severely diminish them. Instead they focus on taking bluegrass technique and scorching the hell out of it with blackened fire. In the process, all the joy has been burned out, leaving only a charred stump of bitterness.
Try before you buy: Oaks Ablaze (Bandcamp)

Sovereign – Deceptum
(Crusty black metal – Italy)
Self-released – 2015/06/04

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If black metal with a tinge of punk is your thing, then Deceptum will more than fit the bill. They play with maximum aggression and a total dearth of pity, compassion, or mercy. Not a lot on offer to win converts to the cause though, until you reach the total black majesty of the final track. That’s the disappointment here; they are clearly capable of something jaw dropping but they hold themselves in reserve until the last. I still recommend them, but I am also left wanting.
Try before you buy: Colourless (Bandcamp)

TesseracT – Polaris
(Djent – United Kingdom)
Kscope – 2015/09/18

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TesseracT continues to be one of the few bands to make djent look good. The palm muting is still there, but TesseracT go out of their way to not sound like a poor man’s Meshuggah. Polaris is an album that pushes their progressive proclivities to a new level. Intricate, often delicate melodies are held up by a distinctively djent low end. The clean vocals are crisp yet soulful. Entertaining from start to finish.
Try before you buy: Survival (YouTube)

Trivium – Silence in the Snow
(Core-tinged heavy metal – United States of America)
Roadrunner Records – 2015/10/02

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Trivium have clearly put some effort into making Silence as anthemic as possible. Almost every track has a memorable, sing-along quality. Fist-pumping good times. I do wish they could settle on whether they want to be Metallica or Maiden. Consistency matters. But there are some fantastic solos and the complete absence of metalcore screeching is more than welcome. Their maturation as a band continues.
Try before you buy: Blind Leading the Blind (YouTube)

Unwanted Existence – Silhouettes of a Mental Disorder
(Depressive suicidal black metal – Venezuela/Mexico)
Winterwolf Records – 2015/09/17

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Don’t listen to this for the vocals. They don’t sound like the vocalist’s testicles are being repeatedly flicked with an elastic band, but they’re not far off. The real selling point are the instrumentals. You can actually tell that they were penned in the throes of suicidal mania. Gentle melodies that sound like stitches being unpicked. Harsh sections reminiscent of smashing your skull into bricks. Flawed, but the pain is genuine.
Try before you buy: Black Procession (To My Grave) (Bandcamp)

Chelsea Wolfe – Abyss
(Industrial folk – United States of America)
Sargent House – 2015/08/07

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This is my first encounter with Chelsea Wolfe. It’s a new kind of heaviness for me. New and thoroughly satisfying. Vocals are skilfully delivered with both the passionate power and reflective restraint that only the greats can manage. And the way rumbling industrial is interwoven with melancholy folk is revelatory. It’s a smart, challenging album that rewards with each and every chord.
Try before you buy: Grey Days (Bandcamp)

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July 2015 Review Round Up

It’s happened. It’s finally happened. A demo has taken out “album” of the month. I can’t think of a more deserving band than Lxs Jugadxs. They are the band that reinvigorated my love of grind. No more hanging out for the occasional Napalm Death or Pig Destroyer album. Now I want it. I crave it. Thank you for the obsession. Muchas gracias por la obsesión.

I also need to give due respect to Abyssal. Antikatastaseis is a monster. To be fair, they’re not straight up death metal; there’s definitely black and doom in there too. But death metal needs to claim this. Stick a goddamn flag in it. It’s some of the evilest death metal to come out in years.

Enjoy and I’ll be back next month.

Album of the Month
Lxs Jugadxs – Demo 2015
(Grindcore – Argentina)
Self-released – 2015/07/21

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I’ve been a huge fan since I heard their 2013 demo, but everything they’ve done before pales in comparison to this. While remaining undeniably grind, there are strong influences from techdeath, melodeath, and thrash all the way through the four tracks. Wild and raucous, yet possessed of a controlled fury, Lxs Jugadxs make the contradictions work for them. No hyperbole – they are the best grind band in the world right now.
Try before you buy: La Nube Negra (Bandcamp)

Honourable Mention
Abyssal – Antikatastaseis
(Death metal – United Kingdom)
Profound Lore Records – 2015/06/23

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There are times when you find yourself reminded that black metal doesn’t have the monopoly on evil. Abyssal sound like nothing less than a worse version of Dante’s depiction of limbo. Listening to this album definitely allows you to visualise hoards of panicked people running around being relentlessly attacked by wasps, except it’s pitch black and there’s broken glass everywhere. It’s nightmarish beyond belief.
Try before you buy: A Casual Landscape (Bandcamp)

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Abominor – Opus: Decay
(Black metal – Iceland)
Invictus Productions/Vánagandr – 2015/03/26

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Two tracks of deep, involved black metal. Abominor are another band that take stylistic cues from Deathspell Omega and I was getting real close to dismissing them as derivative. But there are important differences that become evident as the release progresses. They embrace melody far more readily than their French compatriots. It’s still a challenging listen, but it feels slightly less like sandpaper on the soul.
Try before you buy: 474 (Bandcamp)

Anopheli – The Ache of Want
(Post-crust – United States of America)
Alerta Antifascista/Halo of Flies – 2015/07/02

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Anopheli continue to be the premier proponents of cello in punk. They also continue to insist on describing themselves as emo crust. But the label fits; the music on The Ache of Want is hard edged and gritty, but is born of an overwhelming sadness. The ineffable grief that permeates every note bleeds over into barely controlled anger. It’s a softer album than A Hunger Rarely Sated, but is no worse for it.
Try before you buy: Squanderer (Bandcamp)

Barghest – Into Weeping Firmament
(Black metal – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/07/03

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Barghest continue to make furious, hateful music for furious, hateful people. The three tracks are involved meditations on the bestial nature of man. Intensely violent and yet surprisingly contemplative, it’s insightful in a way that truly highlights the often dualistic nature of black metal. If you want some food for thought, this will sate your hunger; if you want to feed your beast, it will throw gamey carcasses.
Try before you buy: Neo-Promethean (Bandcamp)

Battle Hag – Battle Hag
(Doom metal – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/03/05

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This is a public service announcement, brought to you by Metalshopped. Tired drivers die. Thank you. I’m doing my civic duty because Battle Hag could have killed me, as it is some of the most soporific doom I have heard in a while. Doom requires more than just down-tuning, reverb, and low growls to be worthwhile. It’s lazy doom that only aims to check boxes. Bass lines can only carry a band so far.
Try before you buy: Never Turn Your Back on the Sea (Bandcamp)

Choking – Choking
(Blackened sludge metal – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/05/15

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True misanthropy takes total dedication. Any idiot can hate, but to take that primal, animalistic emotion and extend it to the entirety of humanity and the self requires a level of commitment few can sustain. Choking sustain it though. Seething contempt suffuses every note, every growl, every sustain. Choking is an apt name for the band, as every stanza tries to crush the life out of you.
Try before you buy: Labyrinthine (Bandcamp)

Epäihminen – Epäihminen IV
(Ambient black metal – Finland)
Self-released – 2015/07/17

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I almost dismissed this; the flat production values and the borderline stereotypical introduction lowered my expectations. But I’m glad I pushed through, as there is a depth to this release that left me aching. It’s like standing on a sunlit fen on a winter day, feeling almost uncomfortably cold, and contemplating mortality and the futility of existence. It serene in the bleakest way possible.
Try before you buy: Op. 24 (Bandcamp)

Haldol – Haldol
(Post-punk – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/05/22

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An interesting take on post-punk. It’s not without its faults, but overall it’s definitely worth your time. The vocalist doesn’t have the strongest of deliveries, but that doesn’t detract heavily from the experience. The release saves itself with its guitar work. There is an unsettling disorientation to the music that turns familiar gothic riffs into distorted refrains of discomfort. There’s a lot to like.
Try before you buy: Law of Indifference (Bandcamp)

Indesinence – III
(Doom metal – United Kingdom)
Profound Lore Records – 2015/07/21

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It’s an odd thing to say given that the majority of tracks come in around the ten minute mark, but this album doesn’t truly shine until it hits the even lengthier tracks near the end of the album. Indesinence’s take on doom, while undeniably oppressive, allows flickers of lights through. It’s like moonlight filtered through broken glass in a bombed out hellhole. This panorama is in sharpest relief in III’s longest form.
Try before you buy: Mountains Of Mind / Five Years Ahead (Of My Time) (Bandcamp)

Jesus Wept – Pit of Blasphemy
(Blackened Brutal Death – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/07/09

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Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde all over this release. At it’s best, it cherry-picked appropriate elements of black metal and used them to invigorate slamming brutality. At it’s worst it’s like the thing was recorded with djent sticks and clockwork toy drums. Even the vocals are on an extreme spectrum. Annunciation is key. Done properly, they’re articulate and sinister. Done badly, it’s a guttural recitation of vowels.
Try before you buy: A Pit of Blasphemy (Bandcamp)

Krvshr – Church Burner
(Sludge metal – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/05/25

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There must be something wrong with me. Hateful noise shouldn’t make me smile so much. It helps that it lands squarely between the good drugs for hard times vibe of High on Fire and the darkness of deep space blackness of Lord Mantis. It opens slow as pitch, but builds steadily to a mid-paced riff-fest and not in the stodgy, bland way. Each riff has the space to ooze. Nasty in a really satisfying way.
Try before you buy: Highlander (Bandcamp)

Kult of the Wizard – The White Wizard
(Doom metal – United States of America)
Reflections Records – 2015/03/13

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Bonged out doom firmly in the mould of Blood Ceremony. According to the band themselves, this is their first release with vocals. I’m glad they took their time, because she’s amazing. She has that sultry white soul quality; it makes you wonder why she isn’t singing about not going to rehab because of the son of a preacher man. She gives the otherwise standard doom the necessary lift to separate it from the masses.
Try before you buy: Black Moon (Bandcamp)

Lamb of God – VII: Sturm und Drang
(Groove metal – United States of America)
Nuclear Blast – 2015/07/24

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Lamb of God: the Garth Brooks of metal. Sure, they’re popular, but why? Didn’t understand the appeal for years. But their seventh album¹ makes me eat my words and my doubts. There’s a melodic quality to the tracks that brings to mind the peak of the Gotherburg sound, but it doesn’t sacrifice the Lynard-Skynard’s-grindcore-album Southern rage that has made them Pantera’s spiritual successors.
Try before you buy: Overlord (YouTube)

Melechesh – Enki
(Blackened death metal – Israel)
Nuclear Blast – 2015/02/27

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How have I not listened to Melechesh before? It should have been a no-brainer given that to my ear they sound like an amalgamation of Absu and Rotting Christ. I love Enki. It wields fury and malice like a fanatic wielding a censer brimming with balefire. But it’s done with a level of nuance that turns a relentless assault into a cinematic portrayal of devotional violence. I can listen to it over and over.
Try before you buy: Multiple Truths (YouTube)

Padre Lobo – Padre Lobo
(Stoner sludge metal – Spain)
Self-released – 2015/07/17

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The first thing that stood out to me was just how much the vocalist, Lore, sounds like Jessicka from Jack Off Jill. I actually double checked to be completely sure she wasn’t. It’s uncanny and, more importantly, very appropriate. The riot grrrl by way of goth vocals belted out over the top of Orange Goblin proximate stoner jams works in a satisfying way. They could probably benefit from a whisper more variety, but damn this is fun.
Try before you buy: Lilith (Bandcamp)

Rebel Wizard – Negative Wizard Metal
(Blackened heavy metal – Australia)
Self-released – 2015/07/17

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First Peasant, and now Rebel Wizard. I’m coming across a few blackened heavy types at the moment. Rebel Wizard are pretty good too. They do lack the knock out punch that Peasant has, but that’s a slightly unfair criticism. The important thing is the riffs the rock are high energy and on the thrashy end of NWOBHM worship. They still retain the sinisterness that black metal requires. Blast it a kvlt gatherings.
Try before you buy: Heavy Negative Wizard Metal (Bandcamp)

A Secret Death – Epilogue
(Hardcore – Australia)
Monolith – 2015/06/25

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Good hardcore is a bit like religion; you hope and you pray for it, but a lot of the time it feels like nothing’s there. But then an album like Epilogue descends like an ecstatic vision. Nuanced aggression is interwoven with deft touches of gentle melody and passages of Dillinger-esque intensity. There is a level of sophistication here that is so very rare in the broader genre. It’s a bright light in an often dark place.
Try before you buy: Strong, Silent Type (Bandcamp)

Sigh – Graveward
(A little bit of everything – Japan)
Candlelight Records – 2015/05/04

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This may seem like a strange thing to say in a metal review, but this is a noisy album. Obviously it’s loud. I mean noisy in the sense that there is a lot going on. It’s confrontational in its creative scope. I still have a fondness for the album, but there’s no doubt I had to open myself up to it. Mirai is one of metal’s great composers; I don’t think anyone else could get this to work. Chaos is a tough thing to reign in.
Try before you buy: Out of the Grave (Bandcamp)

Symphony X – Underworld
(Progressive neoclassical metal – United States of America)
Nuclear Blast – 2015/07/24

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I get the feeling their time on Nuclear Blast hasn’t been the happiest, but Underworld gets it right. It maintains the heavier tone of their recent output, but is reinvigorated with the complicated fret work that made their earlier work so good. It’s lyrically sophisticated too; successfully synthesising classical mythology and mediaeval poetry into a cohesive whole. A long awaited and much appreciated return to form.
Try before you buy: Nevermore (YouTube)

Vanum – Realm of Sacrifice
(Black metal – United States of America)
Profound Lore Records – 2015/06/23

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Vanum have a real sense of organic flow on display with Realm of Sacrifice. And by organic flow, I mean every note is driven by what comes before and in turn pushes the rest of the album forward. It’s like blood coursing through your veins or synapses firing across the cerebellum. Experiencing an album like this is like having another key system in your body. It becomes a part of you and you need to let it do its thing.
Try before you buy: Convergence (Bandcamp)

Vishwanath – Portals to the Inanimate
(Progressive metal – India)
Self-released – 2015/02/18

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I really like this. So much could have gone wrong with a one man, self-released, progressive title. Especially since he openly discussed production problems on his Bandcamp page. But any negatives are quickly brushed aside by his excellent sense of melody. Effortlessly transitioning between heavy grooves and delicate movements is not a skill usually seen in prog part-timers. Thoroughly enjoyable.
Try before you buy: Perception (Bandcamp)

¹Burn the Priest never counts.