August 2019 Review Round Up

A bit of an abbreviated Metalshopped this month. Had an awful lot of life going on this month. That being said, I thoroughly enjoyed everything on offer.

Best of the lot was Jute Gyte’s latest. I don’t have enough of a theoretical background to dissect the technical talk on the bandcamp page, but I do understand that it is a complicated, intense album that took a lot of talent to pull off.

I should be back to a regular sized Metalshopped next month Facebook.

As always, any suggestions, recommendations, or feedback can be directed to.

Enjoy. See you next month.

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Album of the Month
Jute Gyte – Birefringence
(Avantgarde Black Metal – United States of America)
Self-released – 2019/07/01

Jute Gyte have released an album that blasts. Thoroughly. But more impressively, it’s an album that successfully perverts your lived experience. You will hear melodies that you swear are familiar, but they are so twisted and distorted that familiarity is replaced with a creeping unease and a discomforting anxiety. It’s an almost profound experience.

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Follower – Lost
(Ambient Drone – United States of America)
Apollo’s Crotch – 2019/04/25

There’s a surprising commitment to variation on this album. And, to their credit, it’s not a distraction. The soothing keyboards, the lilting accoustic guitars, the crashing waves of noise: they create an atmosphere built on anxiety and trepidation, but delivers a calming satisfaction. A nuanced and sophisticated display.

Jesusegg – The Second Coming
(Grindcore – United States of America)
Seeing Red – 2019/07/26

Jesusegg remain one of grind acts I continue to get excited about. I love the genre, but truly great acts are rarer than I would like. They manage to buck this trend by being hyper-aggressive, but in a way that juxtaposes a Discordance Axis-esque disregard for form with a Blood Duster-esque irreverence. It invigorates you right to the core.

Mylingar – Döda Själar
(Blackened Death Metal – Sweden)
Amor Fati – 2018/08/02

If you want savagery, you got it. Döda själar is as catastrophic as a tornado made of blades, and it’s about as subtle too. Don’t mistake the lack of subtlety for a lack of intelligence though. It’s as sharp as the aforementioned blades. Mylingar are playing the part of the archetypal evil sorcerer, conjuring vile spells to rain destruction.

Oxidase Nightmare – Contorting the Infinitiated Forms
(Death Grind – United States of America)
Apollo’s Crotch – 2019/08/08

It starts off blistering, but then it got real weird. It sounds very much like a techdeath band decided to make an ambient album with grindcore tempos. It’s only about six minutes long, but it goes places you will not anticipate. Constantly shifting, they have produced a form of sonic terrorism that doesn’t allow anyone to get comfortable.

Pharmakeia – Pharmakeia
(Black Metal – Parts Unknown)
Amor Fati – 2019/07/25

This is anti-cosmic black metal at its absolute heaviest. I know modern astrophysics doesn’t subscribe to the big crunch model of universe death, but should it exist, then Pharmakeia are doing their best to emulate its sonic reverberation. Cataclysmic in approach, this is a band harnessing destruction as the apex physical force.

August 2018 Review Round Up

I entered August without a whole lot on the shopping list for the month, figured I’d clear out some of my bookmarks, and ended up with a surprisingly solid month. Believe me; it’s really good.

It was a crowded field for album of the month, but I eventually settled on Michael Romeo’s often batshit, but always engaging War of the Worlds. It’s pretty impressive what can be done by someone with his level of talent when it’s married to a singularity of purpose.

Never let it be said that I’m above digital panhandling, because judging by this awesome Ko-fi page I set up, I’m very much not. I’d set up a Patreon, but I have no idea what rewards to offer. Maybe in the future. Until then, any tips towards the Metalshopped Needs Red Bull To Live fund are muchly appreciated.

And, as always, you can hit me up on Facebook.

Until October, stay trve. Or false. Whatever works for you.

Album of the Month

Michael Romeo – War of the Worlds/Pt. 1
(Symphonic Neoclassical Metal with Experimental Bits – United States of America)
Music Theories Recordings – 2018/07/27


Don’t think that this will be more Symphony X just with Michael’s name at the forefront; you’d be wrong. This album pulls into strange territory at times. And it’s all the stronger for it. It still has all the technical merit you’d expect from one of metal’s great guitarists and composers, but it comes without any of self-indulgent baggage of solo projects.

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Barren Altar – Entrenched in the Faults of the Earth
(Blackened Doom Metal – United States of America)
Self-Released – 2018/06/12


Metal is at its strongest and most engaging when it has something to say. That the band has a message that can only be expressed through growls and blasts and riffs. Barren Altar exemplify this and them some. This album is venomous, filthy and aggressive, but is delivered with such diligence and vigour that nothing gets lost in the malign fury.

Crawl – Rituals
(Death Metal – Sweden)
Transcending Obscurity – 2018/08/20


We live in a world where Swedish death metal doesn’t hold up to what came before. In Flames, Soilwork, DT; still good live, but that’s about it. Crawl is here to help put things right. Nine tracks, eight of them under three minutes, all of them honed for maximum aggression. It’s a searing beast of an album loaded with killer riffs and an undercurrent of punk sneer.

Divide and Dissolve – Abomination
(Drone – Australia)
Self-Released – 2018/02/16


Describing the post-colonial experience and its ongoing negative impact on those dispossessed and enslaved through the medium of drone was a surprisingly engaging experience. The rumbling, almost subaudible bass and the machine precise drums create a unique atmosphere of palpable discomfort. Best drone release in a long, long time.

Facegrinder – Kugelblitz
(Grindcore – Australia)
Self-Released – 2018/08/01


Fearsome, technically precise grind is a beautiful thing and Facegrinder deliver it like an impressionist master. It comes across as techdeath of the more ridiculous variety (think Origin or Necrophagist) that has been stripped right back to the barest essentials necessary to wreck shit in under a minute. Blastbeat nirvana.

Hadal Maw – Charlatan
(Technical Death Metal – Australia)
Self-Released – 2018/08/03


The more I listen to them, the more I’m convinced Hadal Maw are the best sinister techdeath band out there right now. The way they craft their songs ably marries their undeniable technical skill with pall of tenebrous bleakness. Charlatan continues from this and progresses it further. It’s an album that plays with primal fears like a monstrous 8 string.

Hell to Pay – bliss.
(Grindcore – United States of America)
Self-Released – 2018/03/16


First impressions were Hell to Pay were going to fill the hole Trap Them left with their split. It was aggressive, abrasive, and fun to listen to. But then shit started getting weird. The tone got darker, song structures got more cryptic, and the whole affair took on a far more menacing demeanour. This is no substitute; this is a new obsession.

Innumerable Forms – Punishment in Flesh
(Death Metal – United States of America)
Profound Lore – 2018/08/17


About as slow and ominous as old school death metal can get, Innumerable Forms understand what it takes to turn a joyless existence into quality listening. Miserable dirges are juxtaposed against pulverising aggression to create an album that is as bleak as it is satisfying. It’s an album that wants you to embrace your inner darkness.

ION – A Path Unknown
(Ambient Black Metal – United States of America)
Self-Released – 2018/01/28


It always amazes me how much one little detail can affect an overall review. I really quite like A Path Unknown. It’s long form approach to ambient black metal is mostly engaging. But I have an issue with drum tone. Not all of it, but the kicks sound somewhere between a speed ball being punched, rustling cardboard, and a wet fart. Takes me right out of the moment.

Lurid Panacea – Demo
(Grindcore – Australia)
Self-Released – 2018/07/11


Melbourne has a very fertile grind scene, absolutely loaded to the gunwales with potential. Lurid Panacea’s potential just happens to be swampy and very much on the deathgrind side of things. This is nasty, visceral grind. Even if it had better-than-demo production values, this would be a rough listen. And that just how these sickos want it.

Neckbeard Deathcamp – White Nationalism is for Basement Dwelling Losers
(Black Metal – United States of America)
Self-Released – 21/07/2018


I love how unsubtly subversive this is. It takes fantastically delivered black metal and then turns the typical genre tropes on their head by invoking a steady stream of left wing invective. I hope this isn’t a gimmick. I hope it’s not a one shot for shits and giggles. I want this band to keep on punishing the ear drums with pulverising blackened fury.

Obscura – Diluvium
(Progressive Techdeath – Germany)
Relapse – 2018/07/13


Obscura, for me at least, has always been one of those bands always just shy of greatness. And I’ve tried to give them a chance. Diluvium was my final crack at them. Make or break. And they made it like you wouldn’t believe. Where has this been? Their blend of pulsating technicality and inventive prog comes together seamlessly and joyously.

Rolo Tomassi – Time Will Die and Love Will Bury It
(Mathcore – United Kingdom)
Holy Roar – 2018/03/02


Unlike most of the mathcore I’m used to, Rolo Tomassi allow their songs to take their time and luxuriate. The end result is an album that successfully manages to indulge in a soothing, Sunny Day Real Estate-esque sensitivity while being able to turn up the aggression to Dillinger/Converge levels of fury as required. It offers a different level of sophistication.

Sleep – The Sciences
(Stoner Doom Metal – United States of America)
Third Man Records – 2018/04/20


I’ve had to battle some cognitive dissonance to get into Sleep. You hear so much positive press about a band that it turns you off. Glad I finally got over that hurdle because The Sciences is an absolute beast of a doom album. Its four substantive tracks are some of the most fuzzed out, resinous music to ever be heavy. It’s satisfyingly dank.

Urfaust – The Constellatory Practice
(Ambient Black Metal – The Netherlands)
Ván Records – 2018/05/04


Urfaust are stretching the definition of black metal into bizarre contortions. Aggressively meditative, it sounds like the mad chant of a cultist trying to distort their chakras to awaken a dark godlike force in themselves. And despite the ambient nature of the album, there is no doubt this is black metal to its malevolent core.

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.

I’m still active on Facebook, so feel free to get in touch.

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)

August 2015 Review Round Up

It’s been a month heavy on depravity. Pissgrave and Gnaw Their Tongues bring radically different approaches to human misery, but they’re both outstanding. Bleak. Inhuman. But outstanding.

I’ve never actually brought this up before, but there’s a reason why I don’t use a scoring system. In my own experience, I tend to be a lazy review reader. Scores will determine how much attention I pay to the details. I doubt I’m the only one that does this. So for my reviews, I ditched the scores; let the details stand on their own merit.

You can, as always, reach me on Facebook. See you next month.

Album of the Month
Pissgrave – Suicide Euphoria
(Death metal – United States of America)
Profound Lore Records – 2015/08/04


This album is as stripped back and grotesque as the liner notes. It really is the leanest death metal album I have heard in a long time. Not a single second is wasted on fripperies or extravagances. It’s refreshing really. The complete absence of bullshit means that there is nothing to distract from the music. And the music they play is easily some of the most satisfyingly visceral death metal out there.
Try before you buy: Fields of Scattered Bones (Bandcamp)

Honourable Mention
Gnaw Their Tongues – Abyss of Longing Throats
(Black ambient – Netherlands)
Crucial Blast – 2015/08/04


Mories, the mind behind Gnaw Their Tongues, is a sick and twisted genius. A previous album title sums his work up perfectly: all the dread magnificence of perversity. Your skin crawls with horror and with anticipation. And as much as Abyss isn’t as nakedly sadosexual as some previous works, it still fills you with a spiritual dread and a carnal longing that should not sit side by side. It’s a monstrous example of human darkness.
Try before you buy: From the Black Mouth of Spite (Bandcamp)

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Bath Salt Zombies – Ghouls vs Zombies
(Crossover thrash – Puerto Rico)
Self-released – 2015/04/01


This is straight up dumb as hell. Crass sexual references, horror schlock, and other weirdness are the dominant themes here. Other weirdness seems a bit vague, I know, but how else do you categorise a song dedicated to avocados? There’s nothing complicated about the music either; it’s crossover at its three chord songs simplest. But it’s endearing in its simplicity. Won’t win awards, but you will enjoy it.
Try before you buy: Gimme Avocados (Bandcamp)

Cartilage – It’s Necrotic
(Death metal – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/06/14


It’s always a fantastic thing to hear a band that are obviously gore obsessed, but don’t slam their way through their tunes. It takes me back to death metal’s roots. The three tracks on display here are toe-tappingly and headbangingly catchy. They clearly don’t see any problems with making songs about blood clots into enjoyable experiences. And neither do I. It left me with an ear to ear grin and the need to blast it louder on repeat.
Try before you buy: Dialect of the Dead (Bandcamp)

Christophobia – As vozes daqueles que sucumbiram
(Black metal – Brazil)
Self-released – 2015/08/02


This is delightfully lo-fi. The fuzz and the crackles add a sense a claustrophobia to the production. But here’s the thing; this isn’t a raw black metal album. It eschews the trve kvlt über alles tropes that dominate the raw end of the spectrum and instead focuses on actual melody. This combination of low fidelity production and high quality songwriting makes for an entertaining and engaging listen.
Try before you buy: Crociffigere il Bastardo (Bandcamp)

Dawn of Dissolution – Nightfrost
(Blackened powerdeath – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/08/22


Kind of envious of Houston’s metal scene at the moment. Dawn of Dissolution is yet another damn entertaining band from Texas’ biggest city and they do it in a way that shouldn’t work. Combining blackened death and power metal shouldn’t sound this good. But those guitars just roll in and lay out menacing riff after menacing riff in the most upbeat way imaginable. Gauntlet thrown: I challenge you to not like this.
Try before you buy: Frozen Conquest (Bandcamp)

Dowrr – Demo Tape
(Metallic hardcore – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/08/10


Metallic hardcore? Why not metalcore? Because Dowrr have nothing to do with that shitty genre, so I won’t use the shitty portmanteau. Pretty sure this is the most hateful hardcore I’ve heard, possibly ever. They play like they want to shatter every bone in your face, then take your wallet, then break what’s left of you. The lyrics are barked and spat out with maximum contempt. It’s fantastically nasty.
Try before you buy: Misfortune (Bandcamp)

Evenstate – Inside
(Progressive metal – Netherlands)
Self-released – 2015/07/25


I’ll call this progressive ore. It’s metallic rock. And Dream Theater has thoroughly colonised this space, pushing all others to the fringes. Evenstate do a damn good job of taking some space back. They are at least proximate to the technicality and ingenuity of New York’s finest. And what they lack, they make up by having a vocalist who has the big brass blast of Shirley Bassey. She’s fantastic.
Try before you buy: Chosen One (Bandcamp)

Fear Factory – Genexus
(Industrial metal – United States of America)
Nuclear Blast – 2015/08/07


It’s been a while since I’ve checked in with FF. I mean, they’re hardly the same band whose last minute cancelation started a riot circa Demanufacture. No way known they could generate that level of passion anymore. But that doesn’t make Genexus a bad album. In fact, it’s surprisingly solid. Energetic riffs and machine-line drumming are well delivered. Burton’s reliance on his croon didn’t piss me off this time either. It’s not great, but it is good.
Try before you buy: Soul Hacker (YouTube)

Fractal Generator – Apotheosynthesis
(Atmospheric death metal – Canada)
Self-released – 2015/07/21


I was wondering what they meant when they self-described as atmospheric death metal. Now I know; it’s a version of techdeath that’s had some of the complexity taken out and the rest turned askew. The important thing to bear in mind is that they perform at a very high standard. As much as their take on death is different, they haven’t made it too odd to be accessible. Nine solid tracks of good times.
Try before you buy: Paragon (Bandcamp)

Ghost – Meliora
(Heavy metal – Sweden)
Loma Vista Recordings – 2015/08/21


Not every band treading the left hand path need to sound like they’re marching to war, axe in hand, for their dark master. Ghost sound like they’re spooning Satan after a particularly torrid tryst. And while I doubt they will ever truly recapture the majesty of Opus Eponymous, their work is still of amazingly high quality. Meliora, in particular, is hard rockin’ for the devil, with nods to AC/DC, Van Halen, and others. Damnation’s good time soundtrack.
Try before you buy: Cirice (YouTube)

Goblin Hovel – Loveless, Loreless, Lost
(Metallic folk – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/08/19


A dark and thoroughly austere take on the folk genre, with just enough goblin-esque croaks in the vocal department to keep it connected to metal. This is bleak stuff. It makes sense when you take into account the album’s eschatological themes. But the austerity of it, with its grave tempos and dirge-like melodies, makes it a tough listen. And that’s coming from someone who loves doom. It’s just such a miserable album.
Try before you buy: Stifled Song (Bandcamp)

Krallice – Ygg Huur
(Avant-garde black metal – United States of America)
Gilead Media/Avantgarde Music – 2015/07/30


Krallice is one of those bands I believe everyone interested in black metal should know. Their take on the genre, somewhat paradoxically, uses the standard tropes while remaining truly unique. Ygg Huur is less monolithic than their earlier albums. It’s like they set the great beast in motion many years ago and it’s finally rumbled to full speed. And now it can’t be stopped. An immovable object given irresistible force.
Try before you buy: Over Spirit (Bandcamp)

Kriegszittern – Frostbite
(Death metal – Germany)
Self-released – 2015/08/16


Primitive as Australopithecus’ aunt, Frostbite comes straight at you, as though you’re food for its ravenous maw. It’s an excellent example of the direct approach paying dividends. The three track demo opens and closes with raw aggression, complimented by smatterings of crust punk vitriol. Sandwiched in between is a slower track, focussed heavily on lingering malevolence. There is no compromise here.
Try before you buy: Primitive Instinct (Bandcamp)

Leprous – The Congregation
(Progressive metal – Norway)
InsideOut Music – 2015/05/25


Reflective in a depressed and almost bitter fashion, The Congregation undoubtedly lacks the immediate punch of its predecessor, Coal. That lack of immediacy does nothing to undermine the depth of emotional maturity that has gone into this record. The music weaves a hypnotic tapestry for the ears, while the vocals are delivered with a Muse-esque pathos. As delicate and beautiful as the finest crystal.
Try before you buy: The Price (YouTube)

L.O.T.I.O.N. – Digital Control and Man’s Obsolescence
(Industrial punk – United States of America)
La Vida Es Un Mus Discos – 2015/07/31


Landing in the middle ground between Napalm Death and Atari Teenage Riot, Digital… leaves an impact crater with its intensity. The amazing thing is, despite the aforementioned shout-outs and undeniably industrial nature, it retains its character as a true punk album. In your face and unashamedly political, they capture that revolutionary zeal that all non-apathetic punk should have.
Try before you buy: Fukushima Fallout (Bandcamp)

No Form – No Form
(Noise punk – United Kingdom)
Reagent Records/Muscle Horse Records – 2015/06/02


Jarring and antagonistic, No Form’s self-titled 12″ is a confronting experience. The first four tracks fly past in a blur of discordant aggression. But then it opens up. The fifth and final track is a seven minute, free-form explosion of punk at its most creative. It changes the entire dynamic of the release. The first four tracks aren’t mindless assaults on the ears; they are priming you for a revelatory experience.
Try before you buy: Side B (Bandcamp)

Royal Thunder – Crooked Doors
(Rock – United States of America)
Relapse Records – 2015/04/07


Bluesy and soulful, Royal Thunder bring a thoughtful approach to the classic rock sound. Crooked Doors shows how traditional rock norms can be played with to make the genre sound fresh. Powerful hooks are interwoven with lilting laments and all the while Mlny delivers one of the strongest rock vocal performances since Skin. Underscoring it all is a lingering psychedelia. There’s a many-layered majesty to it.
Try before you buy: Forget You (YouTube)

Shining – IX: Everyone, Everything, Everywhere, Ends
(Suicidal metal – Sweden)
Season of Mist – 2015/04/20


There’s a reason I hold Shining and Kvarforth up on a pedestal. Unlike the rest of the dsbm world, who force their demons to conform to the constraints of black metal, Shining force their music to comform to Kvarforth’s numerous demons. This is the ninth full length in the canon and it’s my favourite since Halmstad. It’s deeply personal and extraordinarily troubling but not at all alienating. As dark and inviting as the grave.
Try before you buy: Människotankens Vägglösa Rum (Bandcamp)

Skullreader – The Origin of Doubt
(Black metal – United States of America)
Open Casket Cassettes – 2015/03/10


I have a certain respect for bands that go straight for the jugular. Hold nothing back, take no prisoners, no fucking around, no bullshit. It’s an all or nothing approach that, even if it misses its mark, you’ve got to admire. Skullreader somehow take this further. It doesn’t just go for the jugular; it goes for the femoral too. Pretty sure they dig at the aorta too. Non-stop violence from go to whoa.
Try before you buy: Vengeance and Prophecy (Bandcamp)

The Unchaining – To the Peaks
(Black metal – Italy)
Self-released – 2015/08/13


I’m coming to the conclusion that it’s better to be terrible than it is to be forgettable. At least being terrible engenders a genuine, albeit negative, emotional response. Forgettable material is simply lost to the ether. To the Peaks is regrettably forgettable. The music is on the mark for black metal, as are the vocals. But there is nothing new here. It’s just the same trite darkness rehashed by yet another act bound to genre stereotypes.
Try before you buy: A Sea of Storms (Bandcamp)

August Review Round Up

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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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