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)
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)