December 2019 Review Round Up

Happy 2020, everybody. December turned out to be far more distracting than I thought it would. I figured I’d get the one or two things I missed, have a short month, and finalise my lists. Nope. It blew out a bit. Shouldn’t complain though; turns out I missed a lot of good stuff.

Best of the lot was Esoteric’s long awaited A Pyrrhic Existence. It’s a gruelling exercise in funeral doom, but it’s like running an ultramarathon; the pain is worth the endorphin rush at the end.

Next month is my Best of 2019 and Best of the Decade lists. Not sure if I’ll publish monthly reviews on top. We’ll see how we go.

As always, feel free to hit me on Facebook.

Until next month \m/

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Album of the Month
Esoteric – A Pyrrhic Existence
(Funeral Doom – United Kingdom)
Season of Mist – 2019/11/08

It’s been a long time between drinks, but good God am I glad Esoteric are back. I’m also glad they took the time, because it’s clear that found a way to make their already titanic sound even bigger, darker, and more funereal. They’ve created a swirling void of utter despair that threatens to suck all life into its infinite depths.

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Abigail Williams – Walk Beyond the Dark
(Black Metal – United States of America)
Blood Music – 2019/11/15

I’ve never truly known what to expect from Abigail Williams, but I’m more than happy to settle for surprisingly complex black metal. I say surprisingly because this initially seems to be very traditional, but the deeper you go, the more you listen to it, the broader its influences becomes clear. For something so dense, it’s pretty seamless.

Alcest – Spiritual Instinct
(Blackgaze – France)
Nuclear Blast – 2019/10/25

Good to see Neige put a little bit more black into his blackgaze. It still has the dreamy otherness that has been his signature throughout this project, but it’s an angrier sort of dream. A lucid nightmare. This isn’t some fae trickster or changeling; this is the wild hunt, riding high in saddle, their doomed quarry hounded by spirit and mist alike.

Blood Incantation – Hidden History of the Human Race
(Death Metal – United States of America)
Dark Descent – 2019/11/22

If you wondered what the History Channel at 1am would sound like as death metal, here’s your answer. In order to examine the aliens as masters theme, the band have dialled back the chaos in favour of a more atmospheric approach. They’re still Blood Incantation though. What they do is intensity. The approach may change, but the outcome doesn’t.

Cattle Decapitation – Death Atlas
(Death Metal – United States of America)
Metal Blade – 2019/11/25

Love the music. Am awed by the drumming (holy shit). Like the growls. Hate all the other attempts at vocals. It’s so tough to recommend an album that is so good on most levels, but has vocals that sound like Dani Filth with autotune. Maybe I’m being super picky, but their distraction value outweighs the talent of everything else.

Diocletian – Amongst the Flames of a Burning God
(Blackened Death Metal – New Zealand)
Profound Lore – 2019/08/16

Diocletian absolutely brutalise the listener here. War metal is nothing if not direct, but the ruthlessness that is unleashed by these Kiwis is direct in extremis. It tears from a to b to c in a line straight down to Planck scale. There’s no wavering. There is no vacillation. There is no respite. There is naught but furious hatred for all.

Diploid – Glorify
(Grindcore – Australia)
Art as Catharsis – 2019/11/22

Given the bands they name check and the literature they cite in the album’s Bandcamp blurb, it won’t come as a surprise to say Glorify isn’t an easy, accessible listen. But don’t let the elevated difficulty level of the album turn you off. This album yields rich, thoroughly satisfying rewards, but only if you put your shoulder to the yoke.

Life of Agony – The Sound of Scars
(Hard Rock – United States of America)
Napalm Records – 2019/10/11

Mina Caputo is one of music’s great survivors and it shows on The Sound of Scars. It’s an album that takes a lifetime of challenges and presents them with both the immediacy of the lived experience and the perspective of reflection. There’s nothing soft about it either; it’s all high-energy swagger and snarl from go to whoa.

Lingua Ignota – Caligula
(Experimental – United States of America)
Profound Lore – 2019/07/19

Equal parts Swans, Diamanda Galas, and raw black metal, Caligula is a harrowing experience. The unfiltered, unrestrained anger is horrifying. In many ways, I feel like I’m too sheltered to fully appreciate the devastating worldview that Kristin Hayter delivers. Her approach to violence is lived in and all the more terrifying and real as such.

Lord Mantis – Universal Death Church
(Blackened Sludge Metal – United States of America)
Profound Lore – 2019/11/22

With the untimely passing of Bill Baumgardner, and the previous acrimony between Charlie Fell and Andrew Markuszewski, I honestly didn’t expect another Lord Mantis album. But here we are and it’s great. Venomous and poisonous in equal measure, it’s mere existence is a hazard. It heaves vitriol and retches spite with every cursed note.

Nephilim’s Noose – Rites of a Death Merchant
(Death Doom – Canada)
Self-Released – 2019/10/11

As a death doom act, Nephilim’s Noose are supposed to sound monolithic and miserable. And, wow, do they do that. But they further that sound by infusing every cavernous riff with a malign violence; a threat to body and soul that is infectious rather than fearsome. You experience the destruction and you want it even more.

Nocturnus AD – Paradox
(Death Metal – United States of America)
Profound Lore – 2019/05/24

Reviving a classic band with a sequel to a classic album is fraught with risks. Fortunately, Paradox delivers everything that you could want from a follow up to The Key. The riffs are infectious and the scifi vibe is intoxicating. The band has lost absolutely nothing over the years; absolutely killer, high-octane death metal.

Öxxö Xööx – Ÿ
(Doom Metal – France)
Blood Music – 2019/11/29

Once again, Öxxö Xööx has come into my life just when I really needed a healthy dose of melodramatic doom. Ÿ is a rich, almost luxurious sounding album; it really allows and encourages you to wallow in its sumptuous riffs. You need to take the time to truly experience the full extent of all nine tracks, as there is a dark majesty on display throughout.

May 2015 Review Round Up

May came and went in a flash. As I write this, I can hardly believe that it’s almost been a full 31 days. A steady stream of good tunes helped the time fly I guess.

Top of the tree is Prurient’s Frozen Niagra Falls. It has been the only release this year (and in a long time) I have listened to every day since receiving it. And I’m going to keep listening to it. The whip-cracks of static, snarls of feedback, and evocative loops are expertly crafted into an album of momentous heft.

Invertebrate takes out the honourable mention in a close contest. Powerviolence is a curious beast sometimes, but Regression/Devolution tries to simplify things by trying to be the most aggressive thing you can listen to. It may well be that, as hostility pours out of every note.

As an aside, I may not do live reviews, but I have to mention the joy that was seeing Opeth again. They are one of metal’s great live acts. They can play anything from their back catalogue to utter perfection. Even technical difficulties don’t stop them from being hugely entertaining.

Feel free to drop by Facebook with comments or feedback.

See everyone next month.

Album of the Month
Prurient – Frozen Niagara Falls
(Noise – United States of America)
Profound Lore Records – 2015/05/12

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This. Is. Stunning. I never in my wildest imagination thought I would hear a noise album so immaculate. Frozen Niagara Falls lives up to its name; it’s awe-inspiring, seemingly unnatural, and thoroughly unsettling. Harsh noise, industrial, and ambient are seamlessly interwoven to create enthralling soundscapes that beguile the listener even in spite of their severity. It’s a double album that demands to be experienced. Give it your undivided attention.
Try before you buy: Cocaine Daughter (Bandcamp)

Honourable Mention
Invertebrate – Regression/Devolution
(Powerviolence – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/03/26

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I suppose you’re interested in tunes that can reasonably be described as music. Well, you’re out of luck. Or maybe noise is your thing? Nope. Perhaps you’re thinking you should write this off as unlistenable shit? Dead wrong. I’m not exactly sure how Invertebrate crammed so much middle finger into these tracks, but however they did it they made sure to say “FUCK YOU!” to everybody and everything, including your expectations. Best pv in a long time.
Try before you buy: Fuck Punk, Fuck Grind, Drive Scion(Bandcamp)

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Alder Glade – Demo II
(Black metal – Australia)
Auris Apothecary – 2015/05/14

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How good is this band? Two demos in and I’m hard pressed to think of any other up and coming black metal act with this much promise. I’m especially impressed given it’s a one man act. The second demo builds on the oppressive atmosphere of the first one, somehow managing to meld the brooding swampiness that came before with the permafrost of traditional black metal. It’s music for mangroves in nuclear winter. Glad to see they got picked up for physical distribution.
Try before you buy: Obsidian Death (Bandcamp)

Bosse de Nage – All Fours
(Black metal – United States of America)
Profound Lore Records – 2015/04/14

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It’s a tough album to review. I get the artistic vision. I understand what they trying to convey. The dark eroticism is impossible to miss. And the message is conveyed through excellent musicianship. But in spite of this, I’m still left nonplussed by the whole affair. For me, at least, I found the album to be emotionally sterile. I could take it in, analyse it, and debate its merits, but I couldn’t enjoy it. It’s an album very strong on technical merit, but light on soul.
Try before you buy: Washerwoman (Bandcamp)

Cloak – Succumb
(Bastard metal – United States of America)
Transylvanian Tapes – 2015/03/11

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Cloak sounds like it was spawned in some sort of horrible orgy involving the black, death, and doom metals with some dirty punks jumping in on the sleaze. It’s possessed of grimy malevolence that can only come out of combining so many dark elements. To my ears it’s a little bit disjointed, which I suspect is a stylistic choice, but it does make it a difficult listen from time to time. But when it comes together, it’s a crushing nightmare of relentless evil.
Try before you buy: Roman Shower (Bandcamp)

Constant Fear – Dronekill
(Powerviolence – United States of America)
Video Disease Records – 2015/02/26

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I was stuck in horrendous traffic while I was blasting this, so I was able to get real familiar with it. It was also great for venting the road rage. But it is definitely a hit and miss affair. More hits but not by enough to discount the misses. The hits are distinct bursts of anger with some interesting stylistic flair. The misses are interchangeable blobs of disaffection; pissed off for sure, but in a who gives a shit sort of way. I’ll keep an eye on them though. At their best, they’re brilliant.
Try before you buy: I Will Haunt You Forever (Bandcamp)

Drudkh – Борозна обірвалася (A Furrow Cut Short)
(Black metal – Ukraine)
Season of Mist – 2015/04/20

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Drudkh is the Gold Standard for black metal because they keep on putting out albums as good as this. Given the state of Ukraine at the moment, it’s probably no great surprise that the music leans away from songs for the forlorn and broken spirit and towards violence, victory, and the toll that both require. They have a mastery of tone that is almost unrivalled in black metal. Each track vigorously grabs the listener and drags them deep into whatever hell the song is crafting.
Try before you buy: Dishonour I (Bandcamp)

Ekranoplan – Ekranoplan
(Crust – Germany)
Narshardaa – 2015/05/08

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This gives me the same warm, fuzzy feeling deep in my guts that Trap Them gives me. They’re not exactly in the same ballpark, sonically, but they are at least playing the same sport. And by sport I mean ultra-aggressive metallic punk played with the intensity to intimidate and the talent to be memorable. The five songs are a genuine tour-de-force that highlights all that is right with the genre, but retains a diversity that shows that they still have room to grow.
Try before you buy: Pressure (Bandcamp)

Faith No More – Sol Invictus
(Alternative – United States of America)
Reclamation Records/Ipecac – 2015/05/19

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I’m not in the least bit disappointed by this. It’s a damn fine album. It doesn’t change the fact that it’s exactly the sort of album you would expect from Faith No More. I can overlook the lack of surprise, as the album’s eclectic nature allows the listener to truly experience the depth of the band’s talent. In many ways it’s hard to believe that there’s been 18 years between albums. It’s the logical follow on from Album of the Year. Consistency is a fine thing when you’re talented.
Try before you buy: Motherfucker (YouTube)

Feign – Lost to Eternity
(Black metal – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/01/11

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Got to be a bit cautious with one man black metal projects. They can be either a testament to clarity of vision or a colossal victory of ego over talent. Fortunately, Lost to Eternity is the former. There’s a coldness and despair conveyed throughout this three track demo that, despite the potential for cliché, remains unique. That is a significant achievement. It’s not a bit of wonder a label has scooped Feign up. The ability to tread new ground here is not to be sneezed at.
Try before you buy: Lost to Eternity (Bandcamp)

G.L.O.S.S. – Demo
(Punk – United States of America)
Not Normal – 2015/01/16

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Girls Living Outside Society’s Shit. Based on their long form title, it should come as no surprise that G.L.O.S.S. play anarchofeminist punk. And it’s a rabble rousing good time too. Five no nonsense tracks loaded with idealogical invective. It’s abundantly clear that they are as well read in feminist theory as they are skilled with their instruments, as each track conveys a strong point punched home by quality musicianship. Good to see on message punk still exists.
Try before you buy: Masculine Artifice (Bandcamp)

The Nepalese Temple Ball – Arbor
(Doom metal – United Kingdom)
Self-released – 2015/05/23

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Everyone knows the tale of Icarus. Wax wings, too close to sun, grizzly death. Of course you know it. The Nepalese Temple Ball are the Daedalus of doom. They soar, but do it safely and, as a result, are not the memorable force they could be. Sure, Icarus burnt out spectacularly, but you remember him. That’s the problem here, as Arbor is a perfectly fine album for doom enthusiasts, but it doesn’t push the envelope. It could be great, but settles for fine.
Try before you buy: The Axeman (Bandcamp)

Ósserp – Sang i Sutge
(Death metal – Spain)
Kremón Records – 2015/04/28

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I listen to much of my reviewable material while I’m driving and, truth be told, I wasn’t exactly in a death metal mood when I hit the ignition. Sang i Sutge put me in mood. Violently shoved me into it really. It’s a brutal sounding album without being loaded with slam. It helps that there are dustings of grind throughout, so it maintains an aura of imminent violence. Killer performances by all involved ensure the band successfully cultivates this environment of hostility.
Try before you buy: Bèstia cega (Bandcamp)

Öxxö Xööx – Nämïdäë
(Gothic doom metal – France)
Blood Music – 2015/05/26

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As much as this is definitely a gothic doom album, it also owes a great debt to Devin Townsend. The ridiculous pomposity of the album is as over the top as it is oddly endearing. The whole made up language thing is a little bit silly, but it still works. The atmosphere they craft is consistently engaging. The synthesisers and the guitars ebb and flow like surging tides. And they get the interplay between the vocalists just right. It’s completely daft, but totally worth it.
Try before you buy: Därkäë (Bandcamp)

Tales from Beyond – Putrid Realm
(Death metal – Serbia)
Self-released – 2015/05/17

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I love Jane Dark, but they are on hiatus. A few of the members got together to form Tales from Beyond though. I actually prefer Tales from Beyond. It’s a tight contest, but the whispers of blackened thrash add an extra dimension to their Morbid Angel-esque heaviness. They’re not ground breaking, but you don’t need to be a trailblazer when you’re capable of delivering entertainment with every single track. It’s an album that reminds you why you love death metal.
Try before you buy: Psychosis (Bandcamp)

UFOmammut – Ecate
(Doom metal – Italy)
Neurot Recordings – 2015/03/30

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Ecate is all about the fuzziest doom you can possibly comprehend. It’s loaded with that warm, tripped-out feeling that only comes with psychedelics. The riffs are deliciously heavy and the rhythms are thunderous bong rips. It does suffer a little bit from self-indulgence; some movements last fractionally longer than they probably should. Don’t let that put you off too much. The sheer weight of the stoned out jams more than justify the asking price. UFOmammut do heavy so well.
Try before you buy: Chaosecret (YouTube)

Undersmile – Anhedonia
(Sludge metal – United Kingdom)
Black Bow Records – 2015/04/01

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This is slow. Unbelievably slow in fact, and yet, it doesn’t qualify as drone nor as funeral doom. It, simply put, is earth shaking doom with a solid love for the breeve. It’s a depressing album. It shares that sense of genuine hurt that SubRosa have, but where they have a certain resinous bongness, Undersmile prefer to slow down as much as they can to truly let the pain set in. I’m pretty sure the entire album has fewer notes than a Slayer solo. It takes skill to make that work.
Try before you buy: Atacama Sunburn (Bandcamp)