June 2018 Review Round Up

June felt like a productive month. I got through a decent amount of albums while making sure everyone got their fair due in terms of attention. Pretty happy about how it all came together.

Some impressive stuff passed through my ears, but the best of the best is Craft’s latest, White Noise and Black Metal. It’s a perfect example of what modern black metal should sound like.

July will hopefully be as good. I’m keen for Deafheaven and Obscura’s new albums.

Hit me up on Facebook if you want. Always up for a chat.

Album of the Month
Craft – White Noise and Black Metal
(Black Metal – Sweden)
Season of Mist – 2018/06/22

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Not a lot of noise going on here, but there are eight tracks of blackened gelid malevolence. It’s a veritable soundtrack for a frolic through the joyless expanse of Cocytus. Too often black metal finds itself trapped within its own tropes, but Craft have taken these tropes and unleashed them in a storm so furious that everything seems new after the destruction wrought.

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Abstracter – Cinereous Incarnate
(Blackened Sludge – United States of America)
Sentient Ruin Laboratories – 2018/06/08

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When I was a young boy, someone once told me that there was no greater sin, even surpassing the seven deadly sins, than despair, as it meant you believed God was powerless. Abstracter capture this notion of blasphemous misery and turn it loose in an almost weaponised display of sonic might. It’s cacophonous, tumultuous, and savage.

At the Gates – To Drink From The Night Itself
(Melodic Death Metal – Sweden)
Century Media – 2018/05/18

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A slower, more brooding At the Gates is on display here. The anger that has driven their sound to this point has manifested here as smouldering bitterness. It’s not bitter in the sense of hating what their doing. The band still clearly loves performing. It’s bitter about pretty well everything else though. It’s a new plateau of jaded misanthropy.

The Body – I Have Fought Against It, But I Can’t Any Longer
(Avant-garde Metal – United States of America)
Thrill Jockey – 2018/05/11

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Albums like this really highlight the divide between amateur writers, such as myself, and proper music journalists. I just don’t have the vocabulary to do this album justice. It’s ominous. It’s oppressive. It’s sinister as all hell. And bleak doesn’t even begin to describe its emotional darkness. And even with all that laid out, you need to know it goes further and weirder than I can explain.

Funeral Mist – Hekatomb
(Black Metal – Sweden)
Norma Evangelium Diaboli – 2018/06/15

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Not sure if any of you have spent an extended period of time with a crazy street preacher. I have and this reminds me a lot of that experience. An almost overwhelming raging of fevered mania is peppered with moments of terrifying lucidity. It’s the sort of unhinged blasphemous rite that so many black metal acts aspire to, but taken to an extreme beyond expectation.

Genghis Crack – Genghis Crack
(Grindcore – Chile)
House Gore Records – 2018/04/07

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I’m finding South America to fertile ground for excellent grind. From Lxs Jugadxs in Argentina to Kharma in Venezuela, there is a strong trend towards pissed off blasting violence. Feel free to add Genghis Crack to this. I don’t understand all the samples used, but I know anger when I hear it. This is wire garrotte taut and as pummelling as 80s heyday Mike Tyson.

Ghost – Prequelle
(Heavy Metal – Sweden)
Loma Vista Recordings – 2018/06/01

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“Surely the gimmick has worn thin by now?” I hear you asking. And the answer remains no. To be honest, the people in silly masks thing will always be easy to ignore so long as they keep on delivering on quality like they have here. It leans hard into rock territory, making it just as much Bon Jovi as Black Sabbath and that swagger makes it an utter joy to listen to.

Grave Upheaval – —
(Death Doom – Australia)
Nuclear War Now! – 2018/04/15

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I don’t normally enjoy death doom and really only bought this to flex my critical skills. But then it completely kicked my arse. I mean this floored me. It’s so damn heavy that it creates its own atmosphere. It could shatter a diamond. And the vocals sound like a cthonic god slowly tearing into our reality. It’s got me completely turned around on the genre.

Marduk – Viktoria
(Black Metal – Sweden)
Century Media – 2018/06/22

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Marduk is really starting to feel like a spent force. None of their post-Wormwood albums have aged well and Viktoria starts off feeling worse than that. Even when they lean into the controversy surrounding their politics, it feels hollow; it feels like they’re trying to cash in on scandal because it’s all they have left. I know they’re capable of so much more.

Mournful Congregation – The Incubus of Karma
(Funeral Doom – Australia)
20 Buck Spin/Osmose Productions – 2018/03/23

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It might be the clinical depression talking, but I found this to be profoundly soothing. I’m sure that’s not what they were aiming for, but at the same time, it’s not me being critical. It hits that nadir of despair where all of life’s iniquities become a warm blanket, as they allow you to feel something. Anything. It embraces misery in its utter totality.

Necros Christos – Domedon Doxomedon
(Death Metal – Germany)
Sepulchral Voice – 2018/05/18

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I hope everyone is up on their Qabbalistic rituals; pre-Nicean Christian mysticism; and Abrahamic gnosticism, because Necros Christos just assumes you are. For their (alas) swansong they have crafted a complex three disc spiritual meditation that both hyper intelligent and crushingly heavy. I doubt they could have crafted a more fitting farewell. Safe travels, noble initiates; may you find the apotheosis you seek.

Nervosa – Downfall of Mankind
(Thrash – Brazil)
Napalm Records – 2018/06/01

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What you have here is a straight forward thrash album and that needs to be celebrated. It’s not blackened; it’s not crossover; it’s that dying breed of true, fast as hell, angry as a swarm of hornets thrash. It’s a real conflagration of an album too; starts off a bit slow but builds to an intensity that will level whole city blocks and leave a satisfyingly smouldering ruin.

Ritual Necromancy – Disinterred Horror
(Death Metal – United States of America)
Dark Descent – 2018/05/25

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This album earns the critical praise I have seen said of it. And so long as as I’m wearing my critic hat, I’ll recommend it. But as a listener, there’s something not quite to my personal taste here. I think it’s because underneath the blistered exterior of fire and savagery, there’s an unbeating heart of cold, almost alien sterility. It’s uncomfortable to be honest.

Wayfarer – World’s Blood
(Atmospheric Black Metal – United States of America)
Profound Lore – 2018/05/25

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I’m a firm believer that USBM is at its best when it wholeheartedly embraces its American-ness. The gonzo nihilism of Cobalt. Panopticon’s bluegrass/black metal hybrid. And, now, Wayfarer and their desolate, tenebrific distortion of country. There’s no high plains sing-along here. This is all grim paranoia and foreboding cynicism.

Yob – Our Raw Heart
(Doom Metal – United States of America)
Relapse – 2018/06/08

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Despite there being no evidence to back it up, I like to think there’s a competition between Pallbearer and Yob for the USA’s best doom act. And Our Raw Heart puts Yob into the lead. Sure, it’s heavy as a Jovian hell, but it’s the raw emotional heft that makes it such a stunning album. It’s heartfelt, almost touching in places, and bleak without being despairing.

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April 2018 Review Round Up

Happy May! Here’s what I listened to in April. And, as a heads up, it was a pretty fantastic month.

To start of with, you have Panopticon’s latest album. It’s hard to imagine a blackened folk album being this good. And, as much as I like Panopticon, I didn’t expect it from them.

But the real winner this month was death metal. Every release is a highlight, but each in a different way. Couldn’t believe my luck.

I saw Revocation again last month too. Holy crap. Just holy crap. I’ve seen them three times and each time they have blown the stage away. See them if you get the chance.

Aa usual, you can hit me up on Facebook. If you share the blog, do me favour and tag the page. I love to know this sort of stuff.

Album of the Month

Panopticon – The Scars of Man on the Once Nameless Wilderness (I and II)
(Blackened Folk Metal – United States of America)
Bindrune/Nordvis – 2018/04/08

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This double album, half their signature blackgrass sound; half true folk, is hands down the best thing Panopticon have ever produced. The blend of oddly uplifting, empowering black metal and bleak, soulful folk allows the band to truly explore the full breadth of their talent. It goes places I didn’t think they could reach. Absolutely astounding.

The Rest on Alphabetical Order
Alucinari – Alucinari
(Deathviolence – United States of America)
Night Animal Records – 2018/04/05

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Whew, this is some aggressive stuff. The combination of death metal’s pummelling relentlessness with the bombastic hyperactivity of powerviolence creates one hell of an assault on the ears. It blasts through at an energy level that makes you worry about them burning up. This complete disregard for sonic welfare is a pretty glorious thing to behold.

Deadly Carnage – Through the Void, Above the Suns
(Blackened Doom Metal – Italy)
Aeternitas Tenebrarum Musicae Fundamentum – 2018/03/30

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Track 1 is a pretty stock intro. Track 2 is painfully beige. It beiges to the point of turning off. Track 3 onwards is solid gold. I ordinarily wouldn’t break an album down so crassly, but it’s necessary this time. The bulk of the album juggles and blends black metal, doom, and shoegaze in such a beautiful way that it would be criminal to write it off prematurely because of the initial blandness.

Hide – Castration Anxiety
(Industrial – United States of America)
Dais Records – 2018/03/23

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I may not be hugely knowledgeable when it comes to industrial, but Castration Anxiety really speaks to me. It seethes in a way that builds tension but rarely releases it. It’s one of those rare albums that is at its best when taken as a cohesive whole. Individual tracks are fantastic in their own right, but the tension dynamics make the entirety the goal.

Impure – Satan’s Eclipse Demo MMXVII
(Death Metal – United States of America)
Self-Released – 2018/01/12

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The lack of polish that is the almost inevitable result of demo production can definitely be turned to an advantage, if used properly. Impure certainly have. They’ve taken recording conditions that might make other bands sound muddy, and have turned out this fantastically cavernous, cadaverous sound. It’s a murky, ominous gem.

Indica – Disparity of a Day
(Stoner Doom Metal – Australia)
Self-Released – 2018/04/20

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Hands up who can guess what an album, released by Indica on 4/20, might sound like? If you said “fuzzed out, heavy as hell stoner doom”, you’d get a C+. To get the A, you’d have to talk about how in amongst the heaviness, there is a carefully woven thread of psychedelic light, which ensures a compositional sophistication. It’s much more than bong rips and fat riffs.

Of Feather and Bone – Beastial Hymns of Perversion
(Bestial Death Metal – United States of America)
Profound Lore – 2018/03/23

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If bestial death metal isn’t a subgenre, it bloody well should be. Bestial Hymns of Perversion can’t truly be called brutal death, but it’s way too aggressive and abrasive to be considered old school. The genre musings are important here because Of Feather of Bone have produced a truly standout album and it deserves to have its place in history immortalised properly.

Ripped to Shreds – 埋葬 (Máizàng – “Bury”)
(Death Metal – United States of America)
Craneo Negro Records – 2018/03/27

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Solo projects provide an artist the opportunity for singularity of vision; in Andrew Lee’s case, this vision is a thundering beast of an old school death metal album. Listening to it made me think of what would have happened Bolt Thrower got together with Scream Bloody Gore era-Death, except with a background in East Asian history. Unbelievably impressive.

Skeletal Remains – Devouring Mortality
(Death Metal – United States of America)
Dark Descent/Century Media – 2018/04/13

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This is an irresistibly fine album. It does more than just tick all of death metal’s boxes; it attacks them in such a way that makes all that was old new again. I haven’t heard anything in this genre sound so fresh in a long time. It makes me feel like I’m windmilling with luxurious waist length hair, even if I’m just gently headbanging while driving.

Vile Creature – Cast of Static and Smoke
(Doom Metal – Canada)
Self-Released – 2018/03/07

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Deeply atmospheric, this album is as entertaining as it is flawed. It’s lyrical themes are a tad mawkish, the guitar work leans simplistic, and there are some awkward momentum killers. But it’s engaging in spite of these factors. I can go from start to finish without wanting to skip bits. There’s no hate listening here. It’s not great but it’s far from terrible.

February 2018 Review Round Up

Another quiet month, but it’s no weaker for it. Quality over quantity seems to be my current measure. It’s back to back months without a dud album, so I’m definitely stoked about that.

Go buy Támsins Likam now. Drop everything and click the link. Doom is rarely so good.

The Facebook page is still up and running. Feel free to hit me up with listening suggestions.

Album of the Month
Hamferð – Támsins Likam
(Doom Metal – Faroe Islands)
Metal Blade – 2018/01/12

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A truly unmissable experience, Hamferð have delivered one of the great doom albums of our time. Crafted with the lonely majesty of Orchid-era Opeth and the aggressive melancholy of Kvarforth’s Shining, Támsins Likam is still all doom. It’s low, slow, and heavy, but is hauntingly beautiful in its execution. Paradoxically sparse and lush all at once.

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Black Mecha – Counterforce
(Experimental Electronica – Canada)
Profound Lore – 2018/01/12

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Definitely outside my usual wheelhouse, but so worth my time. Dark, hypnotic acoustic electronica builds tension through thrumming repetition. It sounds like an unseele rave; the drugs are very good, but the vibe is dark. Horrifyingly dark. There is no comfort to be found, but that knowledge creates a soothing masochism that sustains you through it.

Eigenlicht – Self-Annihilating Consciousness
(Black Metal – United States of America)
I, Voidhanger – 2018/02/16

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Risky business slowburning the start off an album when you’ve only got five tracks to play with, but when it pays off it was worth the gamble. Eigenlicht have delivered a dense, esoteric album. Inaccessible on the first spin, but on subsequent listens doors unlock and it starts to make sense. It pays substantial intellectual dividends to those willing to put the time in.

Portal – Ion
(Avant-garde Technical Death Metal – Australia)
Profound Lore – 2018/01/26

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Portal continue to ensure that a steady stream of weird lives on in techdeath. Ion is harsh and unforgiving, but is so absolutely driven that it makes it extremely difficult to stop. It absolutely has to be this way, as respite is a completely alien construct in the sonic universe created by these mad Brisbanites. Let its energy consume you.

Watain – Trident Wolf Eclipse
(Black Metal – Sweden)
Century Media – 2018/01/05

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Black metal’s high proselytisers have returned with another punishing dose of unhallowed fervour. Unlike recent efforts, this seems to be less interested in converting the unbeliever and a lot more involved in drumming up fury from the already damned. It’s aggressive in a way you thought they couldn’t be anymore. Never doubt what the iron-willed can do.

September 2016 Review Round Up

An abbreviated review collection this month. Metalshopped’s hard earned cash was geared towards live music this month. How could I turn down tickets to Enslaved, Opeth, Meshuggah, etc? They’re not going to see themselves, now are they?

That being said, there was some absolute gold this month. SubRosa’s phenomenal For This We Fought the Battle of Ages ran first with distance for second. Other albums this month were good, even great; but SubRosa stood apart.

Insomnium’s colossal one track album, Winter’s Gate, more than deserved its honourable mention. Listening to what is traditionally a melodeath band put out such a complicated slab of prog is very satisfying.

As usual, feel free to hit me up on Facebook. Especially if you’ve got a release you think is worth a listen.

Until next month
\m/

Album of the Month
SubRosa – For This We Fought the Battle of Ages
(Doom metal – United States of America)
Profound Lore Records – 2016/08/26

In doom circles, SubRosa has always been in a league of their own, but this album sees them push out even further. It’s a perfect combination of ethereal vocals, surprisingly technical guitars, and lyrics that delve deeply into uncomfortable truths. Here is the beauty in despair; here is death’s loving embrace.
Try before you buy: Despair is a Siren (Bandcamp)

Honourable Mention
Insomnium – Winter’s Gate
(Progressive death metal – Finland)
Century Media – 2016/09/23

This is what I like to see; a prog band actually taking a calculated risk to progress themselves as a band. The album’s one track runs for forty minutes, but it uses that time well. In a literal sense, it tells a story. A damn good one. But it’s their music that fleshes out the drama. Riveting.
Try before you buy: the first ten minutes should provide ample introduction. (YouTube)

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Oranssi Pazuzu – Värähtelijä
(Psychedelic black metal – Finland)
20 Buck Spin/Svart Records – 2016/02/26

Your average psychedelic black metal album is the result of taking a load of hallucinogens and embracing the darkness. Oranssi Pazuzu aims to break the mold with Värähtelijä. This is an album that sounds like it’s supposed to be the drug. Its ebbs and flows worm their way into the cracks in your psyche. It wants to alter you. It almost succeeds.
Try before you buy: Saturaatio (Bandcamp)

Schammasch – Triangle
(Black metal – Switzerland)
Prosthetic Records – 2016/04/29

Put some time aside, because at three discs, Triangle needs some time to get acquainted. Humming with monastic contemplation and possessed of a Behemoth-esque fervour, this triple album challenges you to think and rewards you with intensity. There’s something almost perverse about something so austere sounding so lavish.
Try before you buy: Awakening from the Dream of Life (Bandcamp)

Sumac – What One Becomes
(Post-metal – United States of America)
Thrill Jockey – 2016/06/10

This isn’t a bold splash into new territory, which some may see as disappointing. Not me though, because what it does is continue on from where The Deal left off. This isn’t an endnote or an unnecessary sequel; this is an album born of the same creative impetus that gave us one of 2015’s better albums.
Try before you buy: Clutch of Oblivion (Bandcamp)

Tombs – All Empires Fall
(Post-black metal – United States of America)
Relapse Records – 2016/04/01

What Tombs does better than pretty well any other post-black act is subtlety. They blast and howl. They swoon and meditate. This isn’t unusual for the genre. It’s how they incorporate the extremes of style in such an organic, almost imperceptible way that is. An uncannily expert performance.
Try before you buy: Deceiver (Bandcamp)


Releases of the Year for 2015

Another year down, another fifty releases that everyone should give a crack. I’m pretty comfortable saying 2015 was one of the best years in metal for a long time. For at least half the year I was worried that I may be too generous in my reviews; by the end of the year it was clear that the standard of music was simply better.

This will be the last of my regular posts. I will still do occasional one off reviews and I will most likely release a considerably smaller best of 2016 next year, but as far as regular, monthly posts go, I am finished. It has been tremendous fun though.

Thanks for all the support. I hope everyone loves these releases as much as I do.

Album of the Year
Prurient – Frozen Niagara Falls

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Profound Lore Records – 2015/05/12

What I Said Then: Frozen Niagara Falls lives up to its name; it’s awe-inspiring, seemingly unnatural, and thoroughly unsettling.
What I Say Now: What makes this a truly remarkable album is its emotional complexity. It is buoyantly unsettling and tumultuously welcoming. There is skill beyond measure on display here.

Some Other Top Things Worth Mentioning
Best Live Act: Revocation

In a year populated with top tier live acts (At the Gates, Mastodon, Opeth, etc), these tech-thrash bruisers stood tall. They play with an almost psychotic amount of intensity. Real take-charge live metal.

Best cover art: Purple by John Baizley

Aside from being a fantastic musician, Baizley is also one of metal’s great artists. Unsurprisingly, he saves some of his best work for his own band. Purple is a complicated piece that matches the emotional tone of the album.

My Other Picks for 2015
2) High on Fire – Luminiferous

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eOne Music – 2015/06/23

What I Said Then: The whole album sounds heavier than the Hercules–Corona Borealis Great Wall.
What I Say Now: This remains an absolutely titanic display of pure riffing. There is an almost alchemical genius at work here as, slow or fast, these songs supernaturally heavy. Press play and marvel at the masters at work.

3) Bell Witch – Four Phantoms

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Profound Lore Records – 2015/04/28

What I Said Then: They let the light in[;] the flashes may stop the lonely fumbling in the dark, but they do illuminate the barren hopelessness that surrounds you.
What I Say Now: This isn’t the sound of darkness killing light; this is darkness gently caressing the light as it dies in its arms. There is as much tact and beauty here as there is soul-crushing misery and grief.

4) Napalm Death – Apex Predator – Easy Meat

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Century Media Records – 2015/01/27

What I Said Then: It still has the visceral hostility that has made them one of the all time greats, but is delivered as a rally cry not raw invective.
What I Say Now: Giving this another critical listen has only raised it in my esteem. From its industrial yet monastic opener to its rabble rousing final track, there is vitality permeating every moment.

5) Lxs Jugadxs – Demo 2015

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Self-released – 2015/07/21

What I Said Then: Wild and raucous, yet possessed of a controlled fury, Lxs Jugadxs make the contradictions work for them.
What I Say Now: Lxs Jugadxs’ third demo came together in a perfect storm of manic aggression. Its four short tracks have more revolutionary firebrand in them than other grinders get in a career.

6) Baroness – Purple

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Abraxan Hymns – 2015/12/18

What I Said Then: Purple is still redolent with their trademark languid grace, but there’s an unmistakable fire in its belly.
What I Say Now: Effortlessly charming, Purple is an album that makes itself a home in your heart and you’ll never want it to leave. There’s something about its high energy melancholy that leaves you warmed through.

7) Windhand – Grief’s Infernal Flower

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Relapse Records – 2015/09/18

What I Said Then: At its core there is self-loathing and rage, which is obfuscated by clouds numbing dope smoke.
What I Say Now: Unfathomable grief rings out with every note. Its naked emotion is what makes this album stand out. Doom is often depressed, but few albums achieve this level of ineffable sadness.

8) Gold – No Image

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Profound Lore Records/VÁN Records – 2015/11/06

What I Said Then: The bleakness goes right to the core[;] this is apocalyptically beautiful.
What I Say Now: As depressing as this album could have been, it’s remarkable just how uplifting it actually is. It turns the desperate clutching of the cold, barren void into a warm and loving embrace.

9) The Rodeo Idiot Engine – Malaise

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Throatruiner Records – 2015/11/23

What I Said Then: Rusty cheese greaters scrubbing the soul to a bloody mess.
What I Say Now: Such furious intensity shouldn’t be such a joy to listen to. It’s emotionally calamitous, but played with such infectious, energetic zeal. It is literally impossible to not enjoy.

10) Sunset in the 12th House – Mozaic

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Prophecy Productions – 2015/06/05

What I Said Then: Mostly instrumental, melody ebbs and flows like the tides, building to a massive storm surge of blackened elemental fury on the final track.
What I Say Now: It’s a truly remarkable sonic dreamscape. Sprawling continents of sound are brought to life and populated with attention to detail. If I believed in magic, I would know that sorcery is at work here.

11) Folivore – Eve of Conception

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Black Goat Records – 2015/04/20

What I Said Then: It’s a particularly whacked out blend of marijuana and Mephistopheles.
What I Say Now: It still astonishes me that this is a demo. The certainty of the production and the sophistication of the music are far above demo quality. They may well be the most competent stoners in metal.

12) Enslaved – In Times

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Nuclear Blast – 2015/03/06

What I Said Then: From start to finish, In Times soars to the towering heights of majesty.
What I Say Now: Enslaved have struck an intriguing balance between light and dark on In Times. Stirring and inspiring, cold and bleak; there is a pervasive warmth here, if you let the cold wash over you.

13) Sumac – The Deal

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Profound Lore Records – 2015/02/17

What I Said Then: The Deal comes across like Jovian gossamer; delicately crafted but astronomically heavy.
What I Say Now: There may be heavier albums on this list, albums that pin you in place with crushing weight, but none can match The Deal for oppressiveness. It looms over you like a towering monolith.

14) Abyssal – Antikatastaseis

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Profound Lore Records – 2015/06/23

What I Said Then: 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.
What I Say Now: The comparison to Dante’s Inferno that I used in the initial review was more apt than I realised at the time. This may be a nightmarish hellscape, but there’s an enduring poetic quality to it.

15) Symphony X – Underworld

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Nuclear Blast – 2015/07/24

What I Said Then: It maintains the heavier tone of their recent output, but is reinvigorated with the complicated fret work that made their earlier work so good.
What I Say Now: I sincerely hope Underworld is the album that gets Symphony X the wider profile they deserve. Progressive and aggressive; tense and dense; I haven’t been awed by fretwork this fine in a long time.

16) Marilyn Manson – The Pale Emperor

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Hell, etc – 2014/01/19

What I Said Then: It’s the work of a man looking back at his legacy and taking stock of all his missed opportunities and regrets. 
What I Say Now: I still have lasting concerns that this is an elaborate suicide note. Its mature and understated approach is perfect for its barren and lonely themes. Who knew that Muz had an album like this in him.

17) Peasant – Go to Hell

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Self-released – 2015/04/20

What I Said Then: This is an album that gushes evil from every rollicking note.
What I Say Now: Of the seven deadly sins, pride is traditionally the most heinous. Makes sense listening to this hellraising racket. A self-assured swagger and raucous braggadocio is inherent throughout.

18) Leviathan – Scar Sighted

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Profound Lore Records – 2015/03/03

What I Said Then: Scar Sighted expertly balances esotericism and malice[, which] makes for an album that is simultaneously contemplative and destructive.
What I Say Now: Wrest has crafted one of the most challenging sonic landscapes for 2015. Untold legions of malice lurk, obfuscated by an often impenetrable miasma of contempt. He makes hatred a tangible sensation.

19) Pissgrave – Suicide Euphoria

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Profound Lore Records – 2015/08/04

What I Said Then: [The] music they play is easily some of the most satisfyingly visceral death metal out there.
What I Say Now: The grotesque cover art is perfect advertising for this album; there is only putrefied, noisome death here. It’s straight to the point and that point is it wants to kill you. Horrific in a satisfying way.

20) Deafheaven – New Bermuda

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Anti Records – 2015/10/02

What I Said Then: The five tracks on New Bermuda have that rare knack of being instantly memorable without being simplistic.
What I Say Now: No other band manages the interplay between light and dark quite like Deafheaven does. Here the warmth and light only serve to remind the listener that storm clouds are bearing down.

21) Gnaw Their Tongues – Abyss of Longing Throats

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Crucial Blast – 2015/08/04

What I Said Then: [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.
What I Say Now: Abyss is the void looking back at you, its sensual malevolence longing to infect you with its chaos. It remains a profoundly unsettling, uncomfortable experience.

22) Motörhead – Bad Magic

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UDR Music – 2015/08/28

What I Said Then: Forty years of performance and Motörhead are still capable of releasing an album that blows you away.
What I Say Now: Motörhead are one of metal’s oldest institutions, so it’s not surprising that people may not get excited for a new album. But you should get excited for Bad Magic. Every track is a solid gold hit.

23) Lamantide – Carnis Tempora: Abyssus

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Self-released – 2015/10/26

What I Said Then: It’s an intense experience in the best way.
What I Say Now: Definitely puts the post back into post-hardcore, as there is a definite Swans-esque embrace of otherness. It’s more than distortion or structure; Lamantide pulls hardcore into brave new forms.

24) Choking – Choking

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Self-released – 2015/05/15

What I Said Then: Choking is an apt name for the band, as every stanza tries to crush the life out of you.
What I Say Now: I’m hung up on just how suffocating this release is. The appropriateness of the name has only increased with time. It violently sucks the air out of the atmosphere, leaving the listener breathless.

25) Kylesa – Exhausting Flame

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Season of Mist – 2015/10/02

What I Said Then: Groovy in the good way, but possessed of a gnawing melancholy, this may just be the most upbeat sad album you’ll hear.
What I Say Now: Kylesa’s grimey heaviness is delicately balanced with their ear for emotional heaviness. Exhausting Flame is just that: exhausting. It’s a draining experience, but in a satisfying way.

26) Leprous – The Congregation

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InsideOut Music – 2015/05/25

What I Said Then: The music weaves a hypnotic tapestry for the ears, while the vocals are delivered with a Muse-esque pathos.
What I Say Now: Meandering in a most deliberate manner, The Congregation is easily the urgent daydream of 2015. It’s aggressive beauty isn’t just aging well; it’s becoming more dominant by the second.

27) Goolagoon – Patrickviolence Demo

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Dickcrush – 2015/03/30

What I Said Then: I sit here, flayed, wondering how a concept so stupid can pay off with such overwhelming satisfaction.
What I Say Now: I still find it hard to believe that the Spobgebob schtick hasn’t grown old. But it hasn’t. The odd combination of powerviolence and surf rock keeps this fresh listen after listen after listen.

28) Cavernlight – Corporeal

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Self-released – 2015/04/07

What I Said Then: The first time you listen to it is like crossing an event horizon; you may not realise it, but you’re inexorably and inevitably drawn to a crushing black hole.
What I Say Now: The way these four tracks build pressure is amazing. The atmospheres just keep on piling up, breaking bones and forcing the air from your lungs. It’s a terrifying force of nature in your ears.

29) Woundvac – Disgraced Convert

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Self-released – 2015/09/08

What I Said Then: Their songs see anger and disaffection collide in explosive blasts of discontent.
What I Say Now: Woundvac get it. Their approach to grind is as unforgiving as Sheriff Joe’s understanding of Christ. It’s a non-stop blast of expertly crafted aggression. Hostility is the winner here.

30) Cruciamentum – Charnel Passages

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Profound Lore Records – 2015/09/04

What I Said Then: The cacophonous darkness of the rhythms is punctuated by howling melodies which swell into fierce solos.
What I Say Now: Charnel Passages burns real slow. It’s not until the final track burns out that you realise that it’s taken everything around it with it. It’s destructive in a way that you can’t turn off or ignore.

31) Alder Glade – Demo II

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Auris Apothecary – 2015/05/14

What I Said Then: 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.
What I Say Now: Don’t know what I was thinking when I first reviewed this; I should have been far more glowing in my praise. The wholehearted embrace of the tyranny of isolation is impressive.

32) Boak – Boak

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Self-released – 2015/06/03

What I Said Then: It sounds like a frenzied melee, with breaks in tempo acting to add emphasis.
What I Say Now: Singularly aggressive hardcore-by-the-way-of-powerviolence. Drumming that sounds like a swarm of angry hornets underscores guitars and vocals that exist solely to injure.

33) Hate Eternal – Infernus

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Season of Mist – 2015/08/21

What I Said Then: With such aggressive fret work on display, there’s no possible way to be disappointed.
What I Say Now: Sleeper of the year in my opinion. I couldn’t stop listening to it. This is more than a stellar death metal album; this is one of those albums will age spectacularly. It’s left a lasting impression.

34) Abstracter – Wound Empire

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Sentient Ruin Laboratories et al – 2015/02/10

What I Said Then: They have taken all of black metal’s misanthropy and reflected it inwards.
What I Say Now: This remains as darkly captivating now as it was when I first gave it a spin. Suffused with creeping misery that is as relentless as it is achingly slow, Wound Empire is a glacier of haunting depression.

35) Manhunt – Manhunt

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625 Thrash/Lethal Dose Records/RSR – 2015/01/16

What I Said Then: Make no mistake, lots of punk is destructive as a cyclone; Manhunt tear shit up like they’re the red spot on Jupiter, whipping around at 600 kilometres per hour.
What I Say Now: This is the real thing. You can feel the press of bodies in the pit. You can smell the acrid tang of sweat. You can see the steam rising off the superheated mob. Savour the hardcore sensation.

36) Leucrota – Demo

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Sentient Ruin Laboratories – 2015/02/28

What I Said Then: It’s unforgiving, but absolutely necessary.
What I Say Now: Putting traditional punk immediacy on the back-burner in favour of persistent sinister menace makes this 2015’s most intimidating punk release. Violent in a way that hints that it could be much more so.

37) Unyielding Love – Demo 2015

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Self-released – 2015/09/29

What I Said Then: Thuggish and muscular black metal is made even nastier with sociopathic noise.
What I Say Now: Cataclysmic noise given only the barest semblance of structure, Unyielding Love take metal to a new uncompromising extreme. Challenging and hateful, this demo is a black spot on the soul.

38) Cloud Rat – Qliphoth

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Halo of Flies – 2015/05/29

What I Said Then: It doesn’t hesitate to bring the blasting violence, but it also allows itself to plumb darker depths of humanity by slowing down and letting melody reign.
What I Say Now: The sophistication that Cloud Rat bring to grind continues to seem incongruously oxymoronic. The mingling of ferocious blastbeats and crystal delicate melodies required amazing skill.

39) Horrendous – Anareta

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Dark Descent Records – 2015/10/30

What I Said Then: Slowly We Rot atop the Altars of Madness while we Scream Bloody Gore until Fuckin’ Death seems to sum it up.
What I Say Now: There is a warm glow of nostalgia radiating from every note. The throwback to death metal’s origins is welcome. But the top quality performances from all involved is what makes this so necessary.

40) Carnero – Carnero

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Self-released – 2015/05/29

What I Said Then: It has that perfect combination of energy, intensity, and message that all great hardcore has.
What I Say Now: It’s releases like this that keep me connected to hardcore. There’s nothing disingenuous here; it’s pure, nasty, violent punk. It’s everything that made the genre great in seven tracks.

41) Drudkh – Борозна обірвалася (A Furrow Cut Short)

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Season of Mist – 2015/04/20

What I Said Then: Drudkh is the Gold Standard for black metal because they keep on putting out albums as good as this. 
What I Say Now: There’s an anguished longing at the core of this. It aches. It needs. It wants. It hungers. I doubt any other band could conjure such excruciating exquisiteness and sustain it so long.

42) Serpents Lair – Circumambulating the Stillborn

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Fallen Empire Records/Duplicate Records/Hellthrasher Productions – 2015/11/03

What I Said Then: Sometimes icy in its hate, sonetimes scorching in its wrath, Circumambulating the Stillborn is always venomous.
What I Say Now: There’s something to be said for tremolo picking, Christ punching, trve kvlt traditionalism. So long as it’s done well of course. Serpents Lair nail it with an album that is both violent and hypnotic.

43) Sunn O))) – Kannon

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Southern Lord – 2015/12/04

What I Said Then: Sunn O)))’s first non-collaborative work of the decade is less total speaker destruction and more monks at the temple of loud.
What I Say Now: Crushing tectonic force is what’s on display. The slightest shift in tone causes rumbles that can be felt for miles. As contemplative in tone as it is, Kannon is loaded with destruction.

44) Krallice – Ygg Huur

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Gilead Media/Avantgarde Music – 2015/07/30

What I Said Then: An immovable object given irresistible force.
What I Say Now: Brilliantly technical and possessed of a sensibility for other genres, Ygg Huur is a black metal album apart from its genre. It’s fascinating listening to an album that twists the norms so ably.

45) Lamb of God – VII: Sturm und Drang

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Nuclear Blast – 2015/07/24

What I Said Then: 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[.]
What I Say Now: Given that LoG hasn’t been relevant to me since I replaced my teenage angst with adult ennui, it’s impressive how much of an impact this made. Proof that groove metal isn’t always a pejorative.

46) Melechesh – Enki

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Nuclear Blast – 2015/02/27

What I Said Then: It wields fury and malice like a fanatic wielding a censer brimming with balefire. 
What I Say Now: With music like this, it’s no wonder Melechesh isn’t welcome in their home country anymore. Its combination of blackened death and Middle Eastern folk is unforgettably vicious.

47) Iron Maiden – Book of Souls

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Parlophone – 2015/09/04

What I Said Then: Never have Maiden songs had this much room to soar.
What I Say Now: I’m a big fan of Maiden’s millennial work, but Book of Souls is their first bona fide classic in a long time. It’s a double album where everything sounds necessary and vital. Essential listening.

48) Ironic Reversal – Dysgenic

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Self-released – 2015/10/15

What I Said Then: Make no mistake: these guys can write riffs that put most other death metallers to shame.
What I Say Now: Ironic Reversal know how to death metal. The fine balance they strike between the technical and the progressive is not an easy thing to achieve. Few bands have the raw talent that this duo do.

49) A Forest of Stars – Beware the Sword You Cannot See

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Prophecy Productions – 2015/02/27

What I Said Then: They got the interplay between blackened intensity and Victorian aesthetic spot on.
What I Say Now: It’s an album almost punget with the acrid smoke of coal-fired industry and the incense of Infernal mysticism. It’s intriguing and beguiling with more than a hint of razor-edged danger.

50) Enforcer – From Beyond

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Nuclear Blast – 2015/02/27

What I Said Then: It’s a glorious reaffirmation of everything good about heavy metal.
What I Say Now: It’s leather and big hair from start to finish. Enforcer’s brand of beautiful speed metal anachronism works so well because they have the balls to go there and the talent to back it up. Play it loud.

November 2015 Review Round Up

The good people over at Faster Louder made a good point when evaluating their own 50 Best Albums of 2015; it has been one of the best years for music in a long time. Now, obviously, their focus is on the pop/rnb/electronic spectrum, whereas I’m definitely more metal and punk, but the overall statement holds true. The year 2015 has been outstanding for metal and it still hasn’t quite finished. There’s still albums by Sunn O))) and Baroness to come, not to mention a few things I’ve missed up until now, so there’s a lot to look forward to even at this late stage.

As far as November goes, you can’t go past No Image by Gold and Malaise by The Rodeo Idiot Engine. Both are masterpieces of emotional depth. As much as it was tough to pick one over the other, ultimately I settled on No Image’s beautiful nihilism over Malaise’s harrowing intensity.

Next month sees the release of my Best Self-Released Titles for 2015. It may not run to fifty this year. I’ve been a lot more diligent in crediting labels and distros, so the number of acts I considered wholy self-released has dropped somewhat. I also think I haven’t reviewed as many titles overall this year compared to last, so that would also account for a drop. I just want to publish a list that’s representative of what I have listened to this year.

See you next month. As always, you can contact me on Facebook. Enjoy.

Album of the Month
Gold – No Image
(Death rock – The Netherlands)
Profound Lore Records/VÁN Records – 2015/11/06

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No Image is a truly remarkable album. The songs are often coruscating with distortion, creating bristling laments to the fall of man. But all the effects in the world wouldn’t take away from the power contained in the music; they could be performed with acoustics only and they would be in no way diminished. The bleakness goes right to the core. Complimented with haunting vocals, this is apocalyptically beautiful.
Try before you buy: Don’t (Bandcamp)

Honourable Mention
The Rodeo Idiot Engine – Malaise
(Avantcore – France)
Throatruiner Records – 2015/11/23

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This is the first time I’ve been exposed to TRIE, but I’m already more than content to rank them alongside Converge and The Dillinger Escape Plan as one of the smartest bands in heaviness. They play an off the wall variety of metallic hardcore that is just as raw as it is furious. And by raw, I mean devastating. Rusty cheese greaters scrubbing the soul to a bloody mess. Intensity turned cataclysmic.
Try before you buy: Syngue Sabour (Bandcamp)

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Beyond All Deception – Beyond All Deception
(Melodic death thrash – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/10/31

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You could just as easily classify these guys as deathly speed metal. They hammer down hard. They spend so much time red lining that they start to bend the needle. It’s intense. They do tend trade a bit of precision to maintain this intensity, but it’s a good deal. You just have to appreciate such a ballsy display of raw power. The wildness may make it a bit rough from time to time, but it’s a cracking ride nonetheless.
Try before you buy: Malevolence (Bandcamp)

Boak – Boak
(Powerviolence – United Kingdom)
Self-released – 2015/06/03

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There is a fantastically cinematic feel to these half-dozen tracks. It sounds like a frenzied melee, with breaks in tempo acting to add emphasis. It’s the audio equivalent of slowing down a fight scene to highlight a particularly spectacular or brutal blow, only to have the fracas return to full speed to maintain structural flow. Ultimately, it’s as uncompromising as their cover art, but done with style.
Try before you buy: Who is the Animal Here? (Bandcamp)

Brain Famine – Exploding Paranoid Universe
(Deathgrind – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/10/19

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This isn’t just aggressive; this is dirty and downright nasty. As I listen all I see is two jacked up meatheads on pcp punching on in the mud in a backwater park somewhere. Nothing is held back and no amount of blood, sweat, or teeth is going to stop the relentless hostility until the deed is done. That the songs aren’t stereotypically short grinders is a bonus. Ten rounds of bare knuckle violence.
Try before you buy: Hallucinating Contagion (Bandcamp)

Dakhma – Passageways To Daena (The Concomitant Blessings Of Putrescing Impurity)
(Blackened death metal – Switzerland)
Self-released – 2015/02/25

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This isn’t the Dakhma who released Raze earlier this year; it’s a different horde of blackened death mongers. I get where these guys are coming from. Aiming for maximum cacophony and disorientation to achieve total sonic dissonance. It’s in much the same vein as Portal. The problem is the production is so muddy all the impact has been drained. All that’s left is a repetitive husk of aggression. Infuriating rather than maddening.
Try before you buy: Where Shattered Minds Collide (The Immortal March)

Horrendous – Anareta
(Death metal – United States of America)
Dark Descent Records – 2015/10/30

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This is deliciously old school. How old school? Slowly We Rot atop the Altars of Madness while we Scream Bloody Gore until Fuckin’ Death seems to sum it up. Horrendous really get the nuances right; Anareta is gritty and primal, but never succumbs to its own hostility. There’s control amidst the madness. And, to top things off, it’s a unique sound. They may be old school, but they’re not derivative. Outstanding stuff.
Try before you buy: Sum of All Failures (Bandcamp)

Intronaut – The Direction of Last Things
(Progressive metal – United States of America)
Century Media Records – 2015/11/13

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Energetic and engaging, The Direction of Last Things sees Intronaut continuing to confirm their status as one of metal’s smartest bands. The composition of these seven tracks allows the listener to fully experience the scope of their intellect without being bogged down in wearisome theory. It’s the Bill Nye of prog; it’s smart and makes you feel smarter for experiencing it, but never at the expense of entertainment.
Try before you buy: Digital Gerrymandering (YouTube)

Leash – Demo 2015
(Crust – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/10/19

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According to my learned colleagues over at Pledge Allegiance to Grindcore, Leash has links to Backstabbers Inc. That piqued my interest, especially since Trap Them was born out of them too. Colour me impressed. This is clattering, crashing, d-beat heavy crust. It’s energetic as hell. Mad as hell too. No comparisons necessary; this demo stands on its own as testament to hard as nails aggression.
Try before you buy: Revelation (Bandcamp)

Manhunt – Manhunt
(Hardcore – Australia)
625 Thrash/Lethal Dose Records/RSR – 2015/01/16

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Disappointed that I’ve missed this for the majority of the year. It’s hardcore, but it’s been booting up powerviolence in the men’s room of the [insert local punk venue]. Wickedly aggressive, this self-titled outing pulls no punches and gives zero fucks. Make no mistake, lots of punk is destructive as a cyclone; Manhunt tear shit up like they’re the red spot on Jupiter, whipping around at 600 kilometres per hour.
Try before you buy: No Tolerance (Bandcamp)

Psionic Plasma – Kaos Typhonian Dimensions
(Black metal – Spain)
Self-released – 2015/11/06

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Blaze era Darkthrone in space. That’s what we’ve got going on here. The first thing that struck me was the production. Raw, of course, but it came across as hearing the band from outside a club venue rather than a recording taken in a spooky forest with terrible equipment. Secondly, the music is excellent. It holds up better than most raw sounding black metal. Finally, the concept they use works. Kvlt in the void of space.
Try before you buy: Phosphorus (Bandcamp)

Savage Blind God – Demo
(Punk – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/09/11

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This demo is six tracks of feisty, raw punk with a beating black heart of Killing Joke-esque post-punk. Waves of anger batter unfeeling cliffs of dissonance like a hurricane off Dover. Forgive the unlikely metaphor, but that’s how it plays out. It has that absolute immediacy of raw punk and hardcore; it’s very in your face. But it’s loaded to the gunwales with intelligent instrumental technique. Engaging stuff.
Try before you buy: Sickening Sanity (Bandcamp)

Sergeant Thunderhoof – Ride the Hoof
(Stoner doom metal – United Kingdom)
Self-released – 2015/11/05

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Got your order of beer and pretzels metal, right here. This is exactly the sort of riff-pounding, bong-rocking metal you need blasting at any party. You honestly won’t care that it’s not the deepest of records; when you have a case of beers to get through, you don’t exactly want a case of the feels. It’s pretty well impossible to hate an album when its biggest fault is that it’s not a thought-provoking chin-scratcher.
Try before you buy: Reptilian Woman (Bandcamp)

Serpents Lair – Circumambulating the Stillborn
(Black metal – Denmark)
Fallen Empire Records/Duplicate Records/Hellthrasher Productions – 2015/11/03

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Serpents Lair’s demo from last year brimmed with malign promise, even if it didn’t quite deliver. Their first full length, however, is a baleful delivery on all promises made. And then some. It’s nothing less than pure, uncut evil. Sometimes icy in its hate, sonetimes scorching in its wrath, Circumambulating the Stillborn is always venomous. This is an affirmation of how awe-inspiringly terrifying black metal can be in its purest form.
Try before you buy: Epistemology of Death (Bandcamp)

Shining – International Blackjazz Society
(Avant-garde metal – Norway)
Spinefarm Records – 2015/10/16

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Increasingly difficult to categorise, International Blackjazz Society sees Shining become something not jazz and, yet, not truly metal. They have finally reached that point of transcendence they’ve been building to. Such experimental drive had the potential to end in an album more challenging than enjoyable, but the risk paid off. It’s an intelligent album that entertains rather than alienates.
Try before you buy: Last Day (YouTube)

Tuer – Ivresse & Enfer
(Grindcore – Switzerland)
Self-released – 2015/09/25

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At the risk of offending by comparison, I’m going to compare this intense slab of hostile grind to pop punk. Living dangerously, I know. I went there because the nine tracks are catchy as hell. Every track is an earworm. They get right into your head and stay there. The big difference is that, unlike pop punk, the album doesn’t make you want to commit suicide. Get stuck into it. It’s meaty good violence.
Try before you buy: Odyssée Ethylique (Bandcamp)

Vhöl – Deeper Than Sky
(Crusty blackened power metal – United States of America)
Profound Lore Records – 2015/10/23

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Vhöl is giving Sigh a run for their money in the competition for “Most Over The Top Release”. The key difference is coherence. Sigh threw notes at the score like they’re Jackson Pollock and hoped for the best, whereas Vhöl clearly had a plan they were executing. It’s still a mighty overwhelming combination of punk, power metal and black metal. It’s like a stoned berserker; charging ever forward, but in an upbeat manner.
Try before you buy: Red Chaos (Bandcamp)

February 2015 Review Round Up

Happy March, everyone.

2015 is shaping up nicely already. Napalm Death’s new album is an absolute wrecking ball of an album. It has that effortless quality to it, as though the band were so confident in what they were doing that the album was always going to come out perfect.

There was a fair bit of competition for the honourable mention too, but I eventually settled on KharmA. Incendiary grind at its best, SubReal is sonic arson.

I have finally got around to setting up a Facebook page too. Drop by and give me a like. If you like.

Until April, enjoy.

Album of the Month
Napalm Death – Apex Predator – Easy Meat
(Grindcore – United Kingdom)
Century Media Records – 2015/01/27

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The Godfathers of grind are back with their fifteenth album. They’re not struggling for material either. Greenway’s vocals, sublimely harsh and expertly spat, are an intelligent examination of the relationship between consumerism and slavery. The music itself is a way more catchy than grindcore has any right being. It still has the visceral hostility that has made them one of the all time greats, but is delivered as a rally cry not raw invective.
Try before you buy: Metaphorically Screw You (YouTube)

Honourable Mention
KharmA – SubReal
(Death grind – Venezuela)
Self-released – 2015/02/06

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I’m a pretty chilled out sort of guy on a day to day basis. I don’t have great insight into revolutionary zeal. KharmA, on the other hand, are made of fiery conviction. Their uncompromising blend of grind and death angries up the blood like few releases I’ve heard recently. The brutal vocals and severe guitars assault the ear drums, with the blasting drums beating a death march for the speed addled. I’m impressed by how well they use music as a medium for rage.
Try before you buy: Obliterados (Bandcamp)

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Addaura – …And the Lamps Expire
(Black metal – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/01/19

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I probably shouldn’t have listened to this while feeling a bit bummed, as it turned a mild funk into a spiralling depression. Then again, every band should be seeking to make a genuine emotional impact on the listener, so in this regard, Addaura is a raging success. The two long-ish tracks (separated by a short interlude) hit the right combination of guitars, keyboards, and vocals to make a poignant listening experience. Stunningly harrowing.
Try before you buy: Amid the Tumult and Clamor (I Look for the Light Through the Pouring Rain.) (Bandcamp)

Annúlond – The Baker of Aljubarrota
(Blackened folk metal – Australia)
Self-released – 2015/02/17

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An Australian band who self-describe as viking metal doing an album about a figure from Portuguese folklore. Good to see another female folk figure getting some attention. A seven foot tall woman with six fingers on each hand and innate knack for killing is pretty metal. Surprised the good baker doesn’t get more attention to be honest. The music itself is on the dour end of folk, like someone sucked all the joy and energy out of Finntroll. An interesting diversion.
Try before you buy: Rise of Penthesilea (Bandcamp)

Antareth – The Mask of Truth
(Doom metal – Canada)
Self-released – 2015/02/12

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Didn’t have high hopes for Antareth. That cover art set off all sorts of alarms. Being described as avant-garde didn’t sit well either. Pointless weirdness played slow didn’t sound appealing. Happily, the Mask of Truth exceeded my expectations. It’s a little bit dull, but not nearly as excruciating as it could have been. The clean vocals need to be scrubbed from future recordings too. Yes, it’s dull, but it does at least manage to sound original. A small victory.
Try before you buy: The Pearly Road (Bandcamp)

Archgoat – The Apocalyptic Triumphator
(Black metal – Finland)
Debemur Morti Productions – 2015/01/27

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If you want a blueprint for straight to the point, straight for your throat black metal, you could do worse than following Archgoat’s lead. The Apocalyptic Triumphator is an anti-cosmic high mass, leading the profane in worship most blasphemous. It does this through one of the finest combinations of guitars, drums, and vocals in black metal today. They’re not particularly strong on innovation, but given the performance, they don’t need to be.
Try before you buy: Grand Luciferian Theophany (Bandcamp)

Cowards – Rise to Infamy
(Blackened sludge – France)
Throatruiner Records – 2015/02/09

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I feel slightly uneasy about the thought of hearing this live. The malice broadcast through these ten songs should whip a live audience into a dervish of hatred that would tear apart the venue. They strike a fine balance between the heft of sludge’s mighty riffs and black metal’s coruscating fury. Balancing these elements creates an atmosphere of primal anger that the band only just contained long enough to successfully put to wax. Scary stuff.
Try before you buy: Beyond My Hands (Bandcamp)

Death Engine – Mud
(Sludgey hardcore – France)
Throatruiner Records – 2015/03/02

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I love Throatruiner. The label make all their releases available for free download. Rest assured, I went back and purchased a copy of Mud. Death Engine’s speciality is harsh and unrelenting music. Sludgey hardcore doesn’t seem entirely appropriate as a descriptor, but it’s as close to a specific genre as I can get. The raw barks of the vocalist collide with the pitiless melodies in a jagged rhythmic battleground. It’s an exhilarating experience.
Try before you buy: Organs (Bandcamp)

Eall – Scents of a Wandering Ghost
(Atmospheric black metal – France)
Self-released – 2015/02/07

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I detect the fear of failure in this demo. There are some movements that have the potential to be truly spectacular, but they always pull up too short, leaving the listener feeling short-changed. It’s like the band doesn’t fully trust their skills, which would explain why they so readily slide back into the murk of generic Burzum worship. This intermingling of the awe-inspiring and the insipid leaves the demo sounding disjointed. It’s disappointing rather than bad.
Try before you buy: That Brought Shining Visions In A Cold Water Stream (Bandcamp)

Ethereal Shroud – They Became the Falling Ash
(Blackened doom metal – United Kingdom)
Grimoire Cassette Cvlture – 2015/02/21

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This is more grandiose than I expected. In many ways it is a union of miserable metal’s soul mates, dsbm and funeral doom. There’s not an once of doubt that the three long tracks are bleak, but there’s definitely something else to it. There’s a grandeur to it that would be equally appropriate for an epic doom act, were it not so depressing. It’s the guitar movements. There’s a sweep to them that allows the band to generate a dark energy to hammer home the misery.
Try before you buy: Look Upon the Light (Bandcamp)

Gomgoma – Medicine Apophthegms
(Doom metal – Greece)
Self-released – 2015/02/07

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It’s a bit of a dog’s breakfast. The vocalist would be better served in a funeral doom act, rather than this somewhat sludgey affair. The drummer is wasted here; easily an A+ performer in a C band. Lays down a triumphant beat that gives the songs at least some semblance of energy. The guitar work is a buzzkill; there’s not a lot to enjoy here. They either need to be slower to pack some wallop or faster to build some energy. Tempo limbo is a killer.
Try before you buy: Asstray (Bandcamp)

Karmageddon – Preborn
(Southern metal – Hungary)
Self-released – 2015/02/08

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Southern metal: typically a term used by bands who owe so much to Dimebag and Vinnie Paul, they might as well drop a sack of royalties off directly at the House of Abbott. Karmageddon don’t exactly distance themselves from this assessment. They’re pretty hard to hate though. The vocals aren’t brilliant, but the rest of the music has an infectious energy to it that you can’t help but enjoy. They’ll never be critical darlings, but they are good, solid fun.
Try before you buy: Faith in Me (Bandcamp)

Marduk – Frontschwein
(Black metal – Sweden)
Century Media Records – 2015/01/19

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This is a punch in the face with black metal. The military theme is well executed, turning the album into a mighty blitzkrieg. I think what appeals to me more is that Frontschwein manages to arrest the Funeral Mist-ification that Marduk was undergoing. I love Mortuus’ other band, but I got into Marduk with Panzer Division Marduk. I’m all about the war themes and the militaristic rhythms, which this album delivers on in a big way. Brutal and hellish.
Try before you buy: Afrika (YouTube)

Misþyrming – Söngvar elds og óreiðu
(Black metal – Iceland)
Fallen Empire Records – 2015/02/07

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This is a fine addition to world of intellectual black metal. It sounds like it belongs to the wonderfully fruitful French scene that spawned Deathspell Omega and Arkhon Infaustus. Rhythm and melody are tortured into twisted abominations. The vocals, while mostly harshly intoned venom, have a range not commonly seen in this particular neck of the blackened woods. It’s an album that revels in bleak inhumanity. As monstrous and unforgiving as hell.
Try before you buy: Friðþæging blýþungra hjartna (Bandcamp)

Mortum – Ascending Calamity
(Black metal – United States of America)
Vanguard Productions – 2015/02/14

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Mortum, we need to talk. It’s about your intentions. Do you plan on remaining an underground act, only heard by the trve and the occasional falsey (such as myself) who stumbles upon you? Or do you want to be bigger and have wider exposure? I hope it’s the later, because your talent is wasted on basement recordings. I’m very grateful to Vanguard. They did put this out for you and I heard it as a result. But you have talent that deserves to be heard above tape hiss.
Try before you buy: Scourge of Suffering (Bandcamp)

Rusco – Demo 2015
(Grindcore – Italy)
Self-released – 2015/02/22

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As relentless and destructive as an archetypal slasher film villain, Rusco’s demo doesn’t mess about. There isn’t even the illusion of respite during the ten tracks on offer. Bass heavy and jammed to overflowing with blastbeats, they still manage to make each song stand out on its own; they have succeeded in cultivating relentlessness without falling into the trap of monotony. It’s also good to hear organ-gargling vocals outside of goregrind.
Try before you buy: Cloaca (Bandcamp

Seventh Dimension – Recognition
(Progressive metal – Sweden)
Self-released – 2015/02/13

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An entertaining effort from Seventh Dimension. They’re out on the power metal end of prog’s spectrum, so expect something closer to Symphony X, albeit without their panache, than Dream Theater. It maintains an upbeat pace and avoids self-indulgence. It’s crowd pleasing. The cynic in me thinks they have a specific label they’re trying to woo, but that shouldn’t take away from the fact that they have produced an album geared up for broad appeal.
Try before you buy: Third Eye (Bandcamp)

Sumac – The Deal
(Post-metal – United States of America)
Profound Lore Records – 2015/02/17

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Aaron Turner’s latest musical venture, in collaboration with Nick Yacyshyn and Brian Cook, sees him once again venturing into the realms of post-metal. It’s an impressive release. The Deal comes across like Jovian gossamer; delicately crafted but astronomically heavy. It’s so heavy it forms its own gravitational pull, keeping the listener drawn in until the final note fades. But it’s effortless in its heavyness, allowing the listener to bear the full brunt of its atmosphere.
Try before you buy: Hollow King (Bandcamp)