May 2018 Review Round Up

Hoo boy, June kind of just appeared, didn’t it? Was still hammering out a review or two in the wee hours of publishing day morn. It was a pretty easy month to get distracted by though.

I started the month by travelling to see Ihsahn. As far as I’m concerned he’s one of the great icons of metal and it showed in his live performance. Credit too goes to Direct Touring for matching him up with some great support. Mar Mortuum were frosty and aggressive like black metal should be. The ludicrously good Ylva gave me vertigo through sheer heaviness. And Hybrid Nightmares were so over the top it was pretty well impossible to not enjoy them. But the man himself put them all to shame. Cracking night out.

On that topic of Ihsahn, Àmr is my album of the month. I expect high quality from him. We all should by now. But this is a step beyond. It’s probably the finest album in his catalogue. I’m sure some Emperor purists will disagree, but they should know they’re wrong.

Shout outs go to Altarage and Woundvac for some kick ass merch. Always appreciated when bands do merch in big guy sizes.

I’ll be back next month. As usual, if you have comments or critique, you can hit me up on Facebook.

Enjoy

Album of the Month
Ihsahn – Àmr
(Progressive Metal – Norway)
Candlelight – 2018/05/04

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If you only have one Ihsahn album in your collection, make sure it’s Àmr. It takes all the good things from his previous solo works and distils them down to nine tracks of perfection. It’s technically superb, emotionally vivid, and memorable in a way that defies expectation. From its opening moments I haven’t wanted to listen to anything else. It has completely dominated this month.

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Amorphis – Queen of Time
(Progressive Metal – Finland)
Nuclear Blast – 2018/05/18

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This is all over the place. I can’t remember another album quite like it to be honest. It has some songs that are contenders for track of the year. It also has a couple of appalling tracks that you just can’t listen to. The production values are universally top notch, so this is all about stylistic choices. And I just can’t fathom how it all came together.

Blood Tsunami – Grave Condition
(Thrash – Norway)
Soulseller Records – 2018/04/27

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Kudos to these mad thrashers. This started life as a four track ep, which they then bulked out with some unreleased material. But for Dungeon of the Rats (originally from For Faen!), I wouldn’t have noticed. It’s real impressive that it sounds so cohesive. Better than cohesive, it’s high quality and entertaining as hell. Quality musicianship from all involved.

Depravity – Evil Upheaval
(Death Metal – Australia)
Transcending Obscurity Records – 2018/04/30

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The toughest albums to review aren’t the great nor the grating. They’re the merely good. And that’s what Evil Upheaval is. Heavy without being crushing. Fast without being blistering. Entertaining without being memorable. And that’s the key point; if you like death metal, you will definitely like this, but don’t expect it to linger in your consciousness.

Drudkh – Їм часто сниться капіж (They Often See Dreams About the Spring)
(Black Metal – Ukraine)
Season of Mist – 2018/03/09

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Following up the terrific A Furrow Cut Short was going to be a tall order, but They Often See Dreams is a resounding success. Invigorated and pissed off, Drudkh’s signature invocation of misery has never sounded so vital. A dark undercurrent of furious energy drives this, never allowing it to settle. The Drudkh renaissance continues.

Ekranoplan – Hypnopædia
(Sludge Metal with a dash of Grind – Germany)
Narshardaa Records – 2018/01/30

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I remember Ekranoplan’s demo being much more of an Entombedcore affair, so this progression was a surprise. While there is still a mighty fistful of HM2 going on, the sound has been built on and enriched by adding aggressive, pounding, High on Fire-esque sludge. It’s not straight up mean; it’s complex layers of mean.

Mesarthim – The Density Parameter
(Black Metal – Australia)
Avantgarde Music – 2018/04/03

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Mesarthim want you to know that if you stare into the void, the void will never stare back. The void does not care that you exist. There is nothing out there but a vast frozen emptiness, occasionally lit by beautiful clouds of radiation capable of flaying flesh from bone and burning bone to ash. Existence is a perilous, bleak, and futile endeavour.

夢遊病者 (Muyūbyō-sha – Sleepwalker) – 一期一会 (Ichi-go ichi-e – For this time only, never again)
(Avantgarde Black Metal – Japan)
Sentient Ruin Laboratories – 2018/05/25

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I have quietly anticipated this album since it was announced. It just seemed so intriguing. It delivered on that promise. It mesmerises as it slowly unveils its many secrets. Such esoteric bleakness really shouldn’t sound this welcoming and warm. And, yet, it’s distant and almost unknowable. This is deliberate, challenging, masterful.

Petrification – Hollow of the Void
(Death Metal – United States of America)
Sentient Ruin Laboratories – 2018/04/23

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I could have been harsh and just written “See review of Depraved – Evil Upheaval”, but that would have doing them an unkindness. What we have here is an album that gives the listener the most tantalising hint of what a live experience would be. It’s evocative of headbanging front rows, circle pits, and windmilling hair. Definitely would see this live.

Serum Dreg – Lustful Vengeance
(Black metal – United States of America)
Vrasubatlat – 2018/04/20

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There’s something about this merciless slab of blackened nastiness that really makes me think of Nachtmystium at their finest. Aside from that being high praise, it comes with the added benefit of being Blake free. It’s more than just aggressive; it has a pervasive, creeping dread that gives it a febrile touch of madness. Sinister at all levels.

Thou – The House Primordial
(Drone Doom – United States of America)
Robotic Empire – 2018/05/01

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Ethereal and beguiling. Bleak and distressing. Horrific and vile. The House Primordial is all these things at once. It creates a maliciously pressurised sonic landscape so catastrophically heavy that light (joy, hope…) struggle to escape it. Thou specialise in these nightmares, but everything on display here still sounds as novel as the freshest hell.

Turbonegro – RockNRoll Machine
(Deathpunk – Norway)
Mercury Records – 2018/02/02

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Something got under the skin of the band in the years between Sexual Harassment and this. Deliberate throwbacks and obvious homages to other rock greats are delivered with their characteristic shit eating grin. It’s like their saying “Didn’t like what we did last time? Want us to only do things how you like it? Fine. RockNRoll Machine beep boop.” And yet, it’s still pretty damn good.

Woundvac – Terrorizing the Swarm
(Grindcore – United States of America)
Self-Released – 2018/05/04

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Listening to this, you might be tricked into thinking that Phoenix, Arizona is some sort of frozen wasteland. Why else would Woundvac need to bring this level of blistering heat? Believe me; this is an absolute scorcher and it rendered me slightly insensible for a bit. So much so that I temporarily forgot the US has other grind acts. It’s that good.

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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)