October 2018 Review Round Up

The year might be getting close to wind up, but October served up some mighty releases. Hopefully November and December will keep on delivering even though the release rate slows.

Bliss Signal justifiably took home the Album of the Month. The melding of Altar of Plagues grimness with club scene electronica works in all sorts of ways it shouldn’t.

I have a temporary employment deficit issue going on at the moment, so November and possibly December might be a whisper slower, but I’ll keep going because I love it.

As usual, if anyone wants to contribute to my Red Bull fund, I still have my ko-fi up and running.

And, as usual, if you have critique or commentary, you can reach me at Facebook.

See you next month.

Album of the Month
Bliss Signal – Bliss Signal
(Blacktronica – Ireland/United Kingdom)
Profound Lore – 2018/09/28

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Bliss Signal is possessed of that beautiful, casual genius that you know will never lose its tarnish no matter how many times you listen to it or how long it has been between spins. It’s nice to see James Kelly return to the more abrasive, blackened sounds, but combining it with grime creates a sublime, haunting sound I didn’t think could exist.

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Anaal Nathrakh – A New Kind of Horror
(Blackened Industrial Grind – United Kingdom)
Metal Blade – 2018/09/28

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Good to see that a band as committed to unapproachable blackened noise as Anaal Nathrakh can still endeavour to mix things up. With vocals approaching comprehensible and a satisfyingly King Diamond-esque approach to delivery, this may be the closest we get to an accessible album from them. It’s still horrific hell noise though.

Behemoth – I Loved You At Your Darkest
(Black Metal – Poland)
EVP Recordings – 2018/10/05

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Despite being no strangers to blasphemy, this sounds like Behemoth’s Martin Luther moment. Of course, they’re not nailing their list of grievances to the church door; they’re shoving it right down the throat of the church. They understand and articulate their theological underpinnings while making their declaration of eternal war sound so seductive.

Boar Worship – Balance of Terror
(Deathly Sludge Metal – United States of America)
Self-Released – 2018/09/23

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Balance of Terror takes sludge and breaks it down to its barest elements. Guitar, drums, vocals, no messing about. It’s a risky strategy to strip things back this much, but Boar Worship have truly embraced this stylistic primitivism. It raises the riff to a totemic ideal: a spiritual force comprised entirely of rancor. Boar worship? No. Hate worship.

A Forest of Stars – Grave Mounds and Grave Mistakes
(Psychedelic Black Metal – United Kingdom)
Prophecy Productions – 2018/09/28

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This came awfully close to a bad review. It took so many begrudging listens to get to a point where I could review it. But during that last spin, something clicked. Suddenly what was plodding became deliberate, what was melodramatic became operatic. The trick was I had to be alert. This is way too smart an album to be half-arsed.

Gevurah – Sulphur Soul
(Black Metal – Canada)
Profound Lore – 2018/09/28

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Gevurah are where I put my money when asked who I think the most dangerous sounding black metal act is. There’s no lecturing. There’s no preaching. There’s no posturing. There is only black metal at its most fundamentally visceral. Sulphur Soul doesn’t need to deviate from this; something so unhallowed in its simplicity yields its own dark rewards.

High on Fire – Electric Messiah
(Sludge Metal – United States of America)
eOne – 2018/10/05

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High on Fire don’t do bad albums. I’ll just put that out there first. That being said, not all their albums live up to their high standards. Electric Messiah is one of those. It wants for that special combination of resinous sludge and bombastic riffage that make the great albums so memorable. It’s still a good album, but I won’t have any reason to revisit it.

Horrendous – Idol
(Death Metal – United States of America)
Season of Mist – 2018/09/28

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Horrendous faced that nightmare of how to follow up a brilliant album with quiet aplomb. Idol follows Anareta but subtly tweaking the things that made their previous release so good. They haven’t radically changed things; rather, their sound has taken on more progressive elements. It a more complicated experience, but in a good way.

Kurushimi – What is Chaos?
(Avant-garde Jazz – Australia)
Art as Catharsis – 2018/09/13

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No matter how weird/inaccessible you may find [insert metal subgenre here], jazz at its weirdest will always make everything else seem normal in comparison to its batshitness. What is Chaos? is hallucinogenic in delivery, veering wildly between spaced out headfucks and aggressive, grind-esque pummellings. It is absolute madness.

Moss Upon the Skull – In Vengeful Reverence
(Progressive Death Metal – Belgium)
I, Voidhanger – 2018/10/19

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Taking Orchid-era Opeth’s pronto-sensitivity, combining it with Cascadian black metal’s hermit tendencies, then wrapping it in trad death metal hostility is ambitious. Extremely ambitious. But fortune favours the brave because I can’t get enough of this. It manages to strike the perfect balance between sophisticated insight and naked hostility.

Pig Destroyer – Head Cage
(Grindcore – United States of America)
Relapse – 2018/09/07

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I love a bit of grindcore that’s not afraid to add a bit of swagger to their blasts. Head Cage has swagger in spades, but there’s no tongue in cheek, no knowing wink. It’s bravado being delivered with maximum aggression. The great thing about this is the combination of white hot anger and rhodomontade is it super catchy.

Revocation – The Outer Ones
(Technical Death Metal – United States of America)
Metal Blade – 2018/09/28

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You’ve got to admire Revocation; they are the hallmark of consistency and innovation. They’re on to their fifth album this decade and again they’ve delivered a corker that sounds substantially different to what has come before, but is still distinctly them. The Outer Ones is sinister, almost blackened in tone and gives their aggressive style an icy precision.

Sumac – Love in Shadow
(Post Metal – United States of America)
Thrill Jockey – 2018/09/21

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Aaron Turner really knows how to score a headfuck of an album. Pounding sludge deconstructs into spirals of noise and free jazz only to resolve itself almost imperceptibly back into form. And then it splinters off in another direction. Then another. But all of this happens so organically, that it’s the only logical way these tracks can play out.

Voivod – The Wake
(Progressive Thrash – Canada)
Century Media – 2018/09/21

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This is a great Voivod ep wrapped up in a mediocre album. The last half is top notch, weird as a Bosch painting Voivod. But those first few tracks are just such an exhausting slog to get through. The problem is they are lifeless. Barren as the lunar surface with about as much atmosphere. Suffer through the insufferable prog-lite, reap the rewards of later.

Windhand – Eternal Return
(Stoner Doom Metal – United States of America)
Relapse – 2018/10/05

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Of all the stoner doom bands you should know, Windhand are probably the most grounded in reality. There’s no hammer horror, no over the top misanthropy, and no transcendental musings. What there is though is a haunting, sad insight into life. Eternal Return is bleak, but is fuelled by a fire of determination that gives it a curious optimism.

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September 2018 Review Round Up

We’re reaching the crunch point for the critical year. August was impressive, but September really stepped it up as bands and labels try to maximise their visibility. I can’t wait for October.

The album of the month is from Florida death metal veterans, Deicide. You have no idea how surprised I am to have written that. But credit where credit is due, they absolutely nailed that super-hostile sound.

Not too much else to say. Starting to look towards my end of year list, which is always fun. And given that 2019 is just around the corner, I’m starting to look seriously at my best of the decade list too.

As always, for comments and critiquing, you can reach me via Facebook. And I’m still always in need of Red Bull, if you don’t mind the panhandling. I wish I could get the fancy widget to work, but alas, I’m not that competent.

Album of the Month
Deicide – Overtures of Blasphemy
(Death Metal – United States of America)
Century Media – 2018/09/14

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If you thought this was going to be another piece of stodgy filler in Deicide’s extensive catalogue, get to the back of the class! It’s easily their best since Stench of Redemption, and I’m going to have to realisten to that to make sure it’s still their best. I have my doubts to be honest. This is laser beam focussed and whip cord taut. Fuck it; it’s their best album ever.

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Archgoat – The Luciferian Crown
(Black Metal – Finland)
Debemur Morti – 2018/09/14

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Archgoat’s best album. Just going to put that straight out there. I buy Archgoat for their signature blend of Fimbulwinter cold and sulphurous balefire. This album more than delivers on those fronts, but is also unexpectedly loaded with sinister groove and infernal sexuality. It’s rare to find a black metal album that so ably encapsulates damnation.

Aura Noir – Aura Noire
(Blackened Thrash – Norway)
Indie Recordings – 2018/04/27

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Aura Noir’s intertwining of thrash and first wave black metal has always yielded razor sharp riffs. Aura Noire continues this trend. They haven’t exactly built extensively on what they’ve done before, but that’s not what this is about. This is, as it always has been, about cramming venomous thrash all the way down your throat.

Black Matter Device – Modern Frenetics
(Mathcore – United States of America)
Self-Released – 2018/04/06

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Fast music for the short tempered. Modern Frenetics is an album for people who don’t have the patience for soft things. It helps that Black Matter Device are (appropriately) mathematically precise. The relentless pummelling that ensues is one of the smartest arse-kickings you will experience. It’s like getting mugged by a mortarboard.

Clutch – Book of Bad Decisions
(Rock – United States of America)
Weathermaker – 2018/09/07

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It’s funny how after all these years Clutch still find a way to deliver just what you want while still surprising you. Book of Bad Decisions comes across as rawer and dirtier than the high octane output of their previous few albums. Real music for smokey dive bars and, by God, it’s beautiful. It gets you right in that part that knows a bit of grime is good for the soul.

Common Eider, King Eider – A Wound of Body
(Black Ambient – United States of America)
Sentient Ruin Laboratories – 2018/09/21

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Dealing only in the bleakest of black ambient, Common Eider, King Eider have turned loose an audio horror upon this world. It creeps and slithers and contorts its way around your psyche; never pushing all the way through, but never letting you get comfortable. Albums that do their work quietly are a challenge, but I recognise darkness when I hear it.

Drawn and Quartered – The One Who Lurks
(Death Metal – United States of America)
Krucyator Productions – 2018/07/27

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How on earth have I managed to get to 2018 without hearing about Drawn and Quartered? These guys have been pounding out old school death metal for ages now and it’s taken until this monster landed for me to know they existed. It’s an appalling oversight on my part. Guttural, almost brutal, The One Who Lurks is a visceral gut ripper.

Grave Dust – Pale Hand
(Death Metal – United States of America)
Self-Released – 2018/08/24

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What is up with 2018 and top notch death metal releases? I’m running out of superlatives; I’m either going to start repeating myself or start using nonsensical adjectives. But, dead set, Pale Hand is another death metal monster. It’s a rumbling, aggressive, menacing beast, but it comes with that vital element of catchiness that lodges the songs in your brain.

Hyperdontia – Nexus of Teeth
(Death Metal – Denmark)
Dark Descent – 2018/09/06

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Nexus of Teeth is a fine death metal record that may not set the world on fire but is definitely enjoyable. It suffers a little from repetitiveness, but in Hyperdontia’s defence, they do a couple of things really well, so it makes total sense that they play to their strengths. You can put this on in a room of genre buffs and they will be headbanging all over the place.

Imperial Triumphant – Vile Luxury
(Technical Black Metal – United States of America)
Gilead Media – 2018/07/13

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This is different. Cacophonous black metal played with a level of technicality that should require an engineering degree all wrapped up with Fritz Lang-esque noir. This is what a smokey jazz dive sounds like in hell. I like this a lot, but I’m not going to lie; it’s a tough album to get into and even once you’re in, it can be overwhelming. Extremity done differently.

Kaerulean – The Orwellian Dream
(Blackened Death Metal – Australia)
Truth Inc – 2018/08/10

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It makes a hell of an entertaining racket. But, more than that, it impresses on multiple levels and you will get more out of it with each subsequent listen. For starters, I genuinely didn’t expect the clean vocals to be as good as they are. And the rhythm section is just a fucking beast underneath. This band deserves much broader exposure.

Mantar – The Moden Art of Setting Ablaze
(Sludge Metal – Germany)
Nuclear Blast – 2018/08/24

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Finally getting around to Mantar and I totally get why they are, and rightly should be, considered sludge’s premier arsonists. Their incendiary songs roll along with a pyroclastic flow that ensures that everything in their path is obliterated. I know I’m not the first to say it, but it’s amazing that this sonic firestorm is made by just two people. Incredible stuff.

Nadja – Sonnborner
(Ambient Doom Metal – Canada)
Broken Spine Productions – 2018/09/14

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Open your ears and marvel; Nadja have produced a masterpiece of dreamy, inspired doom. The 30 minute opener is an album in and of itself. It’s awe-inspiring too. It weaves, lilts, and flows beautifully. The following four tracks include dramatic and jarring tonal shifts, giving the ambience some unexpected, but welcome exhilaration.

Primordial – Exile Amongst the Ruins
(Blackened Folk Metal – Ireland)
Metal Blade – 2018/03/30

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I can only assume that Primordial are sick of Metal Blade, as this sound like nothing more than a contractual obligation album. All the hallmarks of a Primordial album are there, but they’re so listless and seemingly dialed in. It’s tough to listen to something that sounds like nobody cared. It’s especially tough when it’s a band as hugely talented as Primordial.

Thou – Magus
(Doom Metal – United States of America)
EVP Recordings – 2018/08/31

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Other bands must wish they could match Thou’s ability to be both prolific and talented. Magus is their fourth release this year, the second to get a review by me, and easily the best thing they’ve done recently. Which is impressive, because they are consistently excellent. The raspy growls, the subtle melodies, the monstrous low end; it is amazing.

The Vintage Caravan – Gateways
(Rock – Iceland)
Nuclear Blast – 2018/08/31

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I love what The Vintage Caravan have done previously, so it really pains me to say this: Gateways is boring. At best it’s dull, at worst it’s tedious, and it all balances out as boring. There’s nothing on display here to get the listener actively involved in the music. It just kinda plods along without doing anything noteworthy. At least it’s easy to forget.

Albums of the Year 2017

Metalshopped is back. I tried to put it behind me, but I just couldn’t. I love metal. And I enjoy writing. So, here I am. Back again.

2017 was solid year for heaviness. A great blend of big label blockbusters and independent gems wended their way through my ears. Some albums you will probably recognise from other end of year lists. Others, I hope, will be completely fresh.

I’ve changed things up a little bit. Instead of a list of 50, I’ve pared it down to 11. Yes. I’m doing a very faint Spinal Tap reference. But every album here deserves the attention and to be turned up to, well, you know. 11. I’m also doing it as a countdown. Best of at the bottom. Gotta give 11-2 their due.

Also going to indulge myself and give out some named awards. They’re going to be a little bit self-explanatory this year, but if I carry them forward it’ll be pretty sweet.

And, the last thing before the best of 2017 kicks off, some housekeeping. I never published my best of 2016, so here it is:

Cobalt – Slow Forever
SubRosa – For This We Fought the Battle of Ages
Swans – The Glowing Man
Inter Arma – Paradide Gallows
Altarage – Nihl
Nails – You Will Never Be One of Us
Revocation – Great is Our Sin
Dälek – Asphalt for Eden
Mizmor (מזמור) – Yodh
Fleshgod Apocalypse – King

And, as usual, there’s a long list of albums I missed. This is a list of most serious regrets for the year:

All Pigs Must Die – Hostage Animal
Amenra – Mass IV
Electric Wizard – Wizard Bloody Wizard
Integrity – Howling, For the Nightmare Shall Consume
Pyrrhon – What Passes For Survival
Power Trip – Nightmare Logic
Tombs – The Grand Annihilation
Ufomammut – 8
Ulver – The Assassination of Julius Caesar
Wolves in the Throne Room – Thrice Woven

So, without further adieu, here’s the best damn 11 albums 2017 sent my way.

11) Hadal Maw – Olm
(Technical Death Metal – Australia)
EVP Recordings – 2017/02/03

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A damn fine example of technical death metal, but not what you might expect. This is less like being torn apart by a visceral assault, and a lot more like the grinding of entropy. Its fretwork is undeniably powerful, but it isn’t afraid to slow down and let the pressure build. Topped off with outstanding vocals, there’s a reason I extended the list to eleven to fit them in.

10) Hummingbird of Death – Forbidden Techniques
(Fastcore – United States of America)
To Live A Lie – 2017/12/01

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Deliciously punk, Forbidden Techniques is like unearthing a hidden gem from the height of 1980s New York Hardcore then trying to play it on a turntable stuck on cyclonic. Tracks fly by in a flurry of beats and barks and grime. Absolutely relentless and, in case you’re unfamiliar with fastcore, blisteringly fast, this is the best way to kill 20 minutes.

The Prurient Award for Best Album that Doesn’t Lend Itself to Easy Reviewing
Prurient – Rainbow Mirror
(Ambient – United States of America)
Profound Lore – 2017/12/01

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Languid yet thoroughly unsettling ambience spread out across 4 cds, this is an endurance test as much as a listening experience. Utterly gruelling, but totally worth it.

9) Heresiarch – Death Ordinance
(Blackened Death Metal – New Zealand)
Dark Descent Records – 2017/07/07

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So, this is war metal. I’ve seen the term. I know about the bands that exemplify the subgenre. But now I get it. This takes the blood-drenched psychopathy of brutal death, combines it with the void-touched malevolence of black metal, then douses itself in a mix of diesel and napalm and self-combusts. It is the raw frequency of total destruction.

8) Friendship – Hatred
(Powerviolence – Japan)
Southern Lord (Vinyl/Digital)/Sentient Ruin Laboratories (Tape)/Daymare Recordings (CD) – 2017/11/03

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Hatred lives up to the powerviolence moniker. It’s anchored by a rhythm section that sounds like a roof collapsing during a cyclone. Make no mistake; it’s immensely powerful and monstrously violent. Over the course of twelve tracks, Friendship whips through blistering tempos and sneers through venomous sludge. No swagger, no bravado, just (as the name suggests) hatred.

7) Enslaved – E
(Progressive Black Metal – Norway)
Nuclear Blast – 2017/10/13

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E. Or as it’s represented by on the cover, Ehwaz. Forward energy and movement, if you believe in the power of runes. An excellent way to simply sum up what Enslaved has produced on this album. It’s more than just their ongoing voyage through the progsphere; there’s an inventiveness to their song construction that makes this a standout.

Mariusz Lewandowski Award for Best Art
Mirror Reaper by Mariusz Lewandowski for Bell Witch

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Looks impressive, doesn’t it? Wait until you see the full spread.

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See? See!? It’s just so majestic. A towering, grim edifice for a haunting, grief-stricken album. Mariusz’ art is truly something to behold.

6) Kreator – Gods of Violence
(Thrash – Germany)
Nuclear Blast – 2017/01/27

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The Teutonic thrash titans’ 14th album is a hellraising good time. From the grandiose opening drum march of Apocalypticon to final epic chords of Death Becomes My Light, it entertains in the most aggressively positive way imaginable. I honestly don’t think any other 2017 album has spent as much time on repeat. Good God, I love thrash and this is why.

5) american – Violate and Control
(The Intersection Between Black Metal and Noise Without Truly Being Either – United States of America)
Sentient Ruin Laboratories – 2017/06/23

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Too often I’ll say an album “hates”; that is not appropriate here. Hatred is far too human an emotion for this nightmare. american makes post-apocalyptic, post-human noise. This is a beast of shattered concrete, burning plastic, and rebar slowly corroding in the blood of humanity long rejected and gone. Monstrous and enthralling in equal measure.

4) Obituary – Obituary
(Old School Death Metal – United States of America)
Relapse – 2017/03/17

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This is an album that keeps the faith in metal strong. It’s proof that a great band, even if it has a down patch, can be great again. No more going through the motions, this self-titled effort proves Obituary are still the kings of Florida Death. It’s their best album since Cause of Death. And Cause of Death is their best album, so that’s high praise indeed.

The Dillinger Escape Plan Memorial Award for Most Kick Ass Live Act
Meshuggah

I feel privileged to have seen two of the most amazing live acts in 2017. But, by the time this will be published, DEP will have jumped off their last stack and smashed their last guitar, so that leaves the sublime, hypnotic, and monstrously heavy Meshuggah to take the crown. And it’s well deserved. The five men on stage perform seamlessly. And their lighting guy might as well be member six, because his contribution is massive. It turned a concert into an audiovisual hallucinatory headfuck.
Here’s a small bit of footage I took at their Brisbane gig to hopefully back me up.

3) Leprous – Malina
(Progressive Metal – Norway)
InsideOut Music – 2017/08/25

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A seamless amalgamation of rock, metal, prog, and jazz, Malina is a new high water mark for Leprous. Einar’s contra tenor vocals will never not be polarising, but I think they’re absolutely vital and wonderfully mesmerising. The music has a sophisticated, organic feel to it; it pulses, throbs, and flows. It’s like a mighty river that also happens to be a circulatory system.

2) Altarage – Endinghent
(Blackened Death Metal – Spain)
Season of Mist – 2017/10/13

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The angry swarm of wasps guitar sound this opens with should be a warning that Endinghent is no trifle of an album. By the time it’s over, things are even clearer: Altarage have taken febrile power of a long lost god of madness and weaponised it in sonic form. Hypnotic yet savage, fevered yet horrifyingly coherent, but, above all else, brilliant.

Heads up, this is awesome but probably not epilepsy friendly. I’ll also post the bandcamp link.

1) Alder Glade – Spine of the World
(Blackened Folk Metal – Australia)
Self-Released (Digital)/Northern Silence Productions (Limited Edition CD) – 2017/09/01

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Winterfylleth. Primordial. Negură Bunget. Drudkh. Alder Glade. It may seem a little odd to include an Australian band with a focus on Asgardian lore in that list, but with Spine of the World, they have earned it. As aggressive as a good Black metal album should be, it also possesses both a haunting melancholy and an ethereal sadness. It’s a beautiful album, worthy to sit alongside the other greats of the genre.

There you have it; Metalshopped’s best albums for 2017. I had a great year listening to music and picking out just 11 albums was tough. I couldn’t be happier to see Alder Glade take the win. I’ve been talking them up since Demo 1 because I knew they an album like this was possible. I’m also pretty stoked to see Altarage crack my top 5 in consecutive years. I hope they can maintain that terrifying level of intensity.

Here’s to 2018. I already have my eyes set on some big name releases, but I’m always on the lookout for hidden gems from small labels and self-released artists.