July 2016 Review Round Up

So. Here it is. The first triumphant post of my glorious return! Or, at least, a collection of assorted words I hope are entertaining.

But what of the first half of the year? It’s gone but not forgotten. I won’t be going back over anything I’ve listened to prior to July 1, but quality albums are still eligible for my end of year list. That’ll add a bit of extra mystery. Also, regrettably, I won’t be doing a Best Self-Released list this year. I haven’t listened to enough independent releases and it would only represent the best of July through December.

Leading the charge is Swans’ latest masterpiece, The Glowing Man. I don’t think Gira et al have put a step wrong since returning and it’s all led to this; eight tracks of dense, complicated beauty.

Getting the Honourable Mention is Eximperituserqethhzebibšiptugakkathšulweliarzaxułum. I’m pretty sure I’ll just refer to them as E-dawg from here on out. Ignoring their deliberately inaccessible name, I was left with a brutal techdeath album that reinvigorated my love of the genre.

It’s not the most review heavy month. I’m still getting back into the groove of things, but damn it feels good to be back.

Album of the Month
Swans – The Glowing Man
(Post-punk – United States of America)
Young God Records – 2016/06/17

As someone whose experiences with psychedelics have been universally bad, the feeling of disconcerting expectation this album is saturated with is uncomfortably familiar. It makes the expected uneasily unexpected. The eight monumental tracks thrum with an energy so fundamental it could spawn new life.
Try before you buy: The World Looks Red / The World Looks Black (Bandcamp)

Honourable Mention
Eximperituserqethhzebibšiptugakkathšulweliarzaxułum –  Prajecyrujučy sinhuliarnaje wypramieńwańnie Daktryny Absaliutnaha j Usiopahłynaĺnaha Zła skroź šaścihrannuju pryzmu Sîn-Ahhī-Erība na hipierpawierchniu zadyjakaĺnaha kaŭčęha zasnawaĺnikaŭ kosmatęchničnaha ordęna palieakantakta, najstaražytnyja ipastasi dawosiewych cywilizacyj prywodziać u ruch ręzanansny transfarmatar časowapadobnaj biaskoncaści budučyni u ćwiardyniach absierwatoryi Nwn-Hu-Kek-Amon, uwasabliajučy ŭ ęfirnuju matęryju prach Ałulima na zachad ad ękzapłaniety PSRB 1620-26b
(Brutal techdeath – Belarus)
Amputated Vein Records – 2016/07/10

A ridiculous album title by a ridiculously named band playing ridiculous brutal techdeath. I haven’t enjoyed a brutal album this much in a long time. I’ve payed lip service here or there to quality albums, but none have given me that sublime feeling of pure enjoyment. High-concept slamming goodness.
Try before you buy: Da pytańniaŭ ab suziraĺnym paznańni naradžęńnia trahiedyi j niaŭchiĺnaści hibeli isnaha ŭ Wučeńni Anihiliacyi, jak pra pieršaęliemienty praŭdziwaj pryrody askietyčnych praliehamienaŭ mižhałaktyčnaha smutku smierciśćwiardžajučaj mudraści Šapienhaŭęra, jakaja kuje apakatastasičnym połymiem hietęradaksaĺnaha katarsisu artęryi mietafizičnych siłahizmaŭ u liazo Liucyfieryjanskaha rozumu j Akaŭzaĺnaha Waliuntaryzmu, zwiartajučy ŭ prach saliarnyja zikkuraty apošniaha świtańnia nadychodziačaj Juhi Nicšęanstwa (Bandcamp)

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Caïna – Christ Clad in White Phosphorus
(Black metal – United Kingdom)
Apocalyptic Witchcraft Recordings – 2016/07/15

My last experience with Caïna didn’t light my fires, but they have a certain critical appeal, so I’ll try again. Good idea. This is a tumultuous affair; a blast of unhallowed negativity that is emotionally exhausting on a level beyond most black metal’s limits. As precise as in utero surgery, as destructive as a cyclone.
Try before you buy: Fumes of God (Bandcamp)

EDxKEMPER – Cut Her Head and Love Her
(Grindcore – Greece)
Symbol of Domination/VEX Microlab – 2016/01/30

This is a deceptive release. It’s straight up, back to basics grindcore. No frills. Nothing pretty. But it’s done so damn well. Violence gushes from every note. Grind is inherently furious, but these Greeks take it to a further, darker level. Dan Swanö’s mastering puts the cherry on top. Ugly, brutal, satisfying.
Try before you buy: Desperate Cries (Bandcamp)

Gevurah – Hallelujah!
(Black metal – Canada)
Profound Lore – 2016/06/03

Some black metal bands approach their Satanism with evangelical zeal; others with intellectual rigour. Not Gevurah. They hate. Sometimes with fury, sometimes with ice in their veins, but always with as much hate as they can humanly muster. It leads to a refreshing listen to be honest. Intimidation made spiritual
Try before you buy: Un Feu Indomptable (Bandcamp)

Goolagoon – Life of Crime
(Powerviolence – United States of America)
Self-released – 2016/06/28

I genuinely enjoyed Goolagoon’s Patrickviolence Demo, so it’s interesting to see how the band has progressed their sound. For one thing, they’ve eschewed a lot of their quirkiness. Only two Spongebob samples this time round. In its place is a doubling down on their manic energy. The eight tracks are a relentless blitz of furious punk.
Try before you buy: Pressure (Bandcamp)

Oligarch – Hypocrisy Oath
(Blackened death metal – Australia)
Self-released – 2016/05/19

Think of a blackened death metal album you want to listen to. Imagine the overlap between fury and violence. Factor in the musical skill necessary to make the album worth both your time and multiple listens. That leaves you with Hypocrisy Oath. Oligarch have put this together with apocalyptic violence in mind.
Try before you buy: Winds of Apocalyptic Incineration (Bandcamp)

Through – Manuskript
(Black metal – Ukraine)
Hell Division Productions – 2016/07/13

Always a shame to come across a quality band after they’ve broken up. Through are fantastic. Each track on Manuskript starts with crackling fire and a whispered incantation. It sets the atmosphere perfectly before launching into fretwork that is equally cryptic and pitiless. A dark and sinister swansong.
Try before you buy: Сфера (Bandcamp)


July 2015 Review Round Up

It’s happened. It’s finally happened. A demo has taken out “album” of the month. I can’t think of a more deserving band than Lxs Jugadxs. They are the band that reinvigorated my love of grind. No more hanging out for the occasional Napalm Death or Pig Destroyer album. Now I want it. I crave it. Thank you for the obsession. Muchas gracias por la obsesión.

I also need to give due respect to Abyssal. Antikatastaseis is a monster. To be fair, they’re not straight up death metal; there’s definitely black and doom in there too. But death metal needs to claim this. Stick a goddamn flag in it. It’s some of the evilest death metal to come out in years.

Enjoy and I’ll be back next month.

Album of the Month
Lxs Jugadxs – Demo 2015
(Grindcore – Argentina)
Self-released – 2015/07/21


I’ve been a huge fan since I heard their 2013 demo, but everything they’ve done before pales in comparison to this. While remaining undeniably grind, there are strong influences from techdeath, melodeath, and thrash all the way through the four tracks. Wild and raucous, yet possessed of a controlled fury, Lxs Jugadxs make the contradictions work for them. No hyperbole – they are the best grind band in the world right now.
Try before you buy: La Nube Negra (Bandcamp)

Honourable Mention
Abyssal – Antikatastaseis
(Death metal – United Kingdom)
Profound Lore Records – 2015/06/23


There are times when you find yourself reminded that black metal doesn’t have the monopoly on evil. Abyssal sound like nothing less than a worse version of Dante’s depiction of limbo. 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. It’s nightmarish beyond belief.
Try before you buy: A Casual Landscape (Bandcamp)

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Abominor – Opus: Decay
(Black metal – Iceland)
Invictus Productions/Vánagandr – 2015/03/26


Two tracks of deep, involved black metal. Abominor are another band that take stylistic cues from Deathspell Omega and I was getting real close to dismissing them as derivative. But there are important differences that become evident as the release progresses. They embrace melody far more readily than their French compatriots. It’s still a challenging listen, but it feels slightly less like sandpaper on the soul.
Try before you buy: 474 (Bandcamp)

Anopheli – The Ache of Want
(Post-crust – United States of America)
Alerta Antifascista/Halo of Flies – 2015/07/02


Anopheli continue to be the premier proponents of cello in punk. They also continue to insist on describing themselves as emo crust. But the label fits; the music on The Ache of Want is hard edged and gritty, but is born of an overwhelming sadness. The ineffable grief that permeates every note bleeds over into barely controlled anger. It’s a softer album than A Hunger Rarely Sated, but is no worse for it.
Try before you buy: Squanderer (Bandcamp)

Barghest – Into Weeping Firmament
(Black metal – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/07/03


Barghest continue to make furious, hateful music for furious, hateful people. The three tracks are involved meditations on the bestial nature of man. Intensely violent and yet surprisingly contemplative, it’s insightful in a way that truly highlights the often dualistic nature of black metal. If you want some food for thought, this will sate your hunger; if you want to feed your beast, it will throw gamey carcasses.
Try before you buy: Neo-Promethean (Bandcamp)

Battle Hag – Battle Hag
(Doom metal – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/03/05


This is a public service announcement, brought to you by Metalshopped. Tired drivers die. Thank you. I’m doing my civic duty because Battle Hag could have killed me, as it is some of the most soporific doom I have heard in a while. Doom requires more than just down-tuning, reverb, and low growls to be worthwhile. It’s lazy doom that only aims to check boxes. Bass lines can only carry a band so far.
Try before you buy: Never Turn Your Back on the Sea (Bandcamp)

Choking – Choking
(Blackened sludge metal – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/05/15


True misanthropy takes total dedication. Any idiot can hate, but to take that primal, animalistic emotion and extend it to the entirety of humanity and the self requires a level of commitment few can sustain. Choking sustain it though. Seething contempt suffuses every note, every growl, every sustain. Choking is an apt name for the band, as every stanza tries to crush the life out of you.
Try before you buy: Labyrinthine (Bandcamp)

Epäihminen – Epäihminen IV
(Ambient black metal – Finland)
Self-released – 2015/07/17


I almost dismissed this; the flat production values and the borderline stereotypical introduction lowered my expectations. But I’m glad I pushed through, as there is a depth to this release that left me aching. It’s like standing on a sunlit fen on a winter day, feeling almost uncomfortably cold, and contemplating mortality and the futility of existence. It serene in the bleakest way possible.
Try before you buy: Op. 24 (Bandcamp)

Haldol – Haldol
(Post-punk – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/05/22


An interesting take on post-punk. It’s not without its faults, but overall it’s definitely worth your time. The vocalist doesn’t have the strongest of deliveries, but that doesn’t detract heavily from the experience. The release saves itself with its guitar work. There is an unsettling disorientation to the music that turns familiar gothic riffs into distorted refrains of discomfort. There’s a lot to like.
Try before you buy: Law of Indifference (Bandcamp)

Indesinence – III
(Doom metal – United Kingdom)
Profound Lore Records – 2015/07/21


It’s an odd thing to say given that the majority of tracks come in around the ten minute mark, but this album doesn’t truly shine until it hits the even lengthier tracks near the end of the album. Indesinence’s take on doom, while undeniably oppressive, allows flickers of lights through. It’s like moonlight filtered through broken glass in a bombed out hellhole. This panorama is in sharpest relief in III’s longest form.
Try before you buy: Mountains Of Mind / Five Years Ahead (Of My Time) (Bandcamp)

Jesus Wept – Pit of Blasphemy
(Blackened Brutal Death – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/07/09


Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde all over this release. At it’s best, it cherry-picked appropriate elements of black metal and used them to invigorate slamming brutality. At it’s worst it’s like the thing was recorded with djent sticks and clockwork toy drums. Even the vocals are on an extreme spectrum. Annunciation is key. Done properly, they’re articulate and sinister. Done badly, it’s a guttural recitation of vowels.
Try before you buy: A Pit of Blasphemy (Bandcamp)

Krvshr – Church Burner
(Sludge metal – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/05/25


There must be something wrong with me. Hateful noise shouldn’t make me smile so much. It helps that it lands squarely between the good drugs for hard times vibe of High on Fire and the darkness of deep space blackness of Lord Mantis. It opens slow as pitch, but builds steadily to a mid-paced riff-fest and not in the stodgy, bland way. Each riff has the space to ooze. Nasty in a really satisfying way.
Try before you buy: Highlander (Bandcamp)

Kult of the Wizard – The White Wizard
(Doom metal – United States of America)
Reflections Records – 2015/03/13


Bonged out doom firmly in the mould of Blood Ceremony. According to the band themselves, this is their first release with vocals. I’m glad they took their time, because she’s amazing. She has that sultry white soul quality; it makes you wonder why she isn’t singing about not going to rehab because of the son of a preacher man. She gives the otherwise standard doom the necessary lift to separate it from the masses.
Try before you buy: Black Moon (Bandcamp)

Lamb of God – VII: Sturm und Drang
(Groove metal – United States of America)
Nuclear Blast – 2015/07/24


Lamb of God: the Garth Brooks of metal. Sure, they’re popular, but why? Didn’t understand the appeal for years. But their seventh album¹ makes me eat my words and my doubts. 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 that has made them Pantera’s spiritual successors.
Try before you buy: Overlord (YouTube)

Melechesh – Enki
(Blackened death metal – Israel)
Nuclear Blast – 2015/02/27


How have I not listened to Melechesh before? It should have been a no-brainer given that to my ear they sound like an amalgamation of Absu and Rotting Christ. I love Enki. It wields fury and malice like a fanatic wielding a censer brimming with balefire. But it’s done with a level of nuance that turns a relentless assault into a cinematic portrayal of devotional violence. I can listen to it over and over.
Try before you buy: Multiple Truths (YouTube)

Padre Lobo – Padre Lobo
(Stoner sludge metal – Spain)
Self-released – 2015/07/17


The first thing that stood out to me was just how much the vocalist, Lore, sounds like Jessicka from Jack Off Jill. I actually double checked to be completely sure she wasn’t. It’s uncanny and, more importantly, very appropriate. The riot grrrl by way of goth vocals belted out over the top of Orange Goblin proximate stoner jams works in a satisfying way. They could probably benefit from a whisper more variety, but damn this is fun.
Try before you buy: Lilith (Bandcamp)

Rebel Wizard – Negative Wizard Metal
(Blackened heavy metal – Australia)
Self-released – 2015/07/17


First Peasant, and now Rebel Wizard. I’m coming across a few blackened heavy types at the moment. Rebel Wizard are pretty good too. They do lack the knock out punch that Peasant has, but that’s a slightly unfair criticism. The important thing is the riffs the rock are high energy and on the thrashy end of NWOBHM worship. They still retain the sinisterness that black metal requires. Blast it a kvlt gatherings.
Try before you buy: Heavy Negative Wizard Metal (Bandcamp)

A Secret Death – Epilogue
(Hardcore – Australia)
Monolith – 2015/06/25


Good hardcore is a bit like religion; you hope and you pray for it, but a lot of the time it feels like nothing’s there. But then an album like Epilogue descends like an ecstatic vision. Nuanced aggression is interwoven with deft touches of gentle melody and passages of Dillinger-esque intensity. There is a level of sophistication here that is so very rare in the broader genre. It’s a bright light in an often dark place.
Try before you buy: Strong, Silent Type (Bandcamp)

Sigh – Graveward
(A little bit of everything – Japan)
Candlelight Records – 2015/05/04


This may seem like a strange thing to say in a metal review, but this is a noisy album. Obviously it’s loud. I mean noisy in the sense that there is a lot going on. It’s confrontational in its creative scope. I still have a fondness for the album, but there’s no doubt I had to open myself up to it. Mirai is one of metal’s great composers; I don’t think anyone else could get this to work. Chaos is a tough thing to reign in.
Try before you buy: Out of the Grave (Bandcamp)

Symphony X – Underworld
(Progressive neoclassical metal – United States of America)
Nuclear Blast – 2015/07/24


I get the feeling their time on Nuclear Blast hasn’t been the happiest, but Underworld gets it right. It maintains the heavier tone of their recent output, but is reinvigorated with the complicated fret work that made their earlier work so good. It’s lyrically sophisticated too; successfully synthesising classical mythology and mediaeval poetry into a cohesive whole. A long awaited and much appreciated return to form.
Try before you buy: Nevermore (YouTube)

Vanum – Realm of Sacrifice
(Black metal – United States of America)
Profound Lore Records – 2015/06/23


Vanum have a real sense of organic flow on display with Realm of Sacrifice. And by organic flow, I mean every note is driven by what comes before and in turn pushes the rest of the album forward. It’s like blood coursing through your veins or synapses firing across the cerebellum. Experiencing an album like this is like having another key system in your body. It becomes a part of you and you need to let it do its thing.
Try before you buy: Convergence (Bandcamp)

Vishwanath – Portals to the Inanimate
(Progressive metal – India)
Self-released – 2015/02/18


I really like this. So much could have gone wrong with a one man, self-released, progressive title. Especially since he openly discussed production problems on his Bandcamp page. But any negatives are quickly brushed aside by his excellent sense of melody. Effortlessly transitioning between heavy grooves and delicate movements is not a skill usually seen in prog part-timers. Thoroughly enjoyable.
Try before you buy: Perception (Bandcamp)

¹Burn the Priest never counts.

July Review Round Up

It’s been a punk heavy month here at Metalshopped. Especially if you consider grind to be an extension of punk.

Special attention does need to be drawn to Trap Them. Many a band have been willing to chance a concept album. Sometimes even two. But show me a band willing to extend one concept across four albums, two eps, and a split that isn’t Trap Them. It’s a phenomenal achievement that’s made even more impressive by the consistently high quality of the music. From Day 1 (Insomniawesome) right through to the final hellish hour of Night 77 (Let Fall Each and Every Sedition Symptom), the band has crafted a brutally full-on narative and has kept the intensity building and brooding through uncompromising musical aggression. Kudos to you messrs Izzi and McKenney for your commitment to your vision, and thanks to all who have filled out your rhythm section over the years. Barren Praise may lie abandoned, but Trap Them will continue. I cannot wait to hear what will come next.

As you can probably tell, Trap Them snagged my album of the month. But backing them up are vicious Arizona grinders, two fantastic Argentinian blasters, some gore obsessed Aussies, and the post-metal behemoths who aren’t Neurosis.

Album of the Month
Trap Them – Blissfucker
(Crust grind – United States of America)
Prosthetic Records – 2014/06/10


So it’s come to this: the final night in Barren Praise. I don’t pretend to understand the narative that Trap Them have crafted across their discography, but this is where it ends. And from the sounds of it, things didn’t end well for the protagonists. You are pummled with fury and defiance, and yet, track by track, desperation and exhaustion creep in. There is a horror that lies beneath the rage and it’s an entirely fitting end to this sordid tale.
Try before you buy: Lungrunners (Bandcamp)

Honourable Mentions
Lxs Jugadxs – Demo 2014
(Grindcore – Argentina)
Self-released – 2014/07/02


I fell in love with these mad grinders when I heard their 2013 demo, regrettably too late for my end of year list. So imagine my joy when they put out another demo this month. Now double it. The best part about this demo is that it shows how the band has developed. Most importantly, there are new nuances to their sound. There is more to this than naked rage; there’s something darker in there, possibly grief, possibly melancholy. Spectacular.
Try before you buy: Fallar (Bandcamp)

Pregnancy – Demo
(Goregrind – Australia)
Self-released – 2014/01/19


Another fine addition to the already outstanding Australian grindcore canon. The five tracks are thick with rot; each riff sounds like it was freshly sluiced off a putrescent corpse. The drums are precise when they need to be and a wondrously horrid cacophony otherwise. And the vocals are abhorrently inhuman, sounding as beastial and guttural as is possible for the human larynx. It’s easily one of the most memorable grind releases this year.
Try before you buy: A Backing-Up of the Bowels (Bandcamp)

Rotten Soil – Los Caretas
(Grinding deathcore – Argentina)
The Olmo Records – 2014/06/02


Up is now down and black is now white; I’m officially a fan of deathcore. Granted, Rotten Soil’s take on the genre runs the death metal/hardcore mishmash through the grindcore meat grinder, so an already intense sound is condensed for maximum potency. Aside from the in your face immediacy, Los Caretas succeeds in combining hardcore rhythms with death metal tuning in a way that few of their genremates do. Consider me a convert.
Try before you buy: Acércate (Bandcamp)

Tombs – Savage Gold
(Post-metal – United States of America)
Relapse Records – 2014/06/10


Densely symbolic. Thematically complicated. Tantalisingly unknowable. The superlatives could keep on flowing for Savage Gold, but I think those three best sum it up. Closer to black metal than previous releases, this is about as close as Tombs will let themselves get to convenient genre labelling. It’s still more distinctly Tombs than it is anything else. The things this band can do with vocals, rhythms, and melodies defy expectation and reward the listener.
Try before you buy: Deathtripper (Bandcamp)

Woundvac – Woundvac
(Grindcore – United States of America)
Self-released – 2014/02/25


This is more than good; this is exceptional. Woundvac’s self-titled debut is the sound of emerging from a mosh pit, covered in sweat and blood (not all of it mine), nose busted across my face, spitting teeth, and smiling like a madman. Unafraid to take their time, the songs sprawl through all the shades of implied and overt violence. This is beyond a mere sonic mugging; Woundvac is a four-man angry mob, looting and igniting everything in sight.
Try before you buy: Upon the Threshold (Bandcamp)

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Anathema – Distant Satellites
(Progressive rock – United Kingdom)
Kscope Music – 2014/06/09


When I need a palate cleanser after indulging in too much scorching metal, I always feel comfortable reaching for Anathema. Distant Satelites doesn’t deviate from the formula laid out in Weather Systems, but it does consolidate it. Gently progressive rock is delivered with utmost care, bolstered with an expert blend of male and female vocals. I think the previous three albums are stronger, but it is still far and away better than their doom days.
Try before you buy: Ariel (YouTube)

The Apache Revolver – The Morningstar EP
(Post-black metal – United States of America)
Self-released – 2014/05/01


Who would have thought a band whose biggest influences are, presumably, Burzum and the Beach Boys would end up sounding like a cross between Alcest and Deafheaven? The combination of black metal and surf rock was always going to produce an interesting result, but I didn’t quite expect that. I don’t think it’s derivative either; I’m pretty sure they achieved this sound through their own unique process. I’m still mystified that it works.
Try before you buy: Morningstar, Son of the Dawn (Bandcamp)

Blown Out – Sun Rot
(Stoner rock – United Kingdom)
Box Records – 2014/03/04


They must get some quality dope in Blown Out’s part of the world, because this reeks of sativa. The 70s-styled analogue recording is fuzzed out with smoke. The guitar strings are liberally caked in the resin of 1,000 bongs. It’s hazy and slow enough to give you a contact high. In many ways, it reminds me of Earth’s recent albums, but it’s too fast to be drone. It does, however, use repetition to its advantage. You just get drawn in, tune out, and feel the bliss.
Try before you buy: Sun Rot Pt. 1 (Bandcamp)

Earth Mover – Winter Introduction
(Shoegaze – United States of America)
Self-released – 2014/02/03


Shoegaze, by its very nature, is a contemplative genre. Introspective and meditative, it has the potential to uplifting or withdrawn. Earth Mover tends towards the later. In many ways, Winter Introduction feels like it was recorded with the listener as an afterthought. Everything is faded down in the mix. The vocals especially sound as though they were sung for no one outside the band. It shrugs past intimate and pushes deep into isolation.
Try before you buy: Hill (Bandcamp)

Enabler – La Fin Absolue du Monde
(Hardcore – United States of America)
Earsplit Compound – 2014/05/27


This is not as good as their debut, All Hail the Void, but that album crushed all, so I can’t say I’m surprised. What La Fin Absolue du Monde does do is cement Enabler’s place near the top of the hardcore tree. Short, angry songs are played with genuine emotion and some serious heaviness. I wish it had the shock and awe of its predecessor, but it’s still packed start to finish with quality riffs and deftly spat vocals. A genuinely enjoyable foray into the punksphere.
Try before you buy: Balance of Terror(Bandcamp)

Fucked Up – Glass Boys
(Hardcore – Canada)
Matador – 2014/06/03


I’ve listened to a good bit more punk than I would have thought this year, but it’s all come from deep in the blood, sweat, and spit end of things. So listening to Glass Boys was like stepping out from some dingy fight club into glorious sunshine. It’s just so damn luxurious. It’s not just the lush guitar work or the infectiously upbeat rhythms that make this such a joy. It’s the sophisticated combination of pathos and optimism that leaves the smile.
Try before you buy: Paper the House (YouTube)

Guilty Parents – The Black Ooze
(Garage punk – United Kingdom)
Self-released – 2014/06/13


The Black Ooze is bile fuelled invective played with the too drunk to give a fuck quality of garage rock. It’s a pretty effective combination, but risky. Very risky. Intentionally lo-fi recordings can easily turn in to all-too-forgetable mires of poor production. But, to their credit, Guilty Parents got it right. For me, every track harkens back to a smoke filled club with terrible audio being absolutely dominated by a band that knows their craft. Halcyon days punk.
Try before you buy: Head/Basket/Dance/Casket (Bandcamp)

Infección Crónica – El Sotano
(Brutal death metal – Argentina)
Self-released – 2014/07/30


Infección Crónica took a slightly unusual tack when approaching their brand of brutality. I’m used to brutal death sounding like a soundtrack to murder; this sounds like the dismemberment and other assorted horrors that follow. This is, in comparison to their genremates, slow and deliberate; every note scored to achieve maximum horror. It’s far from the glacial pace of death doom, but it is certainly indicative paraphilic madness.
Try before you buy: Armonia Hacia el Final (Bandcamp)

Jane Dark – Doors to Silence
(Death metal – Serbia)
Self-released – 2014/07/29


There’s something so very satisfying about no frills death metal, so long as it’s done well. It scratches a specific, visceral itch. Jane Dark doesn’t just scratch said itch; they rake over it with sharpened nails. Part of their success lies in accepting the broader scope of the genre. There are nods to techdeath and progressive death throughout, but they are flourishes applied to highlight the overall level of skill the band bring to their pummelling btand of death.
Try before you buy: Fading of Flowers (Bandcamp)

Juventud Podrida – La Naturaleza de la Bestia
(Crust – Panama)
Self-released – 2014/06/24


Ever get the feeling that a band is much better live than on record? That’s what I’m getting from these Panamanians. There’s definitely some hints of greatness here; the leads are harsh, while the slow downs are positively smouldering. But there’s a dearth of energy to the EP and I can’t blame the band. It’s like something vital was lost in the studio. They’re definitely a band I’m going to keep an eye on, as they will kill once they get it right.
Try before you buy: Criando Cuervos (Bandcamp)

Kurrakä – Kurrakä
(Hardcore – United States of America)
Self-released – 2014/04/25


Blistering all-female punk in the old school hardcore tradition. And by old school, I mean Minor Threat, Gorilla Biscuits, and the whole host of the genre’s godfathers. It positively seethes with agitation and discontent. But scratch beneath the surface and there’s more than just a hardcore act. There are dark edges to the production and the vocals that draw inspiration from death rock. High energy sophistication wrapped in punk.
Try before you buy: Mundo Oscuro (Bandcamp)

Omfalos – Fallacy
(Brutal black metal – Brazil)
Self-released – 2014/07/29


This certainly came with a twist. A kick in the teeth is probably more accurate. The cover, with its hanged and humiliated imagery, positively screams depressed, possibly suicidal grimness. Imagine my surprise when it launches into a mutant hybrid of black metal and brutal death. Sensibly, they have eschewed the traditionally screeched vocals of the former and the slams of the later. This ensures the resulting three tracks reach maximum hostility.
Try before you buy: Fallacy II (Bandcamp)

Paths – Where the Oakenhearted Dwell
(Psychedelic black metal – Canada)
Self-released – 2014/07/07


There are worse things than paying homage to a great band. The important thing is that the band giving tribute do a good job of it. Paths do an excellent job of aping Enslaved. They incorporate the Norwegian’s quite distinct guitar tone into sweeping soundscapes dedicated to the Canadian wilderness. It works as it clearly pays homage to another band, but does it in a personalised way. Hopefully their sound will develop from here.
Try before you buy: Oakenheart (Bandcamp)

Pekla – Speed’n’Roll
(Heavy metal – Lithuania)
Self-released – 2014/07/07


Landing somewhere between Lemmy approved rock and the current crop of Swedish traditional heavy metal, with a dusting of black metal for character, it really is impossible to dislike this album. I just wish my Lithuanian wasn’t so, how should I put it, non-existant, as I really want to shout along. Packed with solid hooks and catchy solos, each song feels like a party. But the vocals are aggressive enough to sound like the party’s getting rough. Good times all round.
Try before you buy: Nuo Sutemų iki Aušros (Bandcamp)

Portrait – Crossroads
(Heavy metal – Sweden)
Metal Blade – 2014/04/25


Portrait have grown up a little on this release. It’s still hard to not make the comparison to Mercyful Fate and King Diamond; the vocalist’s range approaches the King’s and the music still maintains that level of grandiose seriousness. This album gives you impression that snide comments about being a tribute band (albeit a cracking one) are a thing of the past. Its galloping guitar work and pantomime grimness have earned their own praise.
Try before you buy: In Time (YouTube)

Qualm – Passive
(Hardcore – The Netherlands)
тide øf тhe εnd – 2014/07/16


This is hardcore at its most abrasive. It’s lo-fi, angry as enraged hornets, and has the attention span of a three year old dosed up on sugar and speed. These angry Dutch psychos are furious about everything. So it’s pretty representative of hardcore taken to its logical extreme. Impressive, but it comes at a price: it’s really hard to listen to. As a listener, you are given no opportunity to settle in to the experience. Relentlessly discomforting. Try before you buy: Stretch Marks (Bandcamp)

Scalped – Demo 2014
(Hardcore – United States of America)
Self-released – 2014/03/31


If you like abrasive, dirty, fast, loud, short hardcore, then this will be right up your alley. But a discussion about band differentiation is necessary at this point. There’s nothing wrong with this release, but it does nothing to stand out from its peers. I can’t point to any particular stylistic highlight. That being said, bands like this are great at keeping local scenes vibrant and, for that, we should be thankful.
Try before you buy: Charred Hands (Bandcamp)

Skáphe – Skáphe
(Black metal – United States of America)
Fallen Empire – 2014/05/04


This may not be the best black metal release I’ve listened to this year, but it succeeds in a way that so many newcomers fail: it sounds unique. With so many other fresh faces, I’m able to say they sound like Mayhem, Marduk, Deathspell, et cetera. Skáphe sound like Skáphe. Like a bubbling pit of volcanic mud, they sound scorching yet sludgey. They are also, to keep the volcanic theme going, capable of great eruptions of fury. A pyroclastic nightmare.
Try before you buy: The Obelisk Gleam (Bandcamp)

Tartarus – Of Grimness and Atrocity
(Black metal – United Arab Emirates)
Self-released – 2014/07/31


Another addition to the modern black metal canon. The question, as always, is how does it differentiate itself from the rest of the blackened horde. Not being terrible is a big positive. Especially since this EP sounds so vividly similar to both In the Nightside Eclipse and Sworn to the Dark. I suppose if derivative black metal is your oeuvre, setting such a high bar isn’t a bad thing. It’s hardly original, but it’s hard to fault beyond that.
Try before you buy: Axes (of Hatred) (Bandcamp)