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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June 2015 Review Round Up

June is gone. More than halfway done for the year 2015. It’s going quick.

It’s been a surprisingly big month for me. It’s still less than a release per day, but that 25 review count snuck up on me. Lots of competition for the top spot this month too.

I couldn’t pass on High on Fire for album of the month. Luminiferous is such a colossal sounding album that I needed to expand my scope for metaphors.

I’m also giving a nod to Folivore. A band still getting on with business via demos has no right releasing music so good.

Thanks to everyone who has shared Metalshopped over the last few months. I may not have a huge readership, but that only makes me appreciate the support I get more.

As usual, you can reach me on Facebook. If you give me a share, drop me a line too.

Now to get started on July. Good times.

Album of the Month
High on Fire – Luminiferous
(Sludge metal – United States of America)
eOne Music – 2015/06/23

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You should already know that High on Fire go large. Luminiferous is an album where they go HUUUUUGE. The riffs soar way higher than Everest; they proudly plant their flag atop Olympus Mons. Matt Pike’s vocals are so gravelly, it’s like someone turned the Himalayas into a quarry. The whole album sounds heavier than the Hercules–Corona Borealis Great Wall. You may think I’m overselling this, but trust me; it’s that big.
Try before you buy: Slave the Hive (YouTube)

Honourable Mention
Folivore – Eve of Conception
(Blackened stoner doom – United States of America)
Black Goat Records – 2015/04/20

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This blew me away. Even now, multiple listens in, I can’t quite get over how good this. And it’s a demo. A goddamn demo. It’s a particularly whacked out blend marijuana and Mephistopheles. Kind of like Mayhem after many cones of dank skunk. Or Electric Wizard peaking on mdma. I got high just listening to it’s fuzzed out tributes to evil. It’s a gateway drug that will result in the loss of your soul.
Try before you buy: Black Magic Baptism (Bandcamp)

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Abaton & Viscera/// – Diade(ms)
(Post-black metal – Italy & Italy)
Sentient Ruin Laboratories et al – 2015/06/23

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Definitely an interesting collaboration. I wasn’t familiar with either band beforehand, but my interest has been piqued in both. Abaton’s doom infused black metal blends with Viscera///’s post-metal to create a weighty, intellectual sound. The overwhelming theme is one of brooding malevolence. The darkness is almost tangible; it’s like a looming darkness always threatening to overtake you. Intriguing stuff.
Try before you buy: Special Needs (Bandcamp)

Before the Harvest – Wretched Existence
(Deathcore – Australia)
Vicious Instinct Records – 2015/06/15

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Always good to find some deathcore that I like. There’s a certain spiritual connection between these guys and Fleshgod Apocalypse, as they incorporate some symphonic-esque elements to great effect. There’s nothing delicate about them though. They bludgeon with a persistent aura of brutality. It creates a thoroughly entertaining sense of sophistication portrayed by early man.
Try before you buy: Filthy Breed (Bandcamp)

Carnero – Carnero
(Hardcore – Italy)
Self-released – 2015/05/29

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Maximum bang for your pay-what-you-want buck. It’s releases like this that keep me engaged with hardcore. It has enough metallic elements to give it some extra oomph, but it remains utterly true to its roots. There were more than a few times I found myself making favourable comparisons to Minor Threat. It has that perfect combination of energy, intensity, and message that all great hardcore has.
Try before you buy: La scelta del corpo (Bandcamp)

Casket Garden – In the Name of Nobody
(Crusty death metal – Italy)
Self-released – 2015/01/03

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The first time I listened to this, I wasn’t a fan. I didn’t hate it, but I did feel underwhelmed. That was my fault, not Casket Garden’s. You see, I was listening to it while actively relaxing and a chilled out frame of mind is totally inappropriate for this blend of death metal and agitated punk. Their Bolt Thrower meets Black Flag sound requires emotional investment on their level. Get mad, stay mad.
Try before you buy: Alpha, Beta, Gamma Rays (Bandcamp)

Church of Lies – No Gods… No Manners
(Stoner doom metal – United Kingdom)
Self-released – 2015/06/10

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Music can take you to strange places, but Church of Lies decides to go somewhere more familiar. It takes you to a raucous party with a beer in one hand, whiskey in the other. People are doing bucket bongs in the next room, but they’re giggling about pepper cones so you’ll give it a miss for a bit. Someone keeps yelling “FUCKING SLAYER”, regardless of what’s playing. It’s nothing new, but it sure is fun.
Try before you buy: Desperate Words (Bandcamp)

Cloud Rat – Qliphoth
(Grindcore – United States of America)
Halo of Flies – 2015/05/29

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Cloud Rat are a provocative grindcore act. I don’t mean in the lyrical sense. Every grind act should aim to be lyrically provocative. Cloud Rat are provocative in the sense that they dare to be melodic, something that is usually antithetical to grind as a whole. Qliphoth is an album that really drives this point home. 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.
Try before you buy: Botched (Bandcamp)

Dakhma – Raze
(Black metal – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/03/06

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It’s a little bit repetitive and it’s hardly ground breaking, but I challenge you to not like this. The success they achieve here is the malevolent atmosphere they build and maintain throughout the course of the four tracks. It allows the listener to comfortably gloss over any misgivings they might have. I may have mentioned repetition above, but the music still keeps the listener engaged with their malice.
Try before you buy: Eulogy (Bandcamp)

Eigenlicht – Sacrel Regicide
(Blackened doom metal – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/05/05

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I say blackened doom metal above, but maybe that should read doomy black metal. It’s a very fine line separating the dominant genre on this release. Nomenclature aside, this is two tracks of atmospheric heaviness that could be spectacular, but for production problems. It sounds muffled. Not lo-fi. Not fuzzed out. Muffled. It needs to be levelled better because it’s loaded with stirring passages.
Try before you buy: Province of Immolated Kings (Bandcamp)

Exhaaust – Demo
(Hardcore – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/05/26

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This is muscular hardcore. And by muscular I mean veins bulging like a steroid boosted power lifter getting furious at someone mid lift muscular. It was a bit of a calculated risk. Other bands have taken a crack at the ultra-buff sound and it has turned into limp, dull affair. Exhaaust got it right though. It gets consistently in your face; you can almost feel the vocalist’s spit on your face.
Try before you buy: The Same Last Straw (Bandcamp)

Fermented Masturbation/Decomposition of Entrails/Morphogenetic Malformation/注射針混入豚¹ – Impregnated Through Pathogenic Agony
(Brutal death metal – Norway/Russia/Russia/Japan)
Rebirth the Metal Productions – 2015/06/06

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Brutal death metal is supposed to scratch a very specific itch: bloodthirsty depravity. The four bands on display here more than scratch it; they cut off the offending appendage and serve it to some poor sod trapped in their basement. The alpha brute is definitely 注射針混入豚. It’s bowel-loosening horror given a soundtrack. The others are no slouches either. Prepare for death by slam.
Try before you buy: Manipulate the Mangle Roller (Bandcamp)

A Forest of Stars – Beware the Sword You Cannot See
(Avant-garde black metal – United Kingdom)
Prophecy Productions – 2015/02/27

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I normally don’t go in for steampunk. The cogs and octopuses just aren’t my thing. I can’t deny A Forest of Stars make it work for them. I also can’t deny that I enjoyed the hell out this album a lot more than their previous work. They got the interplay between blackened intensity and Victorian aesthetic spot on. They finally sound like the arcane and esoteric society they portray.
Try before you buy: Proboscis Master Versus The Powdered Seraphs (Bandcamp)

Funeste – Demo MMXV
(Black metal – Canada)
Self-released – 2015/05/01

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Knowing your target demographic is an important thing. Funeste is not going to win any converts to black metal, but these sinister Quebecois make damn sure that if hellish cacophony is your thing then so are they. And that’s not a bad thing at all. They are another band that truly understands the necessity of atmosphere to the genre. It’s a cornucopia of negativity. Murderously depressing stuff.
Try before you buy: Diptera (Bandcamp)

Hadak Ura – Forever Dying//Forever Dead
(Death grind – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/05/06

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They may tag themselves as blackened, but I hear way more Trap Them in them than I do anything grim and frostbitten. Happy to be proven wrong, but ultimately it doesn’t make a whole lot of difference. Hadak Ura build atmosphere like pros. A few atmospheric interludes here and a truckload of chainsaw riffs there and all of a sudden you’re listening to an album that cons its way inside then brutalises you like a Kubrick film. An audio nasty.
Try before you buy: Cannabis Ex Mortis (Bandcamp)

Nel Ventre Della Bestia – Nel Ventre Della Bestia
(Drone – Italy)
UTU Conspiracy – 2015/04/10

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Drone fans rejoice; this is a band that gets it. It opens with with a maddening ten minute loop with only subtle variations providing relief. It is a fine example of monotony as a weapon. It finally gives way to crushing, bass-heavy, speaker destruction. It’s like a ten tonne weight on the brain. The crushing heaviness that follows the monotony perfectly encapsulates the soul-rendering bleakness of the genre.
Try before you buy: Bordoni e bordate (Bandcamp)

Occult 45 – Human Abhorrence
(D-beat – United States of America)
Broken Limbs Recordings – 2015/03/10

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It’s a release that opens with a lot of promise, but does tend to peter out by the end. The positives come in the form of ultra-aggressive d-beat. And they maintain the rage for the duration. They get that part of the equation spot on. The problem is that the rage ends up being the totality of the experience. It becomes a one-dimensional experience pretty quick and the tracks all roll into one big curbstomp.
Try before you buy: Tyranny Stomp (Bandcamp)

Okazaki Fragments – Abandoned
(Death grind – Canada)
Self-released – 2015/06/06

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It’s not for me, but it may well be for you. It takes grind’s discordance to the verge of avant-garde. It may well cross that line. But it still has the lumbering meathead violence of brutal death metal. It’s like a roided up pit fighter (it’s Brock Lesnar in my mind) hooked up with Yoko Ono, did a shit-tonne of pcp, and decided to go on a cross-country rampage, a la Starkweather and Fugate. If this is your thing, enjoy.
Try before you buy: The Earth Aflame (Bandcamp)

Pattern Breaker – Demo for Sagan
(Oddcore – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/06/11

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This started out as a short, sharp shock of hardcore, but by the end it’s like they blew a steaming money shot of weirdness into my ears. The samples and the riffs are designed to leave the listener completely bewildered. It makes for a demo that’s simultaneously highly entertaining yet very challenging. If you like simple, mosh-friendly core, Pattern Breaker may not be for you. Personally, I like having my head fucked with.
Try before you buy: For Sagan (Bandcamp)

Peasant – Go to Hell
(Blackened heavy metal – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/04/20

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I’ve always said that Venom started out as a nwobhm band that couldn’t play very well and decided to be evil instead. Peasant remind me of early Venom, with one very important distinction: they can actually play damn well. It’s unmistakably black metal, but it’s played like it’s classic heavy metal. It doesn’t worship at the altar of nostalgia either. This is an album that gushes evil from every rollicking note.
Try before you buy: Wretched Codex (Bandcamp)

Serial Apathy – Hate in the Name of Love
(Grindcore – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/06/07

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It’s a loud burst of rage. While I’m sure he was aiming for the primal rage of a great beast, unfortunately he only managed the rage of a boozehound so wasted you can’t tell what they’re mad about. Maybe his wife left him. Maybe he just spilled his beer. I understand that lo-fi has its place. I listen to way to much grind and black metal to deny that. But this is just an unfocused, undifferentiated mess.
Try before you buy: Null (Bandcamp)

Shaidar Logoth – Chapter II: The Ritualist
(Atmospheric black metal – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/03/01

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Hidden in the world there’s a long abandoned church. Amidst the rubble, there is an unhallowed space. The holy space has been profaned, the air is noisome with rot, and the walls tangibly hum with the susurrus of vermin. Sitting at the nadir of the ruin is a man in immaculate white clothing, telling parables of malice and self-gratification. His evil is undeniable, but is utterly compelling. I love the effect evocative music has on me.
Try before you buy: Drink Thine Wretched Wine (Bandcamp)

Strutter – Demo 2015
(Hardcore – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/04/04

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Walking a fine line between punk and hardcore, Strutter are certainly entertaining. They combine the three chord simplicity of the Ramones with the outright oddity of the Dead Kennedys and then play it with the rough and ready rawness of early hardcore. It may not be the greatest thing you’ll ever hear, but it does the heart good to see a band keeping the spirit of punk alive and well. Definitely worth a listen.
Try before you buy: Forced Entry (Bandcamp)

Sunset in the 12th House – Mozaic
(Post-rock – Romania)
Prophecy Productions – 2015/06/05

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I had an immediate and intensely positive reaction to this album. It’s one of those albums that creates an emotional bond with the listener from the first note. Mostly instrumental, melody ebbs and flows like the tides, building to a massive storm surge of blackened elemental fury on the final track. Stylistically, it’s a very complicated album; it’s a spectacular blend of traditional arrangements, metal, and post-rock.
Try before you buy: Paraphernalia of Sublimation (Bandcamp)

The Vintage Caravan – Arrival
(Rock – Iceland)
Nuclear Blast – 2015/05/15

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It opens with substantially less bombast than their previous release, but it develops into a far superior album. It takes their existing classic rock love of free-wheeling guitars and builds stronger, catchier tunes around them. This allows the listener to remain actively engaged for the duration of the songs, rather than killing time between awesome widdly guitar bits. They remain the future of rock.
Try before you buy: Crazy Horses (YouTube)

¹Needle Contaminated Pork

June Review Round Up

June felt like a slow month, but I still ended up with twenty reviews. The new Mayhem album justly deserves its top billing. I was a big fan of Ordo ad Chao, but Esoteric Warfare is something else again. It would also seem that I’m one of the few to truly enjoy Mastodon’s new album, but I think that’s because I really like the space rock vibe they’re rocking at the moment.

We’re at the half-year mark and I’ve got to admit, 2014 has already exceeded many of my expectations. I’m a pretty generous reviewer; I can usually find some redeeming features in whatever I’m listening to, but I’ve got to admit that there has been a succession of genuinely top quality releases so far. Bring on the second half of the year.

Album of the Month
Mayhem – Esoteric Warfare
(Black metal – Norway)
Season of Mist – 2014/06/06

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I read more than a few reviews of Esoteric Warfare before I penned my own. I’m pretty sure every single one of them referenced De Mysteriis dom Sathanas and they did so by way of positive comparison. I’m going to add my voice to this chorus, as this album is spectacular. It’s easily the best thing they’ve done since they defined the genre all those years ago. Credit must go to Teloch; the man’s songwriting skills would make Euronymous proud.
Try before you buy: MILAB (YouTube)

Honourable Mentions
ACxDC – Antichrist Demoncore
(Powerviolence – United States of America)
Melotov Records – 2014/06/24

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Okay. Technically it’s a blend of grindcore and powerviolence, but I personally believe it lands further on the pv side of the line. Nomenclature quibbles aside, this is one hell of an awesome racket. Catchy and disorientating in equal measure, only after repeated listens was I able to pick exactly where songs ended. That’s not a criticism either. The sheer level of audio violence crammed into these twenty odd minutes is truly inspiring.
Try before you buy: Vegangelical (Bandcamp)

Eyehategod – Eyehategod
(Sludge metal – United States of America)
Housecore Records – 2014/05/27

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I don’t think any band is quite as emblematic of NOLA as Eyehategod. Seedy and swampy, yet possessed of a unique vigour, the comparisons go deeper. Both have been broken, yet they remain unbowed. Thanks to Hurricane Katrina and their own personal demons, the notorious sludge lords truly have been through hell and back. This has translated directly to their music. It’s no wonder they put their name to the album. It is truly theirs.
Try before you buy: Medicine Noose (YouTube)

Mastodon – Once More ‘Round the Sun
(Progressive sludge – United States of America)
Reprise Records – 2014/06/24

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Ordinarily the phrase ‘meets expectations’ implies a faint level of disappointment, as though more could have expected. But that’s not the case with Mastodon. When they meet your expectations, you just know you will be blown away. It’s just what they do. Once More ‘Round the Sun takes what they did with The Hunter and blasts even further into space. It’s a beautiful expedition into progressive expanses, that is challenging, uplifting, and hard rocking.
Try before you buy: Aunt Lisa (YouTube)

Shores of Null – Quiescence
(Gothic death metal – Italy)
Candlelight Records – 2014/03/24

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You don’t often get to associate the word ‘beautiful’ with death metal, but that’s what Quiescence is: beautiful death metal. The use of clean vocals is inspired and, fortunately, the vocalist is absolutely spot on in his delivery. Musically, the album is clearly rooted in melodeath, but is gloomy in its delivery. This combination of clean vocals, gloomy delivery, and traditional melodeath is absolutely stunning. And this is their first release. They should be huge.
Try before you buy: Night Will Come (Bandcamp)

An Anomaly
Jesus Egg – Discography
(Ska grind – United States of America)
Self-released – ????/??/??

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From deep in the grind underground comes Jesus Egg. I don’t know when this was released. I don’t know what the tracks are called. Hell, I can’t even be sure if it’s called ‘Discography’. What I do know is that this is some of the most violent, intense, and downright weird grindcore you will come across. The ska influence ranges between subtle and blunt, but is always undeniably there, turning this blastbeat barrage into something truly out there.
Try before you buy: Discography (YouTube). Available for free download here.

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
A Red Nightmare – A Red Nightmare
(Good deathcore – Brazil)
Self-released – 2014/06/02

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I’ve come to the conclusion that there are two distinct deathcore genres: hardcore infused with death metal elements, which is inevitably terrible and death metal infused with hardcore elements, which is often pretty good. This is in the later category. Its production is super crisp; if there were a fly outside, you would have heard it. The music itself comes in on the techdeath end of things, with a tactful use of breakdowns. Damn entertaining.
Try before you buy: Enemy (Bandcamp)

Adversary – Adversary
(Black metal – United Kingdom)
Exitium Productions – 2014/02/12

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There’s a lot of dross in black metal; so many bands trying to make themselves heard, but all of them sounding largely the same. It’s very easy to lose quality bands in the wash. And based on their second demo, it would be a crime against the genre to lose track of Adversary. They deal in frostbitten misanthropy, doing their damned best to channel their inner Mayhem. It’s the sort of release that draws you in from the outset and keeps you totally engaged.
Try before you buy: Illusionary Benefactor (Bandcamp)

Agonized – Consumed
(Grindcore – Malaysia)
Self-released – 2014/02/22

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I love true grindcore: the raw punk spit, the blastbeat barrages, the chainsaw guitars. At it’s best, it’s music that stokes the fires of my inner activist. But there is always the twinge knowing that many a good band will go unnoticed in the fertile underground. That’s why it’s always such a treat to come across awesome demo material, such as Consumed. I know no one grinds for the money, but I hope these guys get some label support. Bloody fantastic.
Try before you buy: Indefinite (Bandcamp)

Barghest – The Virtuous Purge
(Black metal – United States of America)
Gilead Media – 2014/06/17

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When talking about black metal, there are a few adjectives that turn up over and over again. Icy is one. Profane is another. But the term that The Virtuous Purge truly exemplifies is furious. Barghest have produced an album of the purest rage known to man. Ordinarily, this level of blind fury bores me; it becomes one dimensional very quickly. But this held my attention from start to finish. Why? Because Barghest write songs that rock their rage.
Try before you buy: Spent Brass (Bandcamp)

Beastplague – Beastplague
(Deathgrind – United States of America)
Torn Flesh Records – 2014/06/15

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This is a really solid example of deathgrind. It has all the hallmarks of death metal, but is played at breakneck speed and is totally unforgiving in its use of blastbeats. It’s non-stop assault and battery from the get go. And while the ten tracks pass in the blink of an eye, you don’t feel shortchanged. It probably helps that each track has a unique feel, so that they don’t bleed into each other. It’s that sort of creative vitality that grind needs.
Try before you buy: Fortis Quadramanus (Bandcamp)

Choriachi – S.U.F.F.E.R. (Set Us Free From Evil Rewards)
(Stoner metal – Italy)
Red Sound Records – 2014/06/06

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This is one of the most quintessentially stoner albums I’ve ever heard, both in its positives and its negatives. The riffs are chunky and can’t help but raise a smile. And the vocalist has a crooning voice that sounds like he’s in all your friends’ favourite bands: familiar but not instantly recognisable. He is good though. But they, like most stoners, do tend to forget what they’re doing. It’s like they lose focus mid-song, so they tend to get stuck in loops of repetitive riffs.
Try before you buy: Our Vice is a Locked Room (Bandcamp)

Deep-pression – Slave of Events
(Ambient – Italy/Poland)
Self-released – 2014/06/06

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Neatly straddling ambient, drone, and doom, Slave of Events is an album that’s big on depression and small on accessibility. The songs are genuinely engaging, but they weigh on your psyche like ten tonne weights. The synths and guitars are drip melancholy, while the sparse drum work is the pulse of a dying man; desperate, but fleeting. The quality production values ensure this is an album that begs to be heard, but leaves you feeling terrible.
Try before you buy: Star Whispers (Bandcamp)

Ghost Bath – Funeral
(Depressive black metal – China)
Pest Productions – 2014/02/04

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I feel like I’m missing some important cultural nuance when listening to Funeral, as the vocals are jarring to the point of cringeworthiness. They sound like the terrified shriek of a little girl who just stumbled upon a tarantula and they never seem in time with the music. Possibly, this is incorporating a blackened form of traditional Chinese singing; possibly it’s just awful wailing. It’s a shame, as the haunting music holds your attention like a vice.
Try before you buy: Procession (Bandcamp)

Husk – Hymns
(Blackened crust – United Kingdom)
Art as Catharsis – 2014/04/10

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I just couldn’t get into this. It’s high energy and well produced, but it’s soulless. The rhythm section is supposed to propel the music forward, but Husk’s drum and bass gets monotonous quickly, and frustratingly monotonous shortly after that. The leads are punchy. I can’t deny them that and the vocals aren’t attrocious either. But I can’t get past the fact that this ends up sounding like a test run for riffs. Technically sound, but not enjoyable.
Try before you buy: Keelhaul (Bandcamp)

Kognitiv Tod – Dysphoric Whispers
(Atmospheric black metal – United States of America)
Self-released – 2014/06/03

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It’s a hard album to get into. The band have attempted to incorporate a lot of different elements, but they haven’t been wholly successful. It’s too up-tempo to be ambiet, lacks the bombast to be symphonic, and is too jaunty to be trve while not being jaunty enough to be folk. They do some things quite well. I especially like the vocals. But overall it’s too much of an obvious mishmash to really hold the attention. I don’t hate it, I just don’t really want it.
Try before you buy: Behind the Veil of Eternal Fog (Bandcamp)

Meatpacker/Fetus Christ – Split
(Grindcore – United Kingdom)
Samizdat Records – 2014/02/16

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Another fine 2014 grind release, these mad Brits don’t have any intention of catering to people with healthy attention spans. Meatpacker, especially, rush through their tracks at an insane pace. Intense riffs and blasts abound. Fetus Christ seem positively glacial by comparison, but then you realise that their tempos may not be as intense but their short, punky tracks are still the stuff fucked up grind is made of. A delighfully biohazardous romp.
Try before you buy: Golden Arches (Bandcamp)

Mother Brain – Rise and Grind
(Grindcore – United States of America)
Mannequin Rein Recordings – 2014/03/01

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Rise and Grind is wholly proficient grindcore that I just can’t get behind. Don’t get me wrong, if grind is your thing, you will like this. And I do too, while I’m listening to it. But once it stops, it’s gone, leaving behind nothing but a faint memory of blastbeats. A specific problem I have is that there is a preponderance of slowdowns. One or two are nice for effect, but there are limits. But I can’t shake the notion that if this were memorable, I could get over that.
Try before you buy: I Didn’t Sign Up for This (Bandcamp)

Nyarlathotep – The Shadow Over Innsmouth
(Blackened doom – United States of America)
Self-released – 2014/06/21

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Your name is Nyarlathotep and your album is called The Shadow Over Innsmouth, which indicates more than a passing interest in Lovecraft. I only have one question: where’s the madness? In the lyrics possibly, but it’s not evident in the music. To be fair, I do enjoy their blend of Mysticum and Cathedral. They might need to trim a bit of the fat, but overall it’s a pleasing aggressive sound. But if you’re going full Cthulu, you have to sound fucked up.
Try before you buy: The Gilman House (Bandcamp)

Oberion – Return
(Death metal – Sweden)
Self-released – 2014/06/04

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Another entry in the old school before all else brand of Swedish death metal. It’s a pretty good one too. What absolutely makes this album is, despite the fact it is very much a death metal album, there is a heart of solid rock ‘n’ roll in there. This is positively toe tapping at times. And there are guitar leads that really put Thin Lizzy or Van Halen in my mind. But, as I said, this is death metal. Dirty and unforgiving as any other Swedeath band. But with a soul.
Try before you buy: Eerie (Bandcamp)