May 2018 Review Round Up

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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August 2016 Review Round Up

August has been one of those months that make me question whether or not I should keep going. So much top quality music passed through my ears that I found it difficult to say a bad thing. Even the album I’m most critical of is, in all honesty, pretty good.

Am I too soft? Possibly.

Or it could just be that August was one of those lucky months that came without a dud.

Altarage shone the brightest over all the other gems this month. Bit of an ironic description; they are a bleak experience. But within their withering contempt lies a brilliant stroke of death metal genius.

Grave Miasma gets the nod for honourable mention. Any other month would see them at the top of the tree. Their latest ep is a death metal masterclass.

I’m still active on Facebook, so feel free to get in touch.

Until September, enjoy.

Album of the Month
Altarage – Nihl
(Blackened death metal – Spain)
Sentient Ruin Laboratories/Doomentia Records/Iron Bonehead Productions – 2016/02/26

Dear GOD, that’s an aggressive album. Damn. But more than that, it’s an invigorating album. It’s an album that makes the genre sound vital and new in every way. It’s horrifying. It’s malevolent. Its every note and growl are invocations to indulge in all of humanity’s worst. Captivating in its darkness, Nihl doesn’t let up. Not for one second.
Try before you buy: Vortex Pyramid (Bandcamp)

Honourable Mention
Grave Miasma – Endless Pilgrimage
(Death metal – United Kingdom)
Profound Lore Records/Sepulchral Voice Records – 2016/05/06

I missed Grave Miasma on their last spin through critical country. I’m guessing that was a mistake, as this EP is exactly what death metal should sound like. It is a paragon of death metal, if you will. It absolutely, and perfectly, nails the balance between blistering fury and sinister malice that the genre was built upon.
Try before you buy: Utterance of the Foulest Spirit (Bandcamp)

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Atrament – Eternal Downfall
(Blackened death crust – United States of America)
Sentient Ruin Laboratories – 2016/03/04

A swirling cacophony of bleakness, Eternal Downfall puts it all out there and all it is is horror. The raw spit and venom of crust turns the blackened death metal into a nightmarish amalgamation of cult and gangland initiations. A flurry of fists and feet pummelling you while thick, noisome incense chokes you.
Try before you buy: Rotting Twilight (Bandcamp)

Karcavul – Intersaone
(Blackened sludge – France)
Sentient Ruin Laboratories – 2016/07/01

Sometimes muddy production aids an album. That is definitely the case here. Karcavul’s take on sludge is venomous in the extreme and the ‘recorded in a sewer’ vibe they have going on here only serves to highlight this. Torrid, toxic, and downright sinister, Intersaone is a reminder that metal often hates you.
Try before you buy: Mangepierres (Bandcamp)

Katatonia – The Fall of Hearts
(Depressive rock – Sweden)
Peaceville Records – 2016/05/20

This is what a band embracing their maturity sounds like. The music is always finely balanced between melancholic and bleak. This is further complemented by vocals that are somehow achingly delicate and powerfully desperate. It certainly has its tonally heavy moments, but it is the thematic heaviness that leaves the biggest mark.
Try before you buy: Old Heart Falls (YouTube)

Leather Glove – Skin on Glass
(Crusty death metal – United States of America)
Sentient Ruin Laboratories – 2016/05/05

Always good to listen to death metal that doesn’t sacrifice entertainment in the name of brutality or technicality. Make no mistake, this is aggressive, but the crust influence gives it a degree of punk swagger. Over the course of the three tracks, this demo brings death metal down to the gutter and lets the dirty rock rhythms reign.
Try before you buy: Skin on Glass (Bandcamp)

Mesarthim – .- -… … . -. -.-. .
(Atmospheric black metal – Australia)
Self-released – 2016/08/28

Points awarded straight away for being an atmospheric black metal act that looks beyond the sylvan and verdant. Looking to the broader cosmos is a theme I feel is surprisingly underused in black metal. This album takes mankind’s insignificance in the universe and twists it into knots of futility and rage.
Try before you buy: …– (Bandcamp)

מזמור — Yodh
(Blackened doom metal – United States of America)
Gilead Media – 2016/08/12

Did you ever get the feeling something was going to be brilliant before experiencing it? You try to manage your expectations and keep your hopes in check. Most of the time you will be let down. Not the case with מזמור, aka Mizmor. Harrowing and mournful, Yodh is a death rattle amplified and distorted
Try before you buy: iii. The Serpent Eats Its Tail (Bandcamp)

Psalm Zero – Stranger to Violence
(Metallic post-punk – United States of America)
Profound Lore Records – 2016/06/15

Some solid love for Killing Joke is on display here. I don’t mean to make them sound derivative, as they’re not. It’s more that they push the limits of post-punk far out into the murky waters of metal. It’s a hypnotic affair; swirling synths and meticulous guitar work produce an album furious in its deliberation.
Try before you buy: White Psyche (Bandcamp)

Revocation – Great is Our Sin
(Death thrash – United States of America)
Metal Blade Records – 2016/07/22

I first got into Revocation with their titanic release, Chaos of Forms. It’s a beast of an album. Great is Our Sin is easily its equal. Probably its superior, once I excise the nostalgia. Its speed and heaviness are rounded out by flourishes of technicality. It’s instantly accessible and deeply complicated.
Try before you buy: Only the Spineless Survive (Bandcamp)

Ritual Chamber – Obscurations (To Feast On The Seraphim)
(Death metal – United States of America)
Profound Lore Records – 2016/02/26

The curse of being merely good made manifest. Everything about Obscurations is on point. The riffs sound like Satan blowing off steam. The rhythms are relentless. The growls are low and guttural invocations of damnation. And, yet, for all this positivity, it’s not memorable. Definitely for genre fans, but it’s charm is ephemeral.
Try before you buy: Beings of Entropy (Bandcamp)