May 2019 Review Round Up

I hope everyone had a good May. Looking back, I think I’ve had a slightly more productive month than I expected. Not the worst thing.

We’re edging ever closer to the end of the decade and I’m getting itchy with anticipation. Looking forward to my Top 100 coming out, even though it’s months off still. Hard choices are having to be made.

Speaking of hard choices, May’s album of the month was a tough one. Mesarthim won out in the end. It’s captivating, different, and brilliant.

Not much else in editorial news. Send me links to your demos. You know I prefer Bandcamp. Hit me up on Facebook.

See everyone next month,
Enjoy.

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Album of the Month
Mesarthim – Ghost Condensate
(Trance-infused Black Metal – Australia)
Self-released – 2019/04/17

Mesarthim are fast becoming one of my favourite black metal acts. And it’s primarily because they keep evolving towards something that shouldn’t be. The incorporation of trance into their cosmic black metal is seemless. More to the point, it remains distinctly black metal. Nothing is sacrificed to their sound and their talent expands like the galaxy.

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Daredevil – Youth in Revolt Demo
(Heavy Metal – Russia)
Self-released – 2019/05/01

With equal parts heavy metal, speed metal, and thrash, Daredevil are a band heavy of exuberance. Heavy on talent too. The three tracks on this demo whip by in a flurry of good times that sets its own standard. This isn’t a cheap nostalgia hit; Youth in Revolt pushes itself to be a distinct, powerful voice amongst metals oldest genres.

Deathspell Omega – The Furnaces of Palingenesia
(Avant-garde Black Metal – France)
Norma Evangelium Diaboli – 2019/05/24

It’s been a while since Deathspell has got to me like this, but Furnaces went straight to that inky dark spot on the soul where selfish desire meets feral instinct and stirred it all up. Subversive yet bombastic, it warps what you understand black metal to be then delivers it back to you with a leering disdain for your existence.

Electric B.C. – Demo 2019
(Stoner Sludge – Finland)
Self-released – 2019/05/08

I can forgive a small amount of stylistic inconsistency when the end product is still a satisfying racket. It starts out metal, but has shifted to sludge’s rock fringes by the close. But every riff is caked in bong resin; thick and heavy is name of the game. I also love that they haven’t sacrificed pace for tar. It moves as it fumes.

Horsehunter – Horsehunter
(Doom Metal – Australia)
Magnetic Eye – 2019/03/02

Is there a petition going for Horsehunter to reunite? Could we start one? This is some of the most invigorating doom in recent memory. The riff is king, but it’s also distorted in a way that asserts its dominance over the listener. Combine that with a furiously spat vocal delivery and you have an album as heavy on anger as it is talent.

Laster – Het Wassen Oog
(Progressive Black Metal – Netherlands)
Prophecy – 2019/04/05

Laster have found themselves a satisfying vein of metal to mine here. Het Wassen Oog is progressive in an initially similar way to recent Enslaved, but then goes in unexpected directions. There’s a touch of Vaudeville or a ’30s radio drama, as something sinister looms large, present, yet unknowable. It’s ethereal and heavy like a shadow given form.

Latitudes – Part Island
(Post-metal – England)
Debemur Morti – 2019/04/05

Sophisticated album construction doesn’t get enough praise. Part Island requires patience to get into and unravel. That’s not to say it’s dull. It’s not. But the true splendour of the composition builds itself deliberately and doesn’t let its secrets go cheaply. You know a pay-off is coming, but you have to give yourself over to the journey first.

Leather Glove – Perpetual Animation
(Sludgy Death Metal – United States of America)
Sentient Ruin Laboratories – 2019/03/08

I find how likely I am to revisit an album is one of my truest indicators of how good it truly is. And for all the good on display on Perpetual Animation, it falls down on that front. I’ve listened to it, I’ve taken in its well-composed savagery, I’ve nodded along to its carnivorous rhythms, and I’m going to inevitably forget its existence.

夢遊病者 – Ѫ
(Avantgarde Black Metal – Japan)
Sentient Ruin Laboratories – 2019/04/26

Discordant and dissonant, 夢遊病者 have produced an ep that is overwhelming in its auditory assault. It’s a serenade and a lullaby and howl of rage and scream of madness all at once. Schizophrenic in its delivery of a spectrum of emotions, the end result are two tracks of harrowing, terrifying, captivating grandeur.

Savage – No Escape
(Powerviolence – United States of America)
SPHC Records – 2019/02/19

I like my pv when it’s either weird or shouty. Savage is definitely shouty. And by shouty I mean it reminds me of classic hardcore, but with a greater sense of urgency. No Escape gets straight up in your face and stays there, blasting you with spit as it makes its point as clear and venomous as a box jellyfish. Puts the power and the violence into pv.

Solitarian – Contemplations… Where None Dwell
(Black Metal – Canada)
Self-released – 2019/05/01

In the realm of the black metal demo, any band who at least gets the basics right is worth more than outright scorn. Solitarian do black metal exactly as you’ve heard it before; they haven’t found their unique voice yet, so it quickly becomes an exercise in generic tropes. But they don’t fuck it up. Faint praise, but I’ve heard much worse than them.

Split Open – Demo 2019
(Powerviolence – Canada)
Self-released – 2019/05/06

If you asked me when I started listening to pv all those years ago what the defining characteristics of the genre are, I would have said bookending every track with feedback. It’s a more complex genre than that, but Split Open took me back. But I can’t really fault their approach though. Simplicity is a virtue when it’s done this well.

Waldgeflüster – Mondscheinsonaten
(Blackened Folk Metal – Germany)
Nordvis – 2019/04/12

As far as folk driven black metal goes, Mondscheinsonaten is folkier than most. It’s like someone murdered Korpiklaani or Turisas¹ and their shades have returned to tell their tale to those who would listen. Sadder and slower than true folk metal, Waldgeflüster is evocative of a world of shadow, dimly lit by the souls of the living.

¹ I’m aware that Waldgeflüster is German, while Korpiklaani and Turisas are both Finnish.

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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.

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)