Albums of the Decade 2010-2019, Part 2 (70-41)

Welcome to part 2 of 4 of the Best Albums of the Decade. Part 1 may have been a bit eclectic, but part 2 veers gleefully into the false at times. Every albums belongs here though.

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70) Leviathan – Scar Sighted
Profound Lore – 2015

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Leviathan doesn’t make easily accessible music and Scar Sighted is particularly dense. Meaning is obfuscated under layers of distortion and discomfort. Then, once you peel everything back and get to the core of it, all that’s there is an inky, impenetrable heart of blackest misanthropy. To search for meaning in this lucid nightmare is akin to pinning down a shadow; it’s there, you know it’s there, but it’s so intangible that it can never be grasped. It takes an already intense album and twists the knife in your mind.

69) Gojira – L’Enfant Sauvage
Roadrunner Records – 2012

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If, like me, you think Magma was a hard reset for Gojira, it’s because they hit the wall with L’Enfant Sauvage. They took everything they had built upon over the preceding albums; all the progressive elements; all the technical nuance; all the interplay between light and dark, and threw it at this album. The end result was their most intense album. It could easily have spiralled into a noisy, disjointed mess, so it’s genuinely impressive they managed to keep the reins on it. When going all or nothing, it’s a damn good thing to land on all.

68) Deafheaven – New Bermuda
Anti- – 2015

New Bermuda is Deafheaven making an adamant statement that, yes, they are a black metal act. They still lean into the emo and shoegaze elements that have made them (in)famous, but they’ve made a subtle course correct back to the genre fundamentals. It’s a deeper experience than the Black Metal with Feelings (New from Pixar!) that came before. It’s murkier. It’s more chaotic. And, somewhat ironically, it’s a more human experience for it. It pays raw emotional dividends without feeling forced.

67) Devourment – Conceived in Sewage
Relapse – 2013

Here it is, folks: the only brutal slam album I have returned to over and over. I keep coming back because it delivers far more than it promises. I’m not afraid to say that while slam has its moments, ordinarily I find it a bit repetitive for my own taste. Conceived in Sewage is anything but that. It definitely brings the mosh-amping violence, but its headbanging-friendly chug is complemented with memorable melody. What’s on offer here is a complete album, not just a collection of mosh bait.

66) Dälek – Asphalt For Eden
Profound Lore – 2016

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I don’t know a lot about hip-hop, from a critical perspective, but ambient, drone, and noise are right in my wheelhouse. Dälek’s return album is massively successful in building hypnotic and haunting music that sits squarely at the intersection of the aforementioned genres. Soothing, yet discomforting, it’s the sort of music that cuts straight to the soul without you noticing the incision. On top of that are some of the most insightful, impassioned lyrics to be recorded this decade. It’s a beautiful flash of genius.

65) Wovenhand – Refractory Obdurate
Deathwish Inc – 2014

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You’re not going to find another band like Wovenhand. Main man, David Edwards, writes intense, almost apocalyptic Christian lyrics and performs them over a blend of country, punk, and a fistful of different folk influences. And Refractory Obdurate is the album that best brings these disparate elements together. Majestic, yet oddly intimate, it’s a clear window into the mindset of its creator. Don’t let the God bothering put you off; musically, it’s a stunning album built around a wholly unique worldview.

64) Windhand – Grief’s Infernal Flower
Relapse – 2015

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“When I sleep I dream of death.” Prior to this gut punch in the masterfully depressing Sparrow, you might suspect that Windhand are approaching some difficult subject matter, but then all doubt gets ripped out. The stoner doom fuzz immediately takes on a whole new, unfathomably dark tone. It ceases to be fun, if a whisper troubling. It immediately becomes a deliberate attempt to obfuscate something very real and absolutely awful. I say attempt, because the darkness permeates it totally and cannot be hidden.

63) Slipknot – We Are Not Your Kind
Roadrunner Records – 2019

I had to force myself to remove my metal elitist hat and acknowledge that Iowan nontet have actually produced a fantastic piece of contemporary metal. A massive part of that success is a laser-like focus on how they want their finished product to sound. Gone is the flailing, uncontrollable angst of their first albums. Gone (hopefully forever) is the creative malaise that followed until now. This album’s ebbs and flows have a maturity that harnesses anger and repurposes it to drive home a massive sound.

62) Ghost – Opus Eponymous
Rise Above – 2010

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Hard to believe that from this humble little album, Ghost would go on to become the satan pop behemoths they are today. I say hard to believe, as who would have thought that the combination of black metal themes with psychedelic doom composition and Broadway theatrics would lodge so well in the psyche? But as much as they have gone on to bigger things (and will only get bigger), they still haven’t topped their debut. It works on every level it wants to work on. A haunted house inhabited with actual Satanists.

61) Obituary – Obituary
Relapse – 2017

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Obituary have been around for a seemingly forever and, if you have heard much of their post-millennium material, you’d believe it. I was still a fan, but you could hear the tiredness in their approach. But then they dropped their self-titled and all of a sudden their legendary status was on full display again. It’s not just that they play heavy. They always nail the heaviness. It’s that they fully unleashed their swampy swagger, melding the chug of Florida death with a ripping rock and roll nasty.

60) Gold – No Image
Profound Lore – 2015

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To grossly oversimplify thing, goth music is basically post-punk that skews heavily pessimistically romantic. Deathrock takes goth and performs it in a way that not-miserable people might enjoy. Gold lives up to those gross oversimplifications and exceeds all expectations in doing so. It’s an album that routinely gets me right in the heart, but encourages me to feel good about feeling sad. That to live an experience that leaves a genuine emotion is far better than to live safely in a bubble of emotional numbness.

59) american – Violate and Control
Sentient Ruin Laboratories – 2017

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When I first reviewed this I settled on “The Intersection Between Black Metal and Noise Without Truly Being Either” as the genre tag. On re-review, I don’t think I could have described it any better. They hammer home a distinctly post-human sound by combining the most aggressive elements of the two genres. But there’s a sophistication that takes much unpacking to really appreciate. It pushes its extremes to prog or post- proximity, but never at the expense of its savage atmosphere.

58) Deicide – Overtures of Blasphemy
Century Media – 2018

As someone who came very late to the Deicide party, you may not be surprised to learn that I hold the band to a tougher standard than I probably should. They left me cold for a long time and I’ll rake them over the coals for far more minor infractions than I would bother with ordinarily. So that I unabashedly enjoy Overtures speaks volumes about how good an album it is. Their particular focus on melody pays off spectacularly. There is no chug here; every track speaks to the greatness of a death metal original.

57) Mgła – Age of Excuse
Northern Heritage – 2019

As paragons of Satanism at its most objectivist, Mgła often makes me uncomfortable. I’m not afraid to say that, because out of this discomfort is born a fascination. They take me to places I wouldn’t ordinarily travel and force me to justify my own existence. Age of Excuse perfectly encapsulates this forbidden fascination. Its will is totalitarian, its confidence is unwavering, and it wields a massive axe to winnow the herds too weak to stand with it. Selfish desires have never sounded so virtuous.

56) Baroness – Yellow & Green
Relapse – 2012

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There’s an awful lot to like about this double album, but what sticks with me the ability to sound so huge, so absolutely stadium shaking, while at the same time sounding so intimate that they could be playing just for you. It helps that they strike the perfect balance between barnstormers and contemplators, but even taking that into account, there’s something extraordinary about their performance. They went out of their way to be everything at once, and with genuine compositional skill, they are.

55) Ludicra – The Tenant
Profound Lore – 2010

Ludicra’s swansong album is a remarkable example of deft songwriting. It’s powerfully evocative of urban alienation, ably channelling the feeling of insignificance when surrounded by towering, grey, brutalist edifices. But The Tenant is also redolent of a hostile, fae otherness. That underneath the all too human theme of isolation is an unseele court waiting to prey upon the unsuspecting. This is an album that loses the listener in a world that feeds on uncertainty and discontent.

54) Moss Upon the Skull – In Vengeful Reverence
I, Voidhanger – 2018

When I listen to these Belgian progressive death dealers, they get me thinking about progressive titans like Opeth, Gojira, and Enslaved. But, if you’ve been paying attention, you’ll notice In Vengeful Reverence ranks above all their offerings. It all comes down to approach. This album makes me think about the other bands because it forges its own path. It delivers its sinister sound with a striking freshness. Wild yet crisp, like a conifer forest in the dead of winter, it’s what the genre needs.

53) Rotting Christ – Aealo
Season of Mist – 2010

This is Rotting Christ getting their ultra-melodic, slightly folky take on black metal just right. Later albums taught me that it’s a far more delicate balancing act than you would think. I think the thing that truly makes Aealo work is it’s relentless. It keeps coming at you and coming at you; it might deviate and try different strategies, but it never stops. It relies upon that aggressiveness of purpose to keep your attention rapt. There’s no rough edges or abrasiveness; there is only melodic triumph.

52) Bastard Priest – Under the Hammer of Destruction
Blood Harvest – 2010

I had been using the term bastard metal for a few years prior to this album for describing bands that were an amalgamation of black, death, and thrash metals, but Bastard Priest really take that term and make it their own. They’ve got the surging immediacy of thrash, the blood and guts of death metal, and the stench of the void of black metal. It’s an album packed from start to finish with sonic evil, made all the more nasty by how memorably entertaining they are. They’re the raging kings of the bastards.

51) Death Angel – The Dream Calls For Blood
Nuclear Blast – 2013

Sharp as a surgical scalpel and whipcord taut, The Dream Calls For Blood is the highlight in Death Angel’s reformation. The band were already the hallmark of consistency amongst Bay Area bands; they haven’t dropped a clunker this millennium. But this album stands even further apart from the rest. It’s the little things. Simple, yet incisive lyrics draw the listener in. The tracks are timed for maximum impact with minimum filler. It’s all about the point: getting there, staying there, and delivering.

50) YOB – Atma
Profound Lore – 2013

Setting a lofty standard for heaviness, Atma is exactly the sort of album that should convert doom non-believers into wide-eyed zealots. The low, rumbling riffs move with tectonic force and when they are matched with the pained, screeching vocals, the end result is seismic sonic upheaval. YOB genuinely sound like they could move mountains or shift our planetary axis on this release. But it’s more than heavy. There’s a subtly too it that belies its heft. It’s delicately crafted art wrapped in riffs.

49) The Haunted – Exit Wounds
Century Media – 2014

That intro track doesn’t really brace you for the onslaught to follow, as The Haunted storm the ramparts with everything in their not-inconsiderable arsenal. I really can’t undersell how hard and how fast this album comes at you. It even has what I would call a false closer or two; you might get sucked into thinking the gas is about to ease off only to get whiplash from the damn thing suddenly red-lining again. It’s a non-stop roller-coaster of high-octane, performance-tuned metal.

48) At the Gates – At War With Reality
Century Media – 2014

You can’t really say it’s a spiritual successor to Slaughter of the Soul. It’s a different beast. Gone is the white-hot angst and in its place is a black-hearted desolation. To say this album is bleak is to undersell it. The band haven’t tried to be what they were then and it shows. They’ve matured as people and this is passed on to the music. Its thematic maturity is mirrored in the music; the full-frontal assault of their youth is replaced with a sinister display of calculated, pernicious aggression.

47) Shining – Blackjazz
Indie – 2010

It was very tempting to review this with just a meme; this one in fact. Straight up, this reinterpretation of jazz through a black metal lens never settles enough to be normal. It just keeps escalating and distorting and intensifying. It doesn’t have an off switch; even when it winds down to a lower tempo, that’s no relief because the mood shifts as well to keep the overall effect challenging. But for all the madness, the relentlessness is memorable in the extreme. It carves itself into your goodwill.

46) Oranssi Pazuzu – Valonielu
Svart – 2013

It helps to remember that Oranssi Pazuzu started life as a psychedelic rock act that came to black metal later because Valonielu sounds like the band took a bad trip and experienced apocalyptic visions. You can tell that they weren’t born of the dark; that the dark came for them and they embraced it. There are moments that sound genuinely revelatory; that the band knows how to open the doors to perception. The end result is an album that is equal parts enlightenment and absolute terror.

45) Kreator – Gods of Violence
Nuclear Blast – 2017

Multiple songs that I sing along loudly and badly to. Several songs that legitimately choke me up. Suffice to say, this album really speaks to me. It helps that the Teutonic thrash titans upped their game and produced their best album this millennium. It’s clockwork precise, but it cranks along at a blistering pace. But the inescapable fact is what makes this so good is that it is ridiculous fun. Thrash is supposed to be the music of beers and good times. And, holy crap, this brings a raucous party.

44) Nails – You Will Never Be One Of Us
Nuclear Blast – 2016

I’ve seen and participated in debates about whether these bruisers are grind, pv, or hardcore. On reflection, they were wastes of time. What matters is how infectious their animosity is. YWNBOOU is hostility fed steroids and then unleashed with a fervent mania. It goes straight for the lizard brain and plays upon its instinctive need to luxuriate and wallow in negativity and aggression. It draws you in deep, which goes to show just how seductive those primal feelings can be.

43) Hail of Bullets – On Divine Winds
Metal Blade – 2010

Hail of Bullets, in their three album existence, were death metal’s foremost world war two historians and On Divine Winds was their most engaging lesson. The war in the Pacific certainly provides a wealth of subject matter (Pearl Harbor, kamikaze, nukes, etc), but that they could translate it into such engaging and memorable lyrics makes it so much better. And then to lay those lyrics down over gunfire drums and heavy machinery guitars to perfectly marry military theme to cataclysmic sound? It’s masterful.

42) Converge – All We Love We Leave Behind
Epitaph – 2012

Are Converge the most emotionally mature band in metalcore? I’m struggling to think of anyone more so. They have always taken intensely, challengingly poignant themes and refracted them into blustering howls of catharsis. All We Love is a standout in this regard. It’s affectingly heavy. Draining would be my preferred term, but for their convulsive mathcore driving the energy levels up into the extremes. Its ebbs and flows chart moments of beauty and pain and the deltas where they intersect.

41) Grand Magus – Triumph and Power
Nuclear Blast – 2014

There is a wonderful, almost guilty satisfaction to this album. It’s like being curled up in bed on a wet day when you should be at work. The rhythms are so catchy and they swell so majestically through the choruses. And then there’s the lyrics, which are fist-pumping, rabble-rousing, sing-along good times. But underneath it all is determined seriousness. Grand Magus care deeply about how they present their heavy metal and have tied everything up with an eye to both history and fate. Triumph and power says it all.

Albums of the Decade 2010-2019, Part 1 (100-71)

Here we go. The best 100 albums of the last decade, starting with albums 100 through 71. We’ve got a little bit of everything: shoegaze, pv, all sorts of metal. Enjoy.

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100) True Widow – Circumambulation
Relapse – 2013

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Their self-description as stonegaze is still one of the the quickest ways to describe the sound True Widow have created for Circumambulation. The thundering low-end anchors the shoegaze staples of fuzzed guitars and spacey vocals to a much heavier place, both sonically and emotionally. I like to think that hope still exists in these chords, but getting there takes a far more circuitous route. The catharsis this album offers is earned rather than gifted. I’m glad the journey up Mt Purgatory is a beautiful one though.

99) Vallenfyre – A Fragile King
Century Media – 2011

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Dirty. That’s what this sounds like. Yes, there is undeniably death metal here. Tinges of doom too. But Vallenfyre do things in such a filthy, gritty way that genre distinctions get pushed aside. The riffs churn through the sodden muck like a farmer plowing a field in preparation for a fresh crop of utter misery. That misery contributes to the grime on the album. You can feel it building up under your nails, tangling your hair, staining your skin. But as nasty as it is, it is hugely satisfying. It’s loaded with the degenerate glee of sin committed with absolute purpose.

98) Pseudcommando – A Home Beneath the Floorboards
Sentient Ruin Laboratories – 2019

I suppose it’s harder to get much more nihilisticly misanthropic than an amalgamation of harsh noise and power electronics. Pseudcommando layer distortion on top of feedback on top of static to create a howling vortex of dissonance. But beneath it all, struggling to survive like a butterfly in a cyclone, is a haunting melody. It’s like a tiny, sputtering flame of humanity trying to warm a cold and inhospitable void of darkness. It creates a stark interplay between determined hope and rapacious cruelty.

97) Hate Eternal – Infernus
Season of Mist – 2015

Technically precise and heavy as hell, Infernus is the album you go to when you want old school Florida crunch with a satisfying technical ganache layered on top. It’s an indulgent, luxurious sort of death metal on display here; it doesn’t set out to fancy, but it’s so well produced that you can’t help but feel a little decadent listening to it. I hope it doesn’t seem too odd describing an outstanding album from a visceral genre like I’m reviewing a restaurant, but Hate Eternal have delivered Michelin Star quality.

96) Hummingbird of Death – Forbidden Techniques
To Live A Lie – 2017

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It’s a world where the grind scene is dominated by po-faced seriousness. Even pornogrinders and mincecorers are deadly serious about making their awful, awful racket. Forbidden Techniques is refreshingly different. It still simmers and boils over with anger, but the band packages it with an almost pop-punkish irreverence. It’s an album they clearly enjoyed making and they want to pass that along. As far as pissed off polemic goes, it’s hard to go past an album as comfortable with a joint as it is a molotov.

95) 铁骑 [Tengger Cavalry] – 黑骏/Black Steed
Dying Art Productions – 2013

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There’s a reason this is probably the closest thing to a true folk metal album on this list. There’s other folkish acts, but they are very much black metal first. Tengger Cavalry are not that. The Mongolian folk elements, the mantoquin, and the throat singing aren’t just distinct amongst the folk metal canon, but are perfectly incorporated into the metal. The ability to transcend gimmickry is something not nearly enough folk types can do, so to have an album land that is so evocative is something that needs celebrating.

94) Lamb of God – VII: Sturm und Drang
Nuclear Blast – 2015

If you wanted measured, considered, and insightful content from a metal album, I’m willing to bet Lamb of God wouldn’t be anywhere near your list. But, then again, given Randy’s experiences in the Czech Republic, it probably shouldn’t surprise that Sturm und Drang is reflection wrapped in catharsis. Lyrically it’s starless-sky dark and the music is as maliciously sinister as it is relentlessly intense. It’s essentially a cliché that personal struggles deliver great art, but this is an album that proves it.

93) Cephalic Carnage – Misled by Certainty
Relapse – 2010

Thematic and melodic unity is a fine thing to hear in an album and Misled by Certainty achieves it in unconventional fashion. They take death metal and grindcore, then blend them, fold them, pull them, and distort them until the resultant fuzz is so weird that it pulls off things you never thought possible. This remaking of the noise pairs so well with worst weed-induced paranoias on display in the lyrics. Mind controlling fungus, evil cybernetics, the Second Coming; it’s madness. Drug-fuelled headfuckery all round.

92) Heresiarch – Death Ordinance
Dark Descent – 2017

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When it comes to war songs, too often you get “courage, valour, over the wall, pip pip”, or “Look at this specific moment in time. Ain’t it fucked up?” Heresiarch don’t do either. They deal in the pants-crapping horror of the trenches, the creeping dread of not knowing what trauma is yet to come, and the thundering bewilderment of a pitched battle. They get right down to the visceral emotions and they want you to feel every waking nightmare freezing your veins. Never forget; war is hell.

91) Power Trip – Nightmare Logic
Southern Lord – 2017

I think the highest praise I can heap upon Power Trip is that they sound unique. Too often with modern thrash, you hear callbacks. This band sound like Slayer, that band sound like Kreator, and so on. Not Power Trip. Power Trip sound like Power Trip and no one else. I confess being late for the Nightmare Logic hype train, but the athletic riffs and muscular vocals they put to wax deserve all the praise 2017 sent its way. To find a new voice for the genre and deliver it with such gusto and poise is phenomenal.

90) Corpsessed – Impetus of Death
Dark Descent – 2018

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Looking back, I focussed heavily on the gooeyer aspects of Impetus of Death. But, as accurate as the bloodiness was, it wouldn’t hold the album together nearly as well on its own. It needs the technical precision at its core. It’s definitely not techdeath, but everything is fitted together so immaculately that it stands as testament to the composers’ skill. Putting together a grisly monstrosity doesn’t require much finesse. Just pile meat on top of meat. But breathing life into it? That’s the work of twisted genius.

89) Monolithe – Monolithe IV
Debemur Morti – 2013

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Of all the albums on this list, I was most worried about this one’s ability to hold up. But it did more than hold up; it actually improved in my estimations. Their ability to play metal in its longest form without turning it into a chore is something to be celebrated. Across the almost 60 minute run time, this one song traverses a massive vista of sonic landscapes. Importantly it sounds like one consistent, coherent journey. Like any great expedition, this takes endurance, but the satisfaction you feel at the end is intense.

88) Wolves in the Throne Room – Thrice Woven
Artemisia Records – 2017

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I took the time to listen to Celestial Lineage, Celestite, and Thrice Woven in the lead up to this. Celestial Lineage sounds like the ending it was supposed to be. Celestite, beautiful as it is, is still definitely a companion piece. Then there’s Thrice Woven. They’ve got that full force of nature sound blasting again. I may come from somewhere thoroughly not frosty, but this is very much an album of towering pines, winter frost melting in spring sun, and the ancient, arboreal deities rousing from their winter hibernation.

87) Serpents Lair – Circumambulating the Stillborn
Self-Released – 2015

Serpents Lair chose their album title 100% accurately, as this sounds like a horrific and profane ritual put to music. Their melodic choices are aggressive, intimidating, and jarring; this is black metal performed to cow the listener into submission. And yet, for all its attempts to bend you to its will with brute force, the album also possesses an intoxicating, hallucinatory allure. As it thrashes and assaults, it also manipulates and seduces. Your soul faces a grave peril in these chords.

86) Mizmor (מזמור) – Yodh
Gilead Media – 2016

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Mizmor, to use the Anglicised version, use despair as a form of torture. Every beat a hammer blow. Every melody a razor’s slice. Every growl an expression of raging emptiness. And every shriek a gale of utter futility. In case I haven’t made it clear enough, Yodh is bleak. It’s neither sadistic nor masochistic; it is pain in purest form. But in this total supplication to misery, lies captivating musicianship. As tortuous as the music can be, there’s a sublime dedication to the pain that must be witnessed.

85) Barren Altar – Entrenched in the Faults of the Earth
Self-Released – 2018

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As I think about it, I don’t really consider doom to be in tune with nature. It’s always struck me as extremely focussed on the human condition. It’s a way of looking at the genre that’s erroneous at best. I can thank Barren Altar for shaking up my mindset. Entrenched is definitely miserable, but for all its attention to human failings, there also seems to be a great affinity for the power and the darkness of nature. It uses the titanic, uncontrollable forces of the wild to re-enforce the futility of human existence.

84) Friendship – Hatred
Southern Lord – 2017

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Purveyors of misanthropic powerviolence, Japan’s Friendship turn the short, fast, and weird of the genre into a brutish pit fight. Flurries of blows are interspersed with slow, wound up haymakers. This isn’t a professional fight. This isn’t even a fight club scenario. This is, as the album title suggests, fucking personal. This is about hatred so intense, you don’t care how badly you wind up, so long as they wind up worse. This is all about broken bones, missing teeth, crushed windpipes, and blood. All the blood.

83) Fleshgod Apocalypse – King
Nuclear Blast – 2016

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Symphonic death metal with serious operatic features being performed to tell the story of a syphilitic monarch’s decent into paranoid madness may sound a whisper over the top, but it’s done with such gusto that it doesn’t lose a single shred of charm. Make no mistake, this does veer strongly into the ridiculous at times, but it needs to. The melodramatic bombast raises King from yet another death metal album with a quirk to a triumph of vision. A triumph over common sense too, but a triumph nonetheless.

82) Absu – Abzu
Candlelight – 2011

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Under normal circumstances you should expect an album devoted to the arcane and esoteric aspects of Sumerian mysticism to venture firmly into the avant-garde depths of black metal. But that’s not how Absu does things. They put their sonic spells together with the chainsaw riffs of blackened thrash. It’s a curious combination that actually works fantastically well. The spiritual devotion is thoroughly hammered into your eardrums, as though the surest way to achieve enlightenment is through audacious ferocity.

81) Winterfylleth – The Threnody of Triumph
Candlelight – 2012

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Winterfylleth’s paeans to pre-Christian England are at their most strident on The Threnody of Triumph. It’s an album whose interplay between the sense of loss arising from the demise of pagan tradition and the anger born of a response to an invading, militant faith is resolved in an articulate, yet blistering manner. It’s indicative of a band who are more than fiercely passionate, but are also well-read. These are ten tracks dedicated to a crystal clear vision of a Britain that could have been in a world less Christian.

80) Michael Romeo – War of the Worlds // Pt. 1
Music Theories Recordings – 2018

If someone could hand Mr Romeo the responsibility for a major movie’s score, that would great. War of the Worlds isn’t just a great prog album; it’s a testament to his ability to use music to evoke specific emotions and set a vivid scene. I routinely half-joke with Mrs Metalshopped that when the world inevitably loses John Williams, they (Disney, WB, et al) should give Michael a crack. Based on this album, I’d much rather listen to a Romeo Star Wars than an Elfman one or, gods help us, a Newman one.

79) Carcass – Surgical Steel
Nuclear Blast – 2013

Carcass’ comeback album is a more than welcome return from some of the most gifted musicians metal has given the world. They have the luxury of doing things on their own terms (because how else would you get Jeff to do anything, ever?) and what they delivered was a seething yet gratifying blast of pissed off melodic death metal. The great thing is you can still hear the grind in them. It’s all in the attitude, which Surgical Steel has in spades. It’s an angry album tempered by the focus afforded by experience.

78) The Dillinger Escape Plan – Option Paralysis
Season of Mist – 2010

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This is the perfect storm as far as the already volatile Dillinger goes. It gave Ben Weinman all the opportunity to show off his virtuoso with severe a.d.d. talent, but the directions the album go are so unpredictable. It’s weird to hear a band that is so cacophonously electric veer so wildly into territory normally covered by Muse or Faith No More. It goes to show just how versatile an act they were; that they could deliver such affecting pathos in a package of raging mania. It lingers in the brain long after it’s played its last.

77) Opeth – Pale Communion
Roadrunner Records – 2014

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The “where are the growls” camp need to let it go. What’s been delivered on this album is about an hour of dark, psychedelic prog that coalesced Opeth’s less metallic material into a beautiful, melancholy whole. It’s a maturation of sound and approach that wouldn’t be possible by ardently sticking to what came before. Emotionally, Pale Communion is one of the band’s most sophisticated efforts, taking motifs of depression and grief, and extrapolating out to fully explore that human experience.

76) Meshuggah – The Violent Sleep of Reason
Nuclear Blast – 2016

Meshuggah’s quest to thoroughly contort and distort what the average human would consider melody, while still delivering engaging, memorable, and (most importantly) entertaining music reached another high point on Violent Sleep of Reason. The challenge rating on these tracks is super high; no easy “headbang on the downbeat” advice here. But for all the polyrhythmic intensity, there is also an underlying infectious sense of groove that worms its way in and nests in your psyche.

75) Enslaved – E
Nuclear Blast – 2017

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These Norwegian progsters keep finding new levels to hit. E is deep on both a lyrical and musical level. The lyrics are like the wisdom of auld; a guide to life and secrets to the old ways lie there, if you are willing to listen and smart enough to decipher the layers of meaning. And the music is like nature at its extremes. Much like a great frozen river, it combines thick layers of frost over a mighty, flowing torrent. Alternatively, it’s like a towering oak in a terrifying storm; mighty earthen roots grounding the furious movement above.

74) Marilyn Manson – The Pale Emperor
Hell, etc – 2015

Looking back at his career as a whole, it’s pretty clear that this is one of Manson’s best efforts and the more time wears on, the better it holds up. It’s because, of all his work, this is his most introspective, most considered, and most mature. Listening to it now, it still sounds like a suicide note, but that is largely due to its reflective nature. It’s the sound of Manson writing not about the outside world or how he is perceived by others, but about how he views himself. Dark, sad, but captivating.

73) Dragged Into Sunlight – WidowMaker
Prosthetic – 2012

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One massive song is conveniently broken down by track into three distinct movements. Part I is trepidation and tension. Part II is fury and release. Part III is insistence and madness. The understated pacing and subtle distortions of the first feed into an all consuming anger, which by the end of the third has warped into a profane hysteria that wishes perpetual degradation upon itself. It’s the life of a serial killer, from creation through to unravelling, set to the beat of twisted, blackened death.

72) Darkthrone – Circle the Wagons
Peaceville – 2010

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Why Circle the Wagons? Why not Arctic Thunder? Why not celebrate their return to trve form? Because, as good as Arctic Thunder is, Darkthrone have a legendary black metal back catalogue. Circle the Wagons, however, is peak Punk Throne. It distils all the spit, venom, and grime of their crust worship into nine tracks of purest pissed off attitude. It’s personal too; the airing of grievances makes up much of the lyrical content. This anchors the album to a very real place and gives it authenticity that you wouldn’t otherwise find.

71) Mastodon – The Hunter
Reprise – 2011

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Of Mastodon’s three albums this decade, The Hunter isn’t just the best critically; it’s also the easiest album to enjoy. Once More and Emperor are both fine albums, in smallest doses. Extended exposure leads to alienation and discontent I find. But The Hunter holds up to repeated listens without losing any of its impact. All the players perform their part immaculately, allowing the band to evolve their sound enthusiastically. It’s metal. It’s prog. It’s rock. It’s spaced out. It’s grounded. It’s everything it wants to be.

February 2019 Review Round Up

And so that was February. It was a thought provoking month for me too.

Starting off with the album of the month. Lots of competition for it this time round. I settled on Yerûšelem’s album, The Sublime. It’s put together by some of the madmen/geniuses in Blut Aus Nord, but it’s a substantially different beast. Trust me. It’s definitely of them, but not like them.

You will also read a review of another album that I can assure you is positive, despite my revulsion. You’ll know it when you read it. It’s the challenge of reviewing something critically significant, but abhorrent.

And then there’s Dream Theater. Certainly not album of the month, but it’s a mighty improvement. What I don’t understand from my perusal of reviews, is why people expect something out of the box from them? They’ve been around forever and firmly established their sound. It’s not necessarily formulaic to play to their strengths; they just want an album that sounds good. I think we learned a lesson about unnecessarily tampering with things last time, so I’m pretty glad they went back to the old well to drink the familiar water.

As I said, it’s been a thought-provoking month. It’s kept me busy.

I am still, as always, contactable via Facebook.

Send me your demos. More accurately, send me the links to your demos on Bandcamp. I need more of them in my life. Spread the word.

See everyone again in April, first Monday of the month.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Album of the Month
Yerûšelem – The Sublime
(Industrial Post Punk – France)
Debemur Morti – 2019/02/08

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This is sublime. There. I said it. The problem is that the lazy wordplay is also the most accurate way to describe The Sublime. It’s like Swans and Killing Joke doing a joint set in a Buddhist temple that was still under construction. The combination of crushing industrial rhythms with meditative melodies and chanting vocals is utterly mesmerising.

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Blue Hummingbird on the Left – Atl Tlachinolli
(Black Metal – United States of America)
Iron Bonehead – 2019/02/08

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In a world full of posturing, antagonistic, “outsider” black metal, it’s nice to come across something that sounds like resistance. Blue Hummingbird perform furiously in the name of Huitzilopochtli, the primary god of war and human sacrifice in the Aztec pantheon. Their pride in their heritage is as clear cut as their overt, naked hostility.

Candlemass – The Door to Doom
(Epic Doom Metal – Sweden)
Napalm Records – 2019/02/22

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Candlemass is one of the great gateway bands to doom metal and The Door to Doom shows why. They hit that magical combination of sweeping grandeur and thrumming reverberation. The melodies announce their presence with vigour then linger in the low end long enough to rattle the bones. That album title is awfully apt in retrospect.

Charnel Altar – Demo
(Death Doom – Australia)
Self-Released – 2019/01/09

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They say they’re blackened death; I reckon they’re far too monolithic to be anything but death doom. Genre semantics aside, you should probably listen to these guys. When I said they were monolithic, I mean it. They sound like a graveyard made animate, dripping soil; long dead bones; and recently dead viscera. It’s ominous and putrescent.

Dream Theater – Distance Over Time
(Progressive Metal – United States of America)
InsideOut – 2019/02/22

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I hated The Astonishing so much I burnt it in a pit of fire; suffice to say, expectations were low here. Maybe they were chastened by the negative reaction, because this is stripped back, basic DT. Good God, it’s a change for the better. It’s actually fun to listen to. There’s nothing superfluous here, just rock-solid entertainment. I’m astonished.

Gets Worse – Snubbed
Powerviolence – United Kingdom
Self-Released – 2019/02/11

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This is powerviolence, so no surprises that it comes on like an assault. It’s good and shouty too; nice to listen to a pv act that sounds old school punk without being a drag. And as spasmodic as their time signatures may be (and believe me, they get pretty epileptic), the whole album is cohesive. A stream of consciousness put to blastbeats.

Miscarriage – Imminent Horror
(Atmospheric Sludge – United States of America/Sweden)
Sentient Ruin Laboratories – 2019/02/22

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I know what they were attempting. I know they succeeded. But it’s way outside my comfort levels. It’s the fetishisation of suffering. It’s a perverse, transgressive ritual that starts with erotic vivisection and culminates in a noisome, necrophillic hatefuck. It’s definitely not my sonic kink, but if it’s yours listen to it, watch some Salo, and leave me alone.

Ostro – Ostro
(Doom Metal – Australia)
Self-Released – 2019/01/08

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If you’re going to strive to put some epic into your doom, your singer needs some serious chops and the guitars need to pack a wallop. Ostro is almost there. So close. But that proximity to epicness serves to highlight the failure to attain it. They aimed for Candlemass, but had to settle for flashlight tag. I’ll buy their next release though. They could nail it.

Rotting Christ – The Heretics
(Melodic Black Metal – Greece)
Season of Mist – 2019/02/15

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BAM! That’s how you return to form. Rituals was a bit naval gazing for my taste, but The Heretics is right on point. Its sharp thematic focus allows the melodies to soar majestically while buffeting mercilessly, much like being caught in the path of a legendary roc. Conventional theology takes a beating here, but they’re points that need hearing.

Thetan – Abysmal
(Powerviolence – United States of America)
Self-Released – 2019/02/01

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Thetan strip their punk right back to drum, bass, and vocals. That means they’ve got less to work with, so what they do have has to go much further. But there’s only so far they can stretch their stock. So they land some killers, but there’s also quite a bit of filler. And by filler, I mean stretches of tracks that sort of mush together. Stick around for the good stuff though.

Vanum – Ageless Fire
(Black Metal – United States of America)
Profound Lore – 2019/02/15

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Ageless Fire was the perfect album for a terrible day. It’s an album that speaks to the transcendental power of furious rage. To achieve this, Vanum take a longer form approach. Rather than simply blasting away, they take the meditative focus that pure anger can afford you, and turn it into a blistering, ash-raining firestorm.

Albums of the Year 2018

And so we come to the end of another year. Lots of talent on display. More than a few surprises along the way too. By and large, I’ve had a cracking year listening to metal.

Last year, I had a laundry list of albums I missed that I wish I hadn’t. This year, I managed to get most of my targets reviewed. That being said, here’s my list of missed opportunities:

Accu§er – The Mastery
Eagle Twin – The Thundering Heard
Tomb Mold – Manor of Infinite Forms
Winterfylleth – The Hallowing of Heirdom
Zeal & Ardor – Stranger Fruit

I’ve kept my promise to myself and kept my named awards for Best Complicated Release, Best Art, and Best Live Act.

Idle chit-chat aside, here’s the best damn eleven albums 2018 sent my way.

11) Mantar – The Modern Art of Setting Ablaze

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Nuclear Blast – 2018/08/24

What I Said Then: Their incendiary songs roll along with a pyroclastic flow that ensures that everything in their path is obliterated.
What I Say Now: I just love how effortlessly catchy these songs are. For something as straight up mean as this, the fact that you can sing (yell) along with it pretty well immediately is a hell of an achievement.

10) Corpsessed – Impetus of Death

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Dark Descent – 2018/11/23

What I Said Then: It’s like the coroner performing an autopsy, but in your back shed with garden tools.
What I Say Now: Corpsessed understand the compelling perversion of horror. That, once the monster is loose, it is impossible to look away from the bloodshed. Behold the captivation of the train wreck.

The Prurient Award for Best Album that Doesn’t Lend Itself to Easy Reviewing
Kurushimi – What is Chaos?
(Avant-garde Jazz – Australia)
Art as Catharsis – 2018/09/13

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Kurushimi goes everywhere at once, but then the track changes and it finds a whole new set of directions to go all at once. It’s overwhelming, but a great album is contained in the cognitive ultramarathon.

9) Barren Altar – Entrenched in the Faults of the Earth

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Self-Released – 2018/06/12

What I Said Then: This album is venomous, filthy and aggressive, but is delivered with such diligence and vigour that nothing gets lost in the malign fury.
What I Say Now: This album has some incredibly deft touches. Doom, especially of the funereal type, doesn’t typically lend itself to musical agility. But Barren Altar nail some pretty spectacular audio gymnastics.

8) Michael Romeo – War of the Worlds / Pt. 1

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Music Theories Recordings – 2018/07/27

What I Said Then: It still has all the technical merit you’d expect from one of metal’s great guitarists and composers, but it comes without any of self-indulgent baggage of solo projects.
What I Say Now: I am going to say this is the most straight up fun album on this list. The lyrics, the solos, the weird directions it goes; all of it is done for maximum enjoyment. Entertainment turned up to eleven.

7) Deicide – Overtures of Blasphemy

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Century Media – 2018/09/14

What I Said Then: This is laser beam focussed and whip cord taut. Fuck it; it’s their best album ever.
What I Say Now: I’ve gone back and listened to the best of back catalogue. I stand by the above claim. It is heavy, malevolent, blasphemous Deicide at their absolute best. Thoroughly demonic.

Mariusz Lewandowski Award for Best Art
Zbigniew M. Bielak for Overtures of Blasphemy by Deicide

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I keep coming back to this. There’s something both evocative and visceral about this piece. It has a sinister, almost blood-soaked violence to it, which is impressive since it’s a drawing of a scribe.

6) Moss Upon the Skull – In Vengeful Reverence

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I, Voidhanger – 2018/10/19

What I Said Then: Taking Orchid-era Opeth’s proto-sensitivity, combining it with Cascadian black metal’s hermit tendencies, then wrapping it in trad death metal hostility is ambitious.
What I Say Now: This is a very different beast to your standard prog death. It breathes, it grows, it sounds like a living organism made of rage. I love this organic approach to music making.

5) Nadja – Sonnborner

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Broken Spine Productions – 2018/09/14

What I Said Then: Open your ears and marvel; Nadja have produced a masterpiece of dreamy, inspired doom.
What I Say Now: It’s like an anxiety attack slowed down. I can’t think of any other album I’ve listened to that takes something so relaxing and made it seem so tense. Soothing like a persistent catatonic state.

4) Skeletal Remains – Devouring Mortality

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Dark Descent – 2018/04/13

What I Said Then: It makes me feel like I’m windmilling with luxurious waist length hair, even if I’m just gently headbanging while driving.
What I Say Now: Nothing is quite as invigorating as Being hit by tropical cyclone Devouring Mortality. It’s a maelstrom of chaotic riffs and pounding drums. It smashes like a storm that doesn’t stop.

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

I wish I had some pics or a video like I did last year, but Sólstafir were just so hypnotic, intense, and awe-inspiring that the thought of whipping out my phone never occured to me. I could have cried.

3) Bliss Signal – Bliss Signal

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Profound Lore – 2018/09/28

What I Said Then: It’s nice to see James Kelly return to the more abrasive, blackened sounds, but combining it with grime creates a sublime, haunting sound I didn’t think could exist.
What I Say Now: Bliss Signal upends the black metal status quo. This is functionally a techno album, but lives and breathes the left hand path. Trailblazing, unique and utterly compelling.

2) Daughters – You Won’t Get What You Want


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Ipecac – 2018/10/26

What I Said Then: With guitars that sound like a musical air raid siren, drumming that consistently surprises in the best way, and one of the most evocative vocal deliveries I’ve heard they have delivered one of the most welcoming forays into discomfort ever.
What I Say Now: By moving noise rock closer to noise than is typical for the genre, Daughters have tapped into a mighty wellspring of disquiet. It still rocks, but in a tremendously unsettling way.

1) Ihsahn – Àmr

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Candlelight – 2018/05/04

What I Said Then: It’s technically superb, emotionally vivid, and memorable in a way that defies expectation
What I Say Now: It’s about as close to a perfect album as possible from Ihsahn. At its core is a marvellously complicated heart. Hearth warm and deathly cold, locked in precarious balance.

So there we are. That’s as firm a one, two, and three as you can get. I’m still pretty blown away by Ámr to be honest.

And forward to 2019 and the end of an amazing decade in heaviness.

January 2019 Review Round Up

New year, new albums, and the reviews keep on rolling. It hasn’t been the most release heavy January this year, but I sifted some gold out of the trickle.

The most gleaming nugget was Well of Night’s Demo. It’s so good and it’s only two tracks. Kinda makes you wonder why they can do so much with two tracks and so many others flounder with five or more times that number. It’s also a solid reminder that I should be listening to more demos.

I have also released my best of for 2018. You should go check that out too.

As usual, you can hit me up for critique or recommendations over at Facebook.

I will be back next month, first monday of month, as always.

Enjoy.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Album of the Month
Well of Night – Demo 2019
(Black Metal – United States of America)
Self-Released – 2019/01/11

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A good demo leaves me hungry for more. This turned me in to greedy Moloch, ravenous for I must consume. It’s obvious touchstones are the luminaries of the Swedish scene, but I got more out of these two tracks than I have got out of Watain’s last two albums. They have put together complex songs that engage completely while retaining full fury.

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Altarage – The Approaching Roar
(Blackened Death Metal – Spain)
Season of Mist – 2019/01/25

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Confession: I didn’t expect these Basque sonic texturalists to become a hallmark of brilliant consistency. But here we are. They’ve taken their apocalyptic sound and taken it to a new Lovecraftian nadir. The raw anxiety that wells up listening to this is intense. It really does screw with the psyche. They keep finding new ways to turn the screw.

Kindergarten Hazing Ritual – It Doesn’t Matter When You Think The Simpsons Should’ve Ended. It Just Should’ve Ended.
(Grindcore – United States of America)
37564 Recordings – 2019/01/12

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This is the end of KHR. The final recording. And they use a thorough dissection of pop culture past its prime as a medium for explaining their decision to pull the plug. Because of course they would. And for three tracks, it’s a surprisingly strong finish. Tongue planted firmly in cheek, they still manage to get that grindcore approved anger out there.

Krallice – Wolf
(Experimental Black Metal – United States of America)
Self-Released – 2019/01/09

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The best thing about Krallice is you know what to expect but you’ll never know how they’ll deliver it. Wolf delivers by breaking their own mold. The cryptic has been toned down and has been replaced by a surprisingly improvisational sound. A black metal jam session is not what I thought I would be reviewing. Not complaining though. It’s a solid release.

Necrophobic – The Mark of the Necrogram
(Black Metal – Sweden)
Century Media – 2018/02/23

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Everything old is new again. My very first post, the best of 2013, had Necrophobic pipping Watain for quality. And here we are again; new Watain, new Necrophobic, and the later is better than the former. And it comes down to this: Necrophobic are better musicians. They write better songs that do a better job of conveying their dark, infernal intent.

Satan – Cruel Magic
(Heavy Metal – United Kingdom)
Metal Blade – 2018/09/07

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There’s something very refreshing about traditional, NWOBHM metal. Funny thing to say given it’s so old school, but so long as it’s done well, the crispness of the rhythms and the swell of the melodies will always leave you feeling better than when you started. This might be my first run in with Satan, but based on Cruel Magic, it definitely won’t be my last.

Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats – Wasteland
(Psychedelic Doom Metal – United Kingdom)
Rise Above – 2018/10/12

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Tough album to review. The opening couple of tracks justify the hype that surrounds the band. A little bit The Beatles, a little bit The Doors, a lot of mushrooms, and doom. Makes sense why people are into this. But then it keeps going, and it drags, and gets frustrating. I’m going to have to go back to earlier releases to see if this is an aberration.

Veldes – Flameless
(Black Metal – Slovenia)
Self-Released – 2019/01/04

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This is a curiously positive sounding album. It isn’t so much grim and frostbitten, as it is cold but otherwise pretty content with its lot in life. I doubt it’s what the band was aiming for, but I will say it takes an otherwise pretty middle of the road black metal album and makes it sound kind of refreshing. It’s undeniably odd, but I don’t hate it.