December 2019 Review Round Up

Happy 2020, everybody. December turned out to be far more distracting than I thought it would. I figured I’d get the one or two things I missed, have a short month, and finalise my lists. Nope. It blew out a bit. Shouldn’t complain though; turns out I missed a lot of good stuff.

Best of the lot was Esoteric’s long awaited A Pyrrhic Existence. It’s a gruelling exercise in funeral doom, but it’s like running an ultramarathon; the pain is worth the endorphin rush at the end.

Next month is my Best of 2019 and Best of the Decade lists. Not sure if I’ll publish monthly reviews on top. We’ll see how we go.

As always, feel free to hit me on Facebook.

Until next month \m/

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Album of the Month
Esoteric – A Pyrrhic Existence
(Funeral Doom – United Kingdom)
Season of Mist – 2019/11/08

It’s been a long time between drinks, but good God am I glad Esoteric are back. I’m also glad they took the time, because it’s clear that found a way to make their already titanic sound even bigger, darker, and more funereal. They’ve created a swirling void of utter despair that threatens to suck all life into its infinite depths.

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Abigail Williams – Walk Beyond the Dark
(Black Metal – United States of America)
Blood Music – 2019/11/15

I’ve never truly known what to expect from Abigail Williams, but I’m more than happy to settle for surprisingly complex black metal. I say surprisingly because this initially seems to be very traditional, but the deeper you go, the more you listen to it, the broader its influences becomes clear. For something so dense, it’s pretty seamless.

Alcest – Spiritual Instinct
(Blackgaze – France)
Nuclear Blast – 2019/10/25

Good to see Neige put a little bit more black into his blackgaze. It still has the dreamy otherness that has been his signature throughout this project, but it’s an angrier sort of dream. A lucid nightmare. This isn’t some fae trickster or changeling; this is the wild hunt, riding high in saddle, their doomed quarry hounded by spirit and mist alike.

Blood Incantation – Hidden History of the Human Race
(Death Metal – United States of America)
Dark Descent – 2019/11/22

If you wondered what the History Channel at 1am would sound like as death metal, here’s your answer. In order to examine the aliens as masters theme, the band have dialled back the chaos in favour of a more atmospheric approach. They’re still Blood Incantation though. What they do is intensity. The approach may change, but the outcome doesn’t.

Cattle Decapitation – Death Atlas
(Death Metal – United States of America)
Metal Blade – 2019/11/25

Love the music. Am awed by the drumming (holy shit). Like the growls. Hate all the other attempts at vocals. It’s so tough to recommend an album that is so good on most levels, but has vocals that sound like Dani Filth with autotune. Maybe I’m being super picky, but their distraction value outweighs the talent of everything else.

Diocletian – Amongst the Flames of a Burning God
(Blackened Death Metal – New Zealand)
Profound Lore – 2019/08/16

Diocletian absolutely brutalise the listener here. War metal is nothing if not direct, but the ruthlessness that is unleashed by these Kiwis is direct in extremis. It tears from a to b to c in a line straight down to Planck scale. There’s no wavering. There is no vacillation. There is no respite. There is naught but furious hatred for all.

Diploid – Glorify
(Grindcore – Australia)
Art as Catharsis – 2019/11/22

Given the bands they name check and the literature they cite in the album’s Bandcamp blurb, it won’t come as a surprise to say Glorify isn’t an easy, accessible listen. But don’t let the elevated difficulty level of the album turn you off. This album yields rich, thoroughly satisfying rewards, but only if you put your shoulder to the yoke.

Life of Agony – The Sound of Scars
(Hard Rock – United States of America)
Napalm Records – 2019/10/11

Mina Caputo is one of music’s great survivors and it shows on The Sound of Scars. It’s an album that takes a lifetime of challenges and presents them with both the immediacy of the lived experience and the perspective of reflection. There’s nothing soft about it either; it’s all high-energy swagger and snarl from go to whoa.

Lingua Ignota – Caligula
(Experimental – United States of America)
Profound Lore – 2019/07/19

Equal parts Swans, Diamanda Galas, and raw black metal, Caligula is a harrowing experience. The unfiltered, unrestrained anger is horrifying. In many ways, I feel like I’m too sheltered to fully appreciate the devastating worldview that Kristin Hayter delivers. Her approach to violence is lived in and all the more terrifying and real as such.

Lord Mantis – Universal Death Church
(Blackened Sludge Metal – United States of America)
Profound Lore – 2019/11/22

With the untimely passing of Bill Baumgardner, and the previous acrimony between Charlie Fell and Andrew Markuszewski, I honestly didn’t expect another Lord Mantis album. But here we are and it’s great. Venomous and poisonous in equal measure, it’s mere existence is a hazard. It heaves vitriol and retches spite with every cursed note.

Nephilim’s Noose – Rites of a Death Merchant
(Death Doom – Canada)
Self-Released – 2019/10/11

As a death doom act, Nephilim’s Noose are supposed to sound monolithic and miserable. And, wow, do they do that. But they further that sound by infusing every cavernous riff with a malign violence; a threat to body and soul that is infectious rather than fearsome. You experience the destruction and you want it even more.

Nocturnus AD – Paradox
(Death Metal – United States of America)
Profound Lore – 2019/05/24

Reviving a classic band with a sequel to a classic album is fraught with risks. Fortunately, Paradox delivers everything that you could want from a follow up to The Key. The riffs are infectious and the scifi vibe is intoxicating. The band has lost absolutely nothing over the years; absolutely killer, high-octane death metal.

Öxxö Xööx – Ÿ
(Doom Metal – France)
Blood Music – 2019/11/29

Once again, Öxxö Xööx has come into my life just when I really needed a healthy dose of melodramatic doom. Ÿ is a rich, almost luxurious sounding album; it really allows and encourages you to wallow in its sumptuous riffs. You need to take the time to truly experience the full extent of all nine tracks, as there is a dark majesty on display throughout.

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.

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.