May 2018 Review Round Up

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Albums of the Year 2017

Metalshopped is back. I tried to put it behind me, but I just couldn’t. I love metal. And I enjoy writing. So, here I am. Back again.

2017 was solid year for heaviness. A great blend of big label blockbusters and independent gems wended their way through my ears. Some albums you will probably recognise from other end of year lists. Others, I hope, will be completely fresh.

I’ve changed things up a little bit. Instead of a list of 50, I’ve pared it down to 11. Yes. I’m doing a very faint Spinal Tap reference. But every album here deserves the attention and to be turned up to, well, you know. 11. I’m also doing it as a countdown. Best of at the bottom. Gotta give 11-2 their due.

Also going to indulge myself and give out some named awards. They’re going to be a little bit self-explanatory this year, but if I carry them forward it’ll be pretty sweet.

And, the last thing before the best of 2017 kicks off, some housekeeping. I never published my best of 2016, so here it is:

Cobalt – Slow Forever
SubRosa – For This We Fought the Battle of Ages
Swans – The Glowing Man
Inter Arma – Paradide Gallows
Altarage – Nihl
Nails – You Will Never Be One of Us
Revocation – Great is Our Sin
Dälek – Asphalt for Eden
Mizmor (מזמור) – Yodh
Fleshgod Apocalypse – King

And, as usual, there’s a long list of albums I missed. This is a list of most serious regrets for the year:

All Pigs Must Die – Hostage Animal
Amenra – Mass IV
Electric Wizard – Wizard Bloody Wizard
Integrity – Howling, For the Nightmare Shall Consume
Pyrrhon – What Passes For Survival
Power Trip – Nightmare Logic
Tombs – The Grand Annihilation
Ufomammut – 8
Ulver – The Assassination of Julius Caesar
Wolves in the Throne Room – Thrice Woven

So, without further adieu, here’s the best damn 11 albums 2017 sent my way.

11) Hadal Maw – Olm
(Technical Death Metal – Australia)
EVP Recordings – 2017/02/03

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A damn fine example of technical death metal, but not what you might expect. This is less like being torn apart by a visceral assault, and a lot more like the grinding of entropy. Its fretwork is undeniably powerful, but it isn’t afraid to slow down and let the pressure build. Topped off with outstanding vocals, there’s a reason I extended the list to eleven to fit them in.

10) Hummingbird of Death – Forbidden Techniques
(Fastcore – United States of America)
To Live A Lie – 2017/12/01

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Deliciously punk, Forbidden Techniques is like unearthing a hidden gem from the height of 1980s New York Hardcore then trying to play it on a turntable stuck on cyclonic. Tracks fly by in a flurry of beats and barks and grime. Absolutely relentless and, in case you’re unfamiliar with fastcore, blisteringly fast, this is the best way to kill 20 minutes.

The Prurient Award for Best Album that Doesn’t Lend Itself to Easy Reviewing
Prurient – Rainbow Mirror
(Ambient – United States of America)
Profound Lore – 2017/12/01

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Languid yet thoroughly unsettling ambience spread out across 4 cds, this is an endurance test as much as a listening experience. Utterly gruelling, but totally worth it.

9) Heresiarch – Death Ordinance
(Blackened Death Metal – New Zealand)
Dark Descent Records – 2017/07/07

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So, this is war metal. I’ve seen the term. I know about the bands that exemplify the subgenre. But now I get it. This takes the blood-drenched psychopathy of brutal death, combines it with the void-touched malevolence of black metal, then douses itself in a mix of diesel and napalm and self-combusts. It is the raw frequency of total destruction.

8) Friendship – Hatred
(Powerviolence – Japan)
Southern Lord (Vinyl/Digital)/Sentient Ruin Laboratories (Tape)/Daymare Recordings (CD) – 2017/11/03

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Hatred lives up to the powerviolence moniker. It’s anchored by a rhythm section that sounds like a roof collapsing during a cyclone. Make no mistake; it’s immensely powerful and monstrously violent. Over the course of twelve tracks, Friendship whips through blistering tempos and sneers through venomous sludge. No swagger, no bravado, just (as the name suggests) hatred.

7) Enslaved – E
(Progressive Black Metal – Norway)
Nuclear Blast – 2017/10/13

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E. Or as it’s represented by on the cover, Ehwaz. Forward energy and movement, if you believe in the power of runes. An excellent way to simply sum up what Enslaved has produced on this album. It’s more than just their ongoing voyage through the progsphere; there’s an inventiveness to their song construction that makes this a standout.

Mariusz Lewandowski Award for Best Art
Mirror Reaper by Mariusz Lewandowski for Bell Witch

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Looks impressive, doesn’t it? Wait until you see the full spread.

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See? See!? It’s just so majestic. A towering, grim edifice for a haunting, grief-stricken album. Mariusz’ art is truly something to behold.

6) Kreator – Gods of Violence
(Thrash – Germany)
Nuclear Blast – 2017/01/27

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The Teutonic thrash titans’ 14th album is a hellraising good time. From the grandiose opening drum march of Apocalypticon to final epic chords of Death Becomes My Light, it entertains in the most aggressively positive way imaginable. I honestly don’t think any other 2017 album has spent as much time on repeat. Good God, I love thrash and this is why.

5) american – Violate and Control
(The Intersection Between Black Metal and Noise Without Truly Being Either – United States of America)
Sentient Ruin Laboratories – 2017/06/23

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Too often I’ll say an album “hates”; that is not appropriate here. Hatred is far too human an emotion for this nightmare. american makes post-apocalyptic, post-human noise. This is a beast of shattered concrete, burning plastic, and rebar slowly corroding in the blood of humanity long rejected and gone. Monstrous and enthralling in equal measure.

4) Obituary – Obituary
(Old School Death Metal – United States of America)
Relapse – 2017/03/17

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This is an album that keeps the faith in metal strong. It’s proof that a great band, even if it has a down patch, can be great again. No more going through the motions, this self-titled effort proves Obituary are still the kings of Florida Death. It’s their best album since Cause of Death. And Cause of Death is their best album, so that’s high praise indeed.

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

I feel privileged to have seen two of the most amazing live acts in 2017. But, by the time this will be published, DEP will have jumped off their last stack and smashed their last guitar, so that leaves the sublime, hypnotic, and monstrously heavy Meshuggah to take the crown. And it’s well deserved. The five men on stage perform seamlessly. And their lighting guy might as well be member six, because his contribution is massive. It turned a concert into an audiovisual hallucinatory headfuck.
Here’s a small bit of footage I took at their Brisbane gig to hopefully back me up.

3) Leprous – Malina
(Progressive Metal – Norway)
InsideOut Music – 2017/08/25

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A seamless amalgamation of rock, metal, prog, and jazz, Malina is a new high water mark for Leprous. Einar’s contra tenor vocals will never not be polarising, but I think they’re absolutely vital and wonderfully mesmerising. The music has a sophisticated, organic feel to it; it pulses, throbs, and flows. It’s like a mighty river that also happens to be a circulatory system.

2) Altarage – Endinghent
(Blackened Death Metal – Spain)
Season of Mist – 2017/10/13

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The angry swarm of wasps guitar sound this opens with should be a warning that Endinghent is no trifle of an album. By the time it’s over, things are even clearer: Altarage have taken febrile power of a long lost god of madness and weaponised it in sonic form. Hypnotic yet savage, fevered yet horrifyingly coherent, but, above all else, brilliant.

Heads up, this is awesome but probably not epilepsy friendly. I’ll also post the bandcamp link.

1) Alder Glade – Spine of the World
(Blackened Folk Metal – Australia)
Self-Released (Digital)/Northern Silence Productions (Limited Edition CD) – 2017/09/01

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Winterfylleth. Primordial. Negură Bunget. Drudkh. Alder Glade. It may seem a little odd to include an Australian band with a focus on Asgardian lore in that list, but with Spine of the World, they have earned it. As aggressive as a good Black metal album should be, it also possesses both a haunting melancholy and an ethereal sadness. It’s a beautiful album, worthy to sit alongside the other greats of the genre.

There you have it; Metalshopped’s best albums for 2017. I had a great year listening to music and picking out just 11 albums was tough. I couldn’t be happier to see Alder Glade take the win. I’ve been talking them up since Demo 1 because I knew they an album like this was possible. I’m also pretty stoked to see Altarage crack my top 5 in consecutive years. I hope they can maintain that terrifying level of intensity.

Here’s to 2018. I already have my eyes set on some big name releases, but I’m always on the lookout for hidden gems from small labels and self-released artists.

Releases of the Year for 2015

Another year down, another fifty releases that everyone should give a crack. I’m pretty comfortable saying 2015 was one of the best years in metal for a long time. For at least half the year I was worried that I may be too generous in my reviews; by the end of the year it was clear that the standard of music was simply better.

This will be the last of my regular posts. I will still do occasional one off reviews and I will most likely release a considerably smaller best of 2016 next year, but as far as regular, monthly posts go, I am finished. It has been tremendous fun though.

Thanks for all the support. I hope everyone loves these releases as much as I do.

Album of the Year
Prurient – Frozen Niagara Falls

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Profound Lore Records – 2015/05/12

What I Said Then: Frozen Niagara Falls lives up to its name; it’s awe-inspiring, seemingly unnatural, and thoroughly unsettling.
What I Say Now: What makes this a truly remarkable album is its emotional complexity. It is buoyantly unsettling and tumultuously welcoming. There is skill beyond measure on display here.

Some Other Top Things Worth Mentioning
Best Live Act: Revocation

In a year populated with top tier live acts (At the Gates, Mastodon, Opeth, etc), these tech-thrash bruisers stood tall. They play with an almost psychotic amount of intensity. Real take-charge live metal.

Best cover art: Purple by John Baizley

Aside from being a fantastic musician, Baizley is also one of metal’s great artists. Unsurprisingly, he saves some of his best work for his own band. Purple is a complicated piece that matches the emotional tone of the album.

My Other Picks for 2015
2) High on Fire – Luminiferous

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eOne Music – 2015/06/23

What I Said Then: The whole album sounds heavier than the Hercules–Corona Borealis Great Wall.
What I Say Now: This remains an absolutely titanic display of pure riffing. There is an almost alchemical genius at work here as, slow or fast, these songs supernaturally heavy. Press play and marvel at the masters at work.

3) Bell Witch – Four Phantoms

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Profound Lore Records – 2015/04/28

What I Said Then: They let the light in[;] the flashes may stop the lonely fumbling in the dark, but they do illuminate the barren hopelessness that surrounds you.
What I Say Now: This isn’t the sound of darkness killing light; this is darkness gently caressing the light as it dies in its arms. There is as much tact and beauty here as there is soul-crushing misery and grief.

4) Napalm Death – Apex Predator – Easy Meat

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Century Media Records – 2015/01/27

What I Said Then: It still has the visceral hostility that has made them one of the all time greats, but is delivered as a rally cry not raw invective.
What I Say Now: Giving this another critical listen has only raised it in my esteem. From its industrial yet monastic opener to its rabble rousing final track, there is vitality permeating every moment.

5) Lxs Jugadxs – Demo 2015

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Self-released – 2015/07/21

What I Said Then: Wild and raucous, yet possessed of a controlled fury, Lxs Jugadxs make the contradictions work for them.
What I Say Now: Lxs Jugadxs’ third demo came together in a perfect storm of manic aggression. Its four short tracks have more revolutionary firebrand in them than other grinders get in a career.

6) Baroness – Purple

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Abraxan Hymns – 2015/12/18

What I Said Then: Purple is still redolent with their trademark languid grace, but there’s an unmistakable fire in its belly.
What I Say Now: Effortlessly charming, Purple is an album that makes itself a home in your heart and you’ll never want it to leave. There’s something about its high energy melancholy that leaves you warmed through.

7) Windhand – Grief’s Infernal Flower

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Relapse Records – 2015/09/18

What I Said Then: At its core there is self-loathing and rage, which is obfuscated by clouds numbing dope smoke.
What I Say Now: Unfathomable grief rings out with every note. Its naked emotion is what makes this album stand out. Doom is often depressed, but few albums achieve this level of ineffable sadness.

8) Gold – No Image

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Profound Lore Records/VÁN Records – 2015/11/06

What I Said Then: The bleakness goes right to the core[;] this is apocalyptically beautiful.
What I Say Now: As depressing as this album could have been, it’s remarkable just how uplifting it actually is. It turns the desperate clutching of the cold, barren void into a warm and loving embrace.

9) The Rodeo Idiot Engine – Malaise

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Throatruiner Records – 2015/11/23

What I Said Then: Rusty cheese greaters scrubbing the soul to a bloody mess.
What I Say Now: Such furious intensity shouldn’t be such a joy to listen to. It’s emotionally calamitous, but played with such infectious, energetic zeal. It is literally impossible to not enjoy.

10) Sunset in the 12th House – Mozaic

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Prophecy Productions – 2015/06/05

What I Said Then: Mostly instrumental, melody ebbs and flows like the tides, building to a massive storm surge of blackened elemental fury on the final track.
What I Say Now: It’s a truly remarkable sonic dreamscape. Sprawling continents of sound are brought to life and populated with attention to detail. If I believed in magic, I would know that sorcery is at work here.

11) Folivore – Eve of Conception

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Black Goat Records – 2015/04/20

What I Said Then: It’s a particularly whacked out blend of marijuana and Mephistopheles.
What I Say Now: It still astonishes me that this is a demo. The certainty of the production and the sophistication of the music are far above demo quality. They may well be the most competent stoners in metal.

12) Enslaved – In Times

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Nuclear Blast – 2015/03/06

What I Said Then: From start to finish, In Times soars to the towering heights of majesty.
What I Say Now: Enslaved have struck an intriguing balance between light and dark on In Times. Stirring and inspiring, cold and bleak; there is a pervasive warmth here, if you let the cold wash over you.

13) Sumac – The Deal

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Profound Lore Records – 2015/02/17

What I Said Then: The Deal comes across like Jovian gossamer; delicately crafted but astronomically heavy.
What I Say Now: There may be heavier albums on this list, albums that pin you in place with crushing weight, but none can match The Deal for oppressiveness. It looms over you like a towering monolith.

14) Abyssal – Antikatastaseis

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Profound Lore Records – 2015/06/23

What I Said Then: Listening to this album definitely allows you to visualise hoards of panicked people running around being relentlessly attacked by wasps, except it’s pitch black and there’s broken glass everywhere.
What I Say Now: The comparison to Dante’s Inferno that I used in the initial review was more apt than I realised at the time. This may be a nightmarish hellscape, but there’s an enduring poetic quality to it.

15) Symphony X – Underworld

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Nuclear Blast – 2015/07/24

What I Said Then: It maintains the heavier tone of their recent output, but is reinvigorated with the complicated fret work that made their earlier work so good.
What I Say Now: I sincerely hope Underworld is the album that gets Symphony X the wider profile they deserve. Progressive and aggressive; tense and dense; I haven’t been awed by fretwork this fine in a long time.

16) Marilyn Manson – The Pale Emperor

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Hell, etc – 2014/01/19

What I Said Then: It’s the work of a man looking back at his legacy and taking stock of all his missed opportunities and regrets. 
What I Say Now: I still have lasting concerns that this is an elaborate suicide note. Its mature and understated approach is perfect for its barren and lonely themes. Who knew that Muz had an album like this in him.

17) Peasant – Go to Hell

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Self-released – 2015/04/20

What I Said Then: This is an album that gushes evil from every rollicking note.
What I Say Now: Of the seven deadly sins, pride is traditionally the most heinous. Makes sense listening to this hellraising racket. A self-assured swagger and raucous braggadocio is inherent throughout.

18) Leviathan – Scar Sighted

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Profound Lore Records – 2015/03/03

What I Said Then: Scar Sighted expertly balances esotericism and malice[, which] makes for an album that is simultaneously contemplative and destructive.
What I Say Now: Wrest has crafted one of the most challenging sonic landscapes for 2015. Untold legions of malice lurk, obfuscated by an often impenetrable miasma of contempt. He makes hatred a tangible sensation.

19) Pissgrave – Suicide Euphoria

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Profound Lore Records – 2015/08/04

What I Said Then: [The] music they play is easily some of the most satisfyingly visceral death metal out there.
What I Say Now: The grotesque cover art is perfect advertising for this album; there is only putrefied, noisome death here. It’s straight to the point and that point is it wants to kill you. Horrific in a satisfying way.

20) Deafheaven – New Bermuda

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Anti Records – 2015/10/02

What I Said Then: The five tracks on New Bermuda have that rare knack of being instantly memorable without being simplistic.
What I Say Now: No other band manages the interplay between light and dark quite like Deafheaven does. Here the warmth and light only serve to remind the listener that storm clouds are bearing down.

21) Gnaw Their Tongues – Abyss of Longing Throats

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Crucial Blast – 2015/08/04

What I Said Then: [As] much as Abyss isn’t as nakedly sadosexual as some previous works, it still fills you with a spiritual dread and a carnal longing that should not sit side by side.
What I Say Now: Abyss is the void looking back at you, its sensual malevolence longing to infect you with its chaos. It remains a profoundly unsettling, uncomfortable experience.

22) Motörhead – Bad Magic

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UDR Music – 2015/08/28

What I Said Then: Forty years of performance and Motörhead are still capable of releasing an album that blows you away.
What I Say Now: Motörhead are one of metal’s oldest institutions, so it’s not surprising that people may not get excited for a new album. But you should get excited for Bad Magic. Every track is a solid gold hit.

23) Lamantide – Carnis Tempora: Abyssus

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Self-released – 2015/10/26

What I Said Then: It’s an intense experience in the best way.
What I Say Now: Definitely puts the post back into post-hardcore, as there is a definite Swans-esque embrace of otherness. It’s more than distortion or structure; Lamantide pulls hardcore into brave new forms.

24) Choking – Choking

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Self-released – 2015/05/15

What I Said Then: Choking is an apt name for the band, as every stanza tries to crush the life out of you.
What I Say Now: I’m hung up on just how suffocating this release is. The appropriateness of the name has only increased with time. It violently sucks the air out of the atmosphere, leaving the listener breathless.

25) Kylesa – Exhausting Flame

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Season of Mist – 2015/10/02

What I Said Then: Groovy in the good way, but possessed of a gnawing melancholy, this may just be the most upbeat sad album you’ll hear.
What I Say Now: Kylesa’s grimey heaviness is delicately balanced with their ear for emotional heaviness. Exhausting Flame is just that: exhausting. It’s a draining experience, but in a satisfying way.

26) Leprous – The Congregation

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InsideOut Music – 2015/05/25

What I Said Then: The music weaves a hypnotic tapestry for the ears, while the vocals are delivered with a Muse-esque pathos.
What I Say Now: Meandering in a most deliberate manner, The Congregation is easily the urgent daydream of 2015. It’s aggressive beauty isn’t just aging well; it’s becoming more dominant by the second.

27) Goolagoon – Patrickviolence Demo

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Dickcrush – 2015/03/30

What I Said Then: I sit here, flayed, wondering how a concept so stupid can pay off with such overwhelming satisfaction.
What I Say Now: I still find it hard to believe that the Spobgebob schtick hasn’t grown old. But it hasn’t. The odd combination of powerviolence and surf rock keeps this fresh listen after listen after listen.

28) Cavernlight – Corporeal

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Self-released – 2015/04/07

What I Said Then: The first time you listen to it is like crossing an event horizon; you may not realise it, but you’re inexorably and inevitably drawn to a crushing black hole.
What I Say Now: The way these four tracks build pressure is amazing. The atmospheres just keep on piling up, breaking bones and forcing the air from your lungs. It’s a terrifying force of nature in your ears.

29) Woundvac – Disgraced Convert

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Self-released – 2015/09/08

What I Said Then: Their songs see anger and disaffection collide in explosive blasts of discontent.
What I Say Now: Woundvac get it. Their approach to grind is as unforgiving as Sheriff Joe’s understanding of Christ. It’s a non-stop blast of expertly crafted aggression. Hostility is the winner here.

30) Cruciamentum – Charnel Passages

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Profound Lore Records – 2015/09/04

What I Said Then: The cacophonous darkness of the rhythms is punctuated by howling melodies which swell into fierce solos.
What I Say Now: Charnel Passages burns real slow. It’s not until the final track burns out that you realise that it’s taken everything around it with it. It’s destructive in a way that you can’t turn off or ignore.

31) Alder Glade – Demo II

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Auris Apothecary – 2015/05/14

What I Said Then: The second demo builds on the oppressive atmosphere of the first one, somehow managing to meld the brooding swampiness that came before with the permafrost of traditional black metal.
What I Say Now: Don’t know what I was thinking when I first reviewed this; I should have been far more glowing in my praise. The wholehearted embrace of the tyranny of isolation is impressive.

32) Boak – Boak

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Self-released – 2015/06/03

What I Said Then: It sounds like a frenzied melee, with breaks in tempo acting to add emphasis.
What I Say Now: Singularly aggressive hardcore-by-the-way-of-powerviolence. Drumming that sounds like a swarm of angry hornets underscores guitars and vocals that exist solely to injure.

33) Hate Eternal – Infernus

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Season of Mist – 2015/08/21

What I Said Then: With such aggressive fret work on display, there’s no possible way to be disappointed.
What I Say Now: Sleeper of the year in my opinion. I couldn’t stop listening to it. This is more than a stellar death metal album; this is one of those albums will age spectacularly. It’s left a lasting impression.

34) Abstracter – Wound Empire

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Sentient Ruin Laboratories et al – 2015/02/10

What I Said Then: They have taken all of black metal’s misanthropy and reflected it inwards.
What I Say Now: This remains as darkly captivating now as it was when I first gave it a spin. Suffused with creeping misery that is as relentless as it is achingly slow, Wound Empire is a glacier of haunting depression.

35) Manhunt – Manhunt

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625 Thrash/Lethal Dose Records/RSR – 2015/01/16

What I Said Then: Make no mistake, lots of punk is destructive as a cyclone; Manhunt tear shit up like they’re the red spot on Jupiter, whipping around at 600 kilometres per hour.
What I Say Now: This is the real thing. You can feel the press of bodies in the pit. You can smell the acrid tang of sweat. You can see the steam rising off the superheated mob. Savour the hardcore sensation.

36) Leucrota – Demo

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Sentient Ruin Laboratories – 2015/02/28

What I Said Then: It’s unforgiving, but absolutely necessary.
What I Say Now: Putting traditional punk immediacy on the back-burner in favour of persistent sinister menace makes this 2015’s most intimidating punk release. Violent in a way that hints that it could be much more so.

37) Unyielding Love – Demo 2015

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Self-released – 2015/09/29

What I Said Then: Thuggish and muscular black metal is made even nastier with sociopathic noise.
What I Say Now: Cataclysmic noise given only the barest semblance of structure, Unyielding Love take metal to a new uncompromising extreme. Challenging and hateful, this demo is a black spot on the soul.

38) Cloud Rat – Qliphoth

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Halo of Flies – 2015/05/29

What I Said Then: It doesn’t hesitate to bring the blasting violence, but it also allows itself to plumb darker depths of humanity by slowing down and letting melody reign.
What I Say Now: The sophistication that Cloud Rat bring to grind continues to seem incongruously oxymoronic. The mingling of ferocious blastbeats and crystal delicate melodies required amazing skill.

39) Horrendous – Anareta

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Dark Descent Records – 2015/10/30

What I Said Then: Slowly We Rot atop the Altars of Madness while we Scream Bloody Gore until Fuckin’ Death seems to sum it up.
What I Say Now: There is a warm glow of nostalgia radiating from every note. The throwback to death metal’s origins is welcome. But the top quality performances from all involved is what makes this so necessary.

40) Carnero – Carnero

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Self-released – 2015/05/29

What I Said Then: It has that perfect combination of energy, intensity, and message that all great hardcore has.
What I Say Now: It’s releases like this that keep me connected to hardcore. There’s nothing disingenuous here; it’s pure, nasty, violent punk. It’s everything that made the genre great in seven tracks.

41) Drudkh – Борозна обірвалася (A Furrow Cut Short)

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Season of Mist – 2015/04/20

What I Said Then: Drudkh is the Gold Standard for black metal because they keep on putting out albums as good as this. 
What I Say Now: There’s an anguished longing at the core of this. It aches. It needs. It wants. It hungers. I doubt any other band could conjure such excruciating exquisiteness and sustain it so long.

42) Serpents Lair – Circumambulating the Stillborn

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Fallen Empire Records/Duplicate Records/Hellthrasher Productions – 2015/11/03

What I Said Then: Sometimes icy in its hate, sonetimes scorching in its wrath, Circumambulating the Stillborn is always venomous.
What I Say Now: There’s something to be said for tremolo picking, Christ punching, trve kvlt traditionalism. So long as it’s done well of course. Serpents Lair nail it with an album that is both violent and hypnotic.

43) Sunn O))) – Kannon

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Southern Lord – 2015/12/04

What I Said Then: Sunn O)))’s first non-collaborative work of the decade is less total speaker destruction and more monks at the temple of loud.
What I Say Now: Crushing tectonic force is what’s on display. The slightest shift in tone causes rumbles that can be felt for miles. As contemplative in tone as it is, Kannon is loaded with destruction.

44) Krallice – Ygg Huur

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Gilead Media/Avantgarde Music – 2015/07/30

What I Said Then: An immovable object given irresistible force.
What I Say Now: Brilliantly technical and possessed of a sensibility for other genres, Ygg Huur is a black metal album apart from its genre. It’s fascinating listening to an album that twists the norms so ably.

45) Lamb of God – VII: Sturm und Drang

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Nuclear Blast – 2015/07/24

What I Said Then: There’s a melodic quality to the tracks that brings to mind the peak of the Gotherburg sound, but it doesn’t sacrifice the Lynard-Skynard’s-grindcore-album Southern rage[.]
What I Say Now: Given that LoG hasn’t been relevant to me since I replaced my teenage angst with adult ennui, it’s impressive how much of an impact this made. Proof that groove metal isn’t always a pejorative.

46) Melechesh – Enki

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Nuclear Blast – 2015/02/27

What I Said Then: It wields fury and malice like a fanatic wielding a censer brimming with balefire. 
What I Say Now: With music like this, it’s no wonder Melechesh isn’t welcome in their home country anymore. Its combination of blackened death and Middle Eastern folk is unforgettably vicious.

47) Iron Maiden – Book of Souls

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Parlophone – 2015/09/04

What I Said Then: Never have Maiden songs had this much room to soar.
What I Say Now: I’m a big fan of Maiden’s millennial work, but Book of Souls is their first bona fide classic in a long time. It’s a double album where everything sounds necessary and vital. Essential listening.

48) Ironic Reversal – Dysgenic

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Self-released – 2015/10/15

What I Said Then: Make no mistake: these guys can write riffs that put most other death metallers to shame.
What I Say Now: Ironic Reversal know how to death metal. The fine balance they strike between the technical and the progressive is not an easy thing to achieve. Few bands have the raw talent that this duo do.

49) A Forest of Stars – Beware the Sword You Cannot See

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Prophecy Productions – 2015/02/27

What I Said Then: They got the interplay between blackened intensity and Victorian aesthetic spot on.
What I Say Now: It’s an album almost punget with the acrid smoke of coal-fired industry and the incense of Infernal mysticism. It’s intriguing and beguiling with more than a hint of razor-edged danger.

50) Enforcer – From Beyond

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Nuclear Blast – 2015/02/27

What I Said Then: It’s a glorious reaffirmation of everything good about heavy metal.
What I Say Now: It’s leather and big hair from start to finish. Enforcer’s brand of beautiful speed metal anachronism works so well because they have the balls to go there and the talent to back it up. Play it loud.

October 2015 Review Round Up

When I started writing this month’s instalment, I forgot to set it to draft. So, there’s most of a month’s worth of spoilers there. No matter. I’ll be more careful next time.

Windhand killed it for album of the month. They get that great doom requires great emotional investment. And there is an almighty heaviness to their commitment on Grief’s Infernal Flower.

Despite being a bit spoiled for choice, it was hard to go past Deafheaven for the honourable mention. They may not be the trvest band ever. Far from it frankly. But fuck that petty scene shit. They play some of the most innovative metal there is and fully deserve their plaudits.

Getting close to the business end of the year. Still hanging out for some big releases though. It’s good to be this engaged.

Hit me up on Facebook.

Until next month.

Album of the Month
Windhand – Grief’s Infernal Flower
(Stoner doom metal – United States of America)
Relapse Records – 2015/09/18

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I get the feeling there’s a personal tragedy at the heart of this album. I could be wrong, but it sounds like someone trying to cope with unfathomable loss. At its core there is self-loathing and rage, which is obfuscated by clouds numbing dope smoke. It makes for a powerful but depressing experience. It’s fantastic to see a band approach stoner doom from an angle different than fuzzed out melancholy.
Try before you buy: Hesperus (Bandcamp)

Honourable Mention
Deafheaven – New Bermuda
(Post-black metal – United States of America)
Anti Records – 2015/10/02

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Hipster cred will soon fade. Beards will recede. Ironic tattoos will be regretted. Once this happens, all that will remain is song-writing talent. It’s a good thing then that Deafheaven has more talent than they know what to do with. The five tracks on New Bermuda have that rare knack of being instantly memorable without being simplistic. Even for a forward thinking band, such an evolution is impressive.
Try before you buy: Come Back (Bandcamp)

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Archivist – Archivist
(Post-black metal – Austria/Germany/United Kingdom)
Alerta Antifascista Records/Grain of Sand Records – 2015/06/02

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How does one mend a broken heart? Light Bearer going on permanent hiatus halfway through a four album conceptual piece was gutting. Good thing Archivist is here to fill the void. They do the contemplative hard work of Light Bearer, but with substantially more aggression. It makes for a very intense listen. I was concerned going in that it would just be a rebound. But there’s potential for a lasting relationship here.
Try before you buy: Hades (Bandcamp)

Boar Worship – Boar Worship
(Sludge metal – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/07/08

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I love a release that has strong narative flow. I’m not talking about a concept; I’m talking about how well-crafted music draws the listener in, builds tension, and closes in appropriately climactic fashion. Boar Worship have a crystal clear understanding of these principles. The four tracks of dark, harsh sludge build (and release) tension like a classic horror film. The pervasive misery is masterful.
Try before you buy: Two (Bandcamp)

Children of Bodom – I Worship Chaos
(Melodic death metal – Finland)
Nuclear Blast – 2015/10/02

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This is the sound of a band treading water. It’s still distinctly Bodom and it’s not objectively bad, but they’re not exactly pushing things to the limit here. I am prepared to say it’s a better album than Halo of Blood or Relentless Reckless Forever. That doesn’t excuse the band for getting stuck in a deep well of creative ennui. The question now is, where do Laiho et al go from here? Hopefully there’s some forward momentum left in them.
Try before you buy: Morrigan (YouTube)

Christian Mistress – To Your Death
(Heavy metal – United States of America)
Relapse Records – 2015/09/18

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Christian Mistress continue to be one of the most consistently entertaining purveyors of old school heavy metal. The key is that they don’t nakedly imitate NWOBHM. They take that glorious 80s sound and bring it into the new millennium. To that end, To Your Death is loaded with riffs that bring out your air guitar. And I don’t think there’s been a greater female voice since Doro than Christine Davis. Strong, energetic metal.
Try before you buy: Eclipse (Bandcamp)

Clutch – Psychic Warfare
(Rock – United States of America)
Weathermaker Music – 2015/10/02

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This album is so much more entertaining when you treat it as the rambling legal statement of a conspiracy nut trying to stave off whatever actual trouble his life, loves, adventures, and misadventures have created. It’s high quality rock and roll, as you’d expect from Clutch, but the concept makes it all the better. Make sure you use your equaliser properly though. It suffers without levelling.
Try before you buy: X-Ray Visions (YouTube)

Cruciamentum – Charnel Passages
(Death metal – United Kingdom)
Profound Lore Records – 2015/09/04

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Charnel Passages is kind of like being trapped aboard an aggressively haunted ship while it’s being buffeted by a severe storm. I may have drawn inspiration from the cover art for that, but it’s more than appropriate. The cacophonous darkness of the rhythms is punctuated by howling melodies which swell into fierce solos. It’s a sinister sounding album, with no space for light or hope.
Try before you buy: Piety Carved From Flesh (Bandcamp)

Hate Eternal – Infernus
(Death metal – United States of America)
Season of Mist – 2015/08/21

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Hate Eternal is much like the Ferrari of the death metal world. They don’t reinvent the wheel, but they do use it with great precision and at high speed. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. Sometimes you just want to hit play and know exactly what you’re going to get. With such aggressive fret work on display, there’s no possible way to be disappointed. When your riffs are earth-shattering, you don’t need to be ground-breaking.
Try before you buy: Pathogenic Apathy (Bandcamp)

Ironic Reversal – Dysgenic
(Progressive death metal – India)
Self-released – 2015/10/15

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I felt like a real shitheel leaving Ironic Reversal off my overall best of last year. They are a genuinely fantastic death metal act. Their follow up ep, Dysgenic, cements this. It’s a tightly constructed concept piece that allows both progressive and technical expertise to shine through. Make no mistake: these guys can write riffs that put most other death metallers to shame. Innovative, intelligent and severe.
Try before you buy: Consume (Bandcamp)

Kylesa – Exhausting Flame
(Sludge metal – United States of America)
Season of Mist – 2015/10/02

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I’m waiting for Kylesa to make a bad album. I’m curious as to how they’d manage to do it. Exhausting Flame is another excellent addition to their discography. Lush, verdant riffs played over one of the most indomitable rhythm sections in metal. It’s what they do and, yet, it’s not more of the same. Groovy in the good way, but possessed of a gnawing melancholy, this may just be the most upbeat sad album you’ll hear.
Try before you buy: Out of My Mind (Bandcamp)

Mudbath – Corrado Zeller
(Stoner sludge – France)
Lost Pilgrims Records – 2015/01/31

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It’s not a happy type of stoner here. There’s a bleakness at play here that isn’t typically found among the stoner folk. The drawn out riffs verge on the psychedelic, looping around and fuzzed out like the worst kind of sonic psilocybin. It does start to actually feel mind altering after a while. It has some flaws, the chief of which is the repetition is occasionally dull rather than atmospheric. But the misery they put to wax is definitely worth a listen.
Try before you buy: Salmonella (Bandcamp)

O – Pietra
(Grinding black metal – Italy)
Grindpromotion/Unquiet Records – 2015/10/02

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O (pronounced Circular Sign) have an odd but satisfying aesthetic going here. To my ears, it’s a reimagining of Enslaved, where the fascination with Pink Floyd and King Crimson is replaced with an overdose of Napalm Death and Brutal Truth. That may sound impossible, but there are key tonal agreements that more than make it work. It packs a hell of a punch as well. Always a bonus when an experiment works out.
Try before you buy: Maledetto (Bandcamp)

Panopticon – Autumn Eternal
(Blackgrass – United States of America)
Bindrune Recordings/Nordvis Produktion – 2015/10/16

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I continue to be impressed with the blackened take on Kentucky that Panopticon produce. They understand nuance in a way that great bands do. They’re not a folk metal band; loading their laments with fiddle would severely diminish them. Instead they focus on taking bluegrass technique and scorching the hell out of it with blackened fire. In the process, all the joy has been burned out, leaving only a charred stump of bitterness.
Try before you buy: Oaks Ablaze (Bandcamp)

Sovereign – Deceptum
(Crusty black metal – Italy)
Self-released – 2015/06/04

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If black metal with a tinge of punk is your thing, then Deceptum will more than fit the bill. They play with maximum aggression and a total dearth of pity, compassion, or mercy. Not a lot on offer to win converts to the cause though, until you reach the total black majesty of the final track. That’s the disappointment here; they are clearly capable of something jaw dropping but they hold themselves in reserve until the last. I still recommend them, but I am also left wanting.
Try before you buy: Colourless (Bandcamp)

TesseracT – Polaris
(Djent – United Kingdom)
Kscope – 2015/09/18

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TesseracT continues to be one of the few bands to make djent look good. The palm muting is still there, but TesseracT go out of their way to not sound like a poor man’s Meshuggah. Polaris is an album that pushes their progressive proclivities to a new level. Intricate, often delicate melodies are held up by a distinctively djent low end. The clean vocals are crisp yet soulful. Entertaining from start to finish.
Try before you buy: Survival (YouTube)

Trivium – Silence in the Snow
(Core-tinged heavy metal – United States of America)
Roadrunner Records – 2015/10/02

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Trivium have clearly put some effort into making Silence as anthemic as possible. Almost every track has a memorable, sing-along quality. Fist-pumping good times. I do wish they could settle on whether they want to be Metallica or Maiden. Consistency matters. But there are some fantastic solos and the complete absence of metalcore screeching is more than welcome. Their maturation as a band continues.
Try before you buy: Blind Leading the Blind (YouTube)

Unwanted Existence – Silhouettes of a Mental Disorder
(Depressive suicidal black metal – Venezuela/Mexico)
Winterwolf Records – 2015/09/17

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Don’t listen to this for the vocals. They don’t sound like the vocalist’s testicles are being repeatedly flicked with an elastic band, but they’re not far off. The real selling point are the instrumentals. You can actually tell that they were penned in the throes of suicidal mania. Gentle melodies that sound like stitches being unpicked. Harsh sections reminiscent of smashing your skull into bricks. Flawed, but the pain is genuine.
Try before you buy: Black Procession (To My Grave) (Bandcamp)

Chelsea Wolfe – Abyss
(Industrial folk – United States of America)
Sargent House – 2015/08/07

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This is my first encounter with Chelsea Wolfe. It’s a new kind of heaviness for me. New and thoroughly satisfying. Vocals are skilfully delivered with both the passionate power and reflective restraint that only the greats can manage. And the way rumbling industrial is interwoven with melancholy folk is revelatory. It’s a smart, challenging album that rewards with each and every chord.
Try before you buy: Grey Days (Bandcamp)

September 2015 Review Round Up

[insert editorial content]

That’s how it feels this month. Maybe if I had a broader focus than reviews, I’d have more to wax editorial about. But I like reviews. It keeps a hermit like myself engaged with the community.

The picks of the month, Motörhead’s Bad Magic and Goolagoon’s Patrickviolence Demo forced me to re-evaluate some core beliefs.

Motörhead will always be Motörhead. You know what you’re going to get. But Bad Magic proves that albums that stick to a well worn oeuvre can still demolish expectations, so long as the delivery is up to scratch.

I ordinarily have a not unjustified suspicion of gimmicks and a Spongebob themed anything that’s not actually Spongebob has no right to work. Again, the delivery is what matters. Goolagoon exemplify this. They could sell any idea with delivery that sharp.

Feel free to Facebook me. If you share my beloved vanity blog, tag me too. I like to keep up with publicity.

See everyone next month.

Album of the Month
Motörhead – Bad Magic
(Rock and Roll – United Kingdom)
UDR Music – 2015/08/28

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Bad Magic is a friendly reminder that Airheads, despite its flaws, got it right: Lemmy is God. Forty years of performance and Motörhead are still capable of releasing an album that blows you away. All bands long for this sort of longevity. Phil Campbell’s guitar work is nothing short of spectacular. And Mickey Dee owns the drum kit like a kid half his age. They rock and they roll and they bring the energy and they do it damn well.
Try before you buy: Fire Storm Hotel (YouTube)

Honourable Mention
Goolagoon – Patrickviolence Demo
(Powerviolence – United States of America)
Dickcrush – 2015/03/30

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If you’re going to a band with a gimmick, you better not be tiresome. If you’re a gimmick band in the grind/crust/pv family, you had best be fucking awesome. If your pv gimmick is based on Spongebob fucking Squarepants, you better be blowing my skin off with awesomeness. Boy howdy, do Goolagoon deliver on that. I sit here, flayed, wondering how a concept so stupid can pay off with such overwhelming satisfaction.
Try before you buy: Walking Small (Bandcamp)

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Blutbad – Abandonment
(Harsh noise – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/09/19

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So. That’s a harsh noise wall. Kind of unnerved that I don’t hate it. The unrelenting cascade of static is alienating and unnerving. It’s also oddly soothing. It creates the effect of listening to a comforting, repetitive noise, like a waterfall crashing. It’s relaxing, but after a while it sounds like someone is drowning in the endless stream of water. It gets discomforting once you start to hear it. Unsettling. Very much so.
Try before you buy: Ritual (Bandcamp)

Cavernlight – Corporeal
(Droning sludge – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/04/07

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Each listen draws you in more and more. The first time you listen to it is like crossing an event horizon; you may not realise it, but you’re inexorably and inevitably drawn to a crushing black hole. The first three tracks of droning sludge pave the way for the final, crushing track of true drone. Subsequent listens allow the listener to truly appreciate sophistication of this release. It’s intricate in its slowness.
Try before you buy: Upon the Threshold of Reason, Embracing Our Corporeal Forms (Bandcamp)

Concilium – Demo
(Occult doom – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/09/08

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I’m a huge fan of occult-flavoured doom, especially the sort that features a strong female vocal lead. Blood Ceremony and Jex Thoth are huge in my book. But even I have to admit that the field has been a little saturated of late. Concilium is a fine example of this. They have a damn fine singer; her vocals are as silky as Jex’s. But the music, while atmospheric, lacks the necessary power to hold interest. It’s regrettably dull.
Try before you buy: Tempest (Bandcamp)

Devoid – II
(Droning sludge – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/06/09

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The second low and slow release for the month, and it too is a damn fine example of drone metal. The sustains have Sunn O)))-esque malevolence and the distortion can easily ruin your equipment. It’s not afraid to up the tempo either, which makes for well-considered stylistic changes. There’s no doubt that II is at its finest at its slowest though. It manifests a palpable sense of dread and aguish with every tortured note.
Try before you buy: Excavation (Bandcamp)

Iron Maiden – Book of Souls
(Heavy metal – United Kingdom)
Parlophone – 2015/09/04

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It’s a testament to Iron Maiden’s obvious love for their craft that so shortly after Bruce’s run in with cancer, they put out their best album since Matter of Life and Death. Admittedly, the vocals do sound a little chemo affected still, but not in a way that’s an overall detriment. The decision to make a double album paid big dividends too. Never have Maiden songs had this much room to soar. Another classic.
Try before you buy: Speed of Light (YouTube)

Monolith – Legacy of the Opium Eater
(Death metal – South Africa)
Self-released – 2015/09/12

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Rumbling along, this ep is about as slow as death can get without being death doom. Ordinarily, this sort of deathly barage comes across like a plague of zombies; a slow, steady, relentless crush leading to an inevitability bloody end. Monolith tweak this a bit. It’s far from a mindless barrage; there are some evil smarts at work here. Instead of zombies, it’s more like wights. Possibly bodaks. Slow, but intelligent death at work.
Try before you buy: Seemingly False Fantasies (Bandcamp)

Mouth Breather – Mouth Breather
(Grindviolence – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/09/14

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Mouth Breather is one of those tough releases that definitely not mediocre, but it is still hard to get enthusiastic about. They do grindcore with an endearingly lunkheaded charm. And, despite the racket, it’s not a sloppy release. Every bark, every blast well considered. But it’s lacking something. It feels like they have held something back; as though the option to go to eleven was there, but ten suited them fine.
Try before you buy: Death Metal Hell (Bandcamp)

Nile – What Should Not Be Unearthed
(Brutal techdeath – United States of America)
Nuclear Blast – 2015/08/28

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Memory is a funny thing. Every time a new Nile album rolls around, I’ve done the mental gymnastics to convince myself I don’t like them. I waste a lot of time; time that could be better spent listening to Nile. I broke the cycle this time and jumped straight in. Even by their already high standards, Unearthed is monstrous. It strikes a perfect balance between technicality and brutality that every band in the genre should strive for.
Try before you buy: Call to Destruction (YouTube)

Sermos – (husk)
(Death metal – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/07/04

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Some death metal exists to wallow in misery. Some exists to ruthlessly molest frets. And some simply exists to be enjoyed. Sermos is definitely in the latter category. (husk) has a loose, faux-sloppy sound that is just a joy to listen to. It’s the sort of release that begs to be drunkenly headbanged to. It has some forays into guttural territory, which don’t work as well, but overall it’s a fine release that every death buff should get into.
Try before you buy: The End of Flesh (Bandcamp)

Slayer – Repentless
(Thrash – United States of America)
Nuclear Blast – 2015/09/11

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Definitely sounds like Slayer. Any concerns about the transition from Hanneman to Holt have been assuaged. I think the transition has had a positive effect. The songs have a depth that has been lacking from recent releases. It no longer sounds like a collection of solos loosely stitched together with melody. It’s a welcome reminder of why Slayer is one of metal’s most important acts.
Try before you buy: Repentless (YouTube)

Steel Chains – Demo 2015
(Post-punk – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/02/14

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I spent way too much time trying to fit this demo into a convenient genre. It’s post-punk. But it’s really upbeat. But it’s gloomy as hell. But. But. But. I eventually settled on the moniker, Tsunami Punk. It’s got the upbeat slacker sound of surf punk but it’s infused with a pervasive sense of imminent doom. I love having my expectations messed with. And I’m happy to find another post-punk band that is a joy to listen to.
Try before you buy: Hard to Follow (Bandcamp)

Verheerer – Archar
(Black metal – Germany)
Self-released – 2015/09/12

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This is a release for fans of Dissection, Watain, and Necrophobic. It’s firmly in the mould of melodic yet aggressive black metal made great by the aforementioned. Importantly, Verheerer’s take on majestic darkness is a hell of a racket. It allows a minor lack of originality to be completely forgiven and forgotten. It’s proof positive that operating in genre boundaries can work.
Try before you buy: Archar (Bandcamp)

Woundvac – Disgraced Convert
(Grindcore – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/09/08

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There’s nothing quite as satisfying as grindcore done well. The intrinsic violence played out in short, sharp bursts isn’t so much a thoughtful musical exercise as it is a raw emotional outburst. Woundvac is one of the bands that best exemplify this. Their songs see anger and disaffection collide in explosive blasts of discontent. It’s like they put the barest minimum of effort into control, allowing for an unhinged sound.
Try before you buy: Disgraced Convert (Bandcamp)

Zombie X Incest – The First Violent Step
(Powerviolence – Nepal)
Self-released – 2015/09/12

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This is raw. I’m left wondering whether it’s a limitation of the recording environment or a stylistic choice. Whatever the answer, the coarse grain sandpaperiness of their sound works to their advantage. It comes across like the band are right there next to you instead of in a studio/basement thousands of kilometres away. The in your face aggression is complemented by damn entertaining melodies too.
Try before you buy: How is punk dead when powerviolence is still alive? (Bandcamp)

August 2015 Review Round Up

It’s been a month heavy on depravity. Pissgrave and Gnaw Their Tongues bring radically different approaches to human misery, but they’re both outstanding. Bleak. Inhuman. But outstanding.

I’ve never actually brought this up before, but there’s a reason why I don’t use a scoring system. In my own experience, I tend to be a lazy review reader. Scores will determine how much attention I pay to the details. I doubt I’m the only one that does this. So for my reviews, I ditched the scores; let the details stand on their own merit.

You can, as always, reach me on Facebook. See you next month.

Album of the Month
Pissgrave – Suicide Euphoria
(Death metal – United States of America)
Profound Lore Records – 2015/08/04

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This album is as stripped back and grotesque as the liner notes. It really is the leanest death metal album I have heard in a long time. Not a single second is wasted on fripperies or extravagances. It’s refreshing really. The complete absence of bullshit means that there is nothing to distract from the music. And the music they play is easily some of the most satisfyingly visceral death metal out there.
Try before you buy: Fields of Scattered Bones (Bandcamp)

Honourable Mention
Gnaw Their Tongues – Abyss of Longing Throats
(Black ambient – Netherlands)
Crucial Blast – 2015/08/04

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Mories, the mind behind Gnaw Their Tongues, is a sick and twisted genius. A previous album title sums his work up perfectly: all the dread magnificence of perversity. Your skin crawls with horror and with anticipation. And as much as Abyss isn’t as nakedly sadosexual as some previous works, it still fills you with a spiritual dread and a carnal longing that should not sit side by side. It’s a monstrous example of human darkness.
Try before you buy: From the Black Mouth of Spite (Bandcamp)

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Bath Salt Zombies – Ghouls vs Zombies
(Crossover thrash – Puerto Rico)
Self-released – 2015/04/01

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This is straight up dumb as hell. Crass sexual references, horror schlock, and other weirdness are the dominant themes here. Other weirdness seems a bit vague, I know, but how else do you categorise a song dedicated to avocados? There’s nothing complicated about the music either; it’s crossover at its three chord songs simplest. But it’s endearing in its simplicity. Won’t win awards, but you will enjoy it.
Try before you buy: Gimme Avocados (Bandcamp)

Cartilage – It’s Necrotic
(Death metal – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/06/14

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It’s always a fantastic thing to hear a band that are obviously gore obsessed, but don’t slam their way through their tunes. It takes me back to death metal’s roots. The three tracks on display here are toe-tappingly and headbangingly catchy. They clearly don’t see any problems with making songs about blood clots into enjoyable experiences. And neither do I. It left me with an ear to ear grin and the need to blast it louder on repeat.
Try before you buy: Dialect of the Dead (Bandcamp)

Christophobia – As vozes daqueles que sucumbiram
(Black metal – Brazil)
Self-released – 2015/08/02

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This is delightfully lo-fi. The fuzz and the crackles add a sense a claustrophobia to the production. But here’s the thing; this isn’t a raw black metal album. It eschews the trve kvlt über alles tropes that dominate the raw end of the spectrum and instead focuses on actual melody. This combination of low fidelity production and high quality songwriting makes for an entertaining and engaging listen.
Try before you buy: Crociffigere il Bastardo (Bandcamp)

Dawn of Dissolution – Nightfrost
(Blackened powerdeath – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/08/22

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Kind of envious of Houston’s metal scene at the moment. Dawn of Dissolution is yet another damn entertaining band from Texas’ biggest city and they do it in a way that shouldn’t work. Combining blackened death and power metal shouldn’t sound this good. But those guitars just roll in and lay out menacing riff after menacing riff in the most upbeat way imaginable. Gauntlet thrown: I challenge you to not like this.
Try before you buy: Frozen Conquest (Bandcamp)

Dowrr – Demo Tape
(Metallic hardcore – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/08/10

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Metallic hardcore? Why not metalcore? Because Dowrr have nothing to do with that shitty genre, so I won’t use the shitty portmanteau. Pretty sure this is the most hateful hardcore I’ve heard, possibly ever. They play like they want to shatter every bone in your face, then take your wallet, then break what’s left of you. The lyrics are barked and spat out with maximum contempt. It’s fantastically nasty.
Try before you buy: Misfortune (Bandcamp)

Evenstate – Inside
(Progressive metal – Netherlands)
Self-released – 2015/07/25

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I’ll call this progressive ore. It’s metallic rock. And Dream Theater has thoroughly colonised this space, pushing all others to the fringes. Evenstate do a damn good job of taking some space back. They are at least proximate to the technicality and ingenuity of New York’s finest. And what they lack, they make up by having a vocalist who has the big brass blast of Shirley Bassey. She’s fantastic.
Try before you buy: Chosen One (Bandcamp)

Fear Factory – Genexus
(Industrial metal – United States of America)
Nuclear Blast – 2015/08/07

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It’s been a while since I’ve checked in with FF. I mean, they’re hardly the same band whose last minute cancelation started a riot circa Demanufacture. No way known they could generate that level of passion anymore. But that doesn’t make Genexus a bad album. In fact, it’s surprisingly solid. Energetic riffs and machine-line drumming are well delivered. Burton’s reliance on his croon didn’t piss me off this time either. It’s not great, but it is good.
Try before you buy: Soul Hacker (YouTube)

Fractal Generator – Apotheosynthesis
(Atmospheric death metal – Canada)
Self-released – 2015/07/21

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I was wondering what they meant when they self-described as atmospheric death metal. Now I know; it’s a version of techdeath that’s had some of the complexity taken out and the rest turned askew. The important thing to bear in mind is that they perform at a very high standard. As much as their take on death is different, they haven’t made it too odd to be accessible. Nine solid tracks of good times.
Try before you buy: Paragon (Bandcamp)

Ghost – Meliora
(Heavy metal – Sweden)
Loma Vista Recordings – 2015/08/21

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Not every band treading the left hand path need to sound like they’re marching to war, axe in hand, for their dark master. Ghost sound like they’re spooning Satan after a particularly torrid tryst. And while I doubt they will ever truly recapture the majesty of Opus Eponymous, their work is still of amazingly high quality. Meliora, in particular, is hard rockin’ for the devil, with nods to AC/DC, Van Halen, and others. Damnation’s good time soundtrack.
Try before you buy: Cirice (YouTube)

Goblin Hovel – Loveless, Loreless, Lost
(Metallic folk – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/08/19

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A dark and thoroughly austere take on the folk genre, with just enough goblin-esque croaks in the vocal department to keep it connected to metal. This is bleak stuff. It makes sense when you take into account the album’s eschatological themes. But the austerity of it, with its grave tempos and dirge-like melodies, makes it a tough listen. And that’s coming from someone who loves doom. It’s just such a miserable album.
Try before you buy: Stifled Song (Bandcamp)

Krallice – Ygg Huur
(Avant-garde black metal – United States of America)
Gilead Media/Avantgarde Music – 2015/07/30

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Krallice is one of those bands I believe everyone interested in black metal should know. Their take on the genre, somewhat paradoxically, uses the standard tropes while remaining truly unique. Ygg Huur is less monolithic than their earlier albums. It’s like they set the great beast in motion many years ago and it’s finally rumbled to full speed. And now it can’t be stopped. An immovable object given irresistible force.
Try before you buy: Over Spirit (Bandcamp)

Kriegszittern – Frostbite
(Death metal – Germany)
Self-released – 2015/08/16

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Primitive as Australopithecus’ aunt, Frostbite comes straight at you, as though you’re food for its ravenous maw. It’s an excellent example of the direct approach paying dividends. The three track demo opens and closes with raw aggression, complimented by smatterings of crust punk vitriol. Sandwiched in between is a slower track, focussed heavily on lingering malevolence. There is no compromise here.
Try before you buy: Primitive Instinct (Bandcamp)

Leprous – The Congregation
(Progressive metal – Norway)
InsideOut Music – 2015/05/25

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Reflective in a depressed and almost bitter fashion, The Congregation undoubtedly lacks the immediate punch of its predecessor, Coal. That lack of immediacy does nothing to undermine the depth of emotional maturity that has gone into this record. The music weaves a hypnotic tapestry for the ears, while the vocals are delivered with a Muse-esque pathos. As delicate and beautiful as the finest crystal.
Try before you buy: The Price (YouTube)

L.O.T.I.O.N. – Digital Control and Man’s Obsolescence
(Industrial punk – United States of America)
La Vida Es Un Mus Discos – 2015/07/31

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Landing in the middle ground between Napalm Death and Atari Teenage Riot, Digital… leaves an impact crater with its intensity. The amazing thing is, despite the aforementioned shout-outs and undeniably industrial nature, it retains its character as a true punk album. In your face and unashamedly political, they capture that revolutionary zeal that all non-apathetic punk should have.
Try before you buy: Fukushima Fallout (Bandcamp)

No Form – No Form
(Noise punk – United Kingdom)
Reagent Records/Muscle Horse Records – 2015/06/02

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Jarring and antagonistic, No Form’s self-titled 12″ is a confronting experience. The first four tracks fly past in a blur of discordant aggression. But then it opens up. The fifth and final track is a seven minute, free-form explosion of punk at its most creative. It changes the entire dynamic of the release. The first four tracks aren’t mindless assaults on the ears; they are priming you for a revelatory experience.
Try before you buy: Side B (Bandcamp)

Royal Thunder – Crooked Doors
(Rock – United States of America)
Relapse Records – 2015/04/07

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Bluesy and soulful, Royal Thunder bring a thoughtful approach to the classic rock sound. Crooked Doors shows how traditional rock norms can be played with to make the genre sound fresh. Powerful hooks are interwoven with lilting laments and all the while Mlny delivers one of the strongest rock vocal performances since Skin. Underscoring it all is a lingering psychedelia. There’s a many-layered majesty to it.
Try before you buy: Forget You (YouTube)

Shining – IX: Everyone, Everything, Everywhere, Ends
(Suicidal metal – Sweden)
Season of Mist – 2015/04/20

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There’s a reason I hold Shining and Kvarforth up on a pedestal. Unlike the rest of the dsbm world, who force their demons to conform to the constraints of black metal, Shining force their music to comform to Kvarforth’s numerous demons. This is the ninth full length in the canon and it’s my favourite since Halmstad. It’s deeply personal and extraordinarily troubling but not at all alienating. As dark and inviting as the grave.
Try before you buy: Människotankens Vägglösa Rum (Bandcamp)

Skullreader – The Origin of Doubt
(Black metal – United States of America)
Open Casket Cassettes – 2015/03/10

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I have a certain respect for bands that go straight for the jugular. Hold nothing back, take no prisoners, no fucking around, no bullshit. It’s an all or nothing approach that, even if it misses its mark, you’ve got to admire. Skullreader somehow take this further. It doesn’t just go for the jugular; it goes for the femoral too. Pretty sure they dig at the aorta too. Non-stop violence from go to whoa.
Try before you buy: Vengeance and Prophecy (Bandcamp)

The Unchaining – To the Peaks
(Black metal – Italy)
Self-released – 2015/08/13

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I’m coming to the conclusion that it’s better to be terrible than it is to be forgettable. At least being terrible engenders a genuine, albeit negative, emotional response. Forgettable material is simply lost to the ether. To the Peaks is regrettably forgettable. The music is on the mark for black metal, as are the vocals. But there is nothing new here. It’s just the same trite darkness rehashed by yet another act bound to genre stereotypes.
Try before you buy: A Sea of Storms (Bandcamp)

July 2015 Review Round Up

It’s happened. It’s finally happened. A demo has taken out “album” of the month. I can’t think of a more deserving band than Lxs Jugadxs. They are the band that reinvigorated my love of grind. No more hanging out for the occasional Napalm Death or Pig Destroyer album. Now I want it. I crave it. Thank you for the obsession. Muchas gracias por la obsesión.

I also need to give due respect to Abyssal. Antikatastaseis is a monster. To be fair, they’re not straight up death metal; there’s definitely black and doom in there too. But death metal needs to claim this. Stick a goddamn flag in it. It’s some of the evilest death metal to come out in years.

Enjoy and I’ll be back next month.

Album of the Month
Lxs Jugadxs – Demo 2015
(Grindcore – Argentina)
Self-released – 2015/07/21

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I’ve been a huge fan since I heard their 2013 demo, but everything they’ve done before pales in comparison to this. While remaining undeniably grind, there are strong influences from techdeath, melodeath, and thrash all the way through the four tracks. Wild and raucous, yet possessed of a controlled fury, Lxs Jugadxs make the contradictions work for them. No hyperbole – they are the best grind band in the world right now.
Try before you buy: La Nube Negra (Bandcamp)

Honourable Mention
Abyssal – Antikatastaseis
(Death metal – United Kingdom)
Profound Lore Records – 2015/06/23

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There are times when you find yourself reminded that black metal doesn’t have the monopoly on evil. Abyssal sound like nothing less than a worse version of Dante’s depiction of limbo. Listening to this album definitely allows you to visualise hoards of panicked people running around being relentlessly attacked by wasps, except it’s pitch black and there’s broken glass everywhere. It’s nightmarish beyond belief.
Try before you buy: A Casual Landscape (Bandcamp)

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Abominor – Opus: Decay
(Black metal – Iceland)
Invictus Productions/Vánagandr – 2015/03/26

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Two tracks of deep, involved black metal. Abominor are another band that take stylistic cues from Deathspell Omega and I was getting real close to dismissing them as derivative. But there are important differences that become evident as the release progresses. They embrace melody far more readily than their French compatriots. It’s still a challenging listen, but it feels slightly less like sandpaper on the soul.
Try before you buy: 474 (Bandcamp)

Anopheli – The Ache of Want
(Post-crust – United States of America)
Alerta Antifascista/Halo of Flies – 2015/07/02

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Anopheli continue to be the premier proponents of cello in punk. They also continue to insist on describing themselves as emo crust. But the label fits; the music on The Ache of Want is hard edged and gritty, but is born of an overwhelming sadness. The ineffable grief that permeates every note bleeds over into barely controlled anger. It’s a softer album than A Hunger Rarely Sated, but is no worse for it.
Try before you buy: Squanderer (Bandcamp)

Barghest – Into Weeping Firmament
(Black metal – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/07/03

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Barghest continue to make furious, hateful music for furious, hateful people. The three tracks are involved meditations on the bestial nature of man. Intensely violent and yet surprisingly contemplative, it’s insightful in a way that truly highlights the often dualistic nature of black metal. If you want some food for thought, this will sate your hunger; if you want to feed your beast, it will throw gamey carcasses.
Try before you buy: Neo-Promethean (Bandcamp)

Battle Hag – Battle Hag
(Doom metal – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/03/05

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This is a public service announcement, brought to you by Metalshopped. Tired drivers die. Thank you. I’m doing my civic duty because Battle Hag could have killed me, as it is some of the most soporific doom I have heard in a while. Doom requires more than just down-tuning, reverb, and low growls to be worthwhile. It’s lazy doom that only aims to check boxes. Bass lines can only carry a band so far.
Try before you buy: Never Turn Your Back on the Sea (Bandcamp)

Choking – Choking
(Blackened sludge metal – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/05/15

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True misanthropy takes total dedication. Any idiot can hate, but to take that primal, animalistic emotion and extend it to the entirety of humanity and the self requires a level of commitment few can sustain. Choking sustain it though. Seething contempt suffuses every note, every growl, every sustain. Choking is an apt name for the band, as every stanza tries to crush the life out of you.
Try before you buy: Labyrinthine (Bandcamp)

Epäihminen – Epäihminen IV
(Ambient black metal – Finland)
Self-released – 2015/07/17

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I almost dismissed this; the flat production values and the borderline stereotypical introduction lowered my expectations. But I’m glad I pushed through, as there is a depth to this release that left me aching. It’s like standing on a sunlit fen on a winter day, feeling almost uncomfortably cold, and contemplating mortality and the futility of existence. It serene in the bleakest way possible.
Try before you buy: Op. 24 (Bandcamp)

Haldol – Haldol
(Post-punk – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/05/22

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An interesting take on post-punk. It’s not without its faults, but overall it’s definitely worth your time. The vocalist doesn’t have the strongest of deliveries, but that doesn’t detract heavily from the experience. The release saves itself with its guitar work. There is an unsettling disorientation to the music that turns familiar gothic riffs into distorted refrains of discomfort. There’s a lot to like.
Try before you buy: Law of Indifference (Bandcamp)

Indesinence – III
(Doom metal – United Kingdom)
Profound Lore Records – 2015/07/21

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It’s an odd thing to say given that the majority of tracks come in around the ten minute mark, but this album doesn’t truly shine until it hits the even lengthier tracks near the end of the album. Indesinence’s take on doom, while undeniably oppressive, allows flickers of lights through. It’s like moonlight filtered through broken glass in a bombed out hellhole. This panorama is in sharpest relief in III’s longest form.
Try before you buy: Mountains Of Mind / Five Years Ahead (Of My Time) (Bandcamp)

Jesus Wept – Pit of Blasphemy
(Blackened Brutal Death – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/07/09

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Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde all over this release. At it’s best, it cherry-picked appropriate elements of black metal and used them to invigorate slamming brutality. At it’s worst it’s like the thing was recorded with djent sticks and clockwork toy drums. Even the vocals are on an extreme spectrum. Annunciation is key. Done properly, they’re articulate and sinister. Done badly, it’s a guttural recitation of vowels.
Try before you buy: A Pit of Blasphemy (Bandcamp)

Krvshr – Church Burner
(Sludge metal – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/05/25

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There must be something wrong with me. Hateful noise shouldn’t make me smile so much. It helps that it lands squarely between the good drugs for hard times vibe of High on Fire and the darkness of deep space blackness of Lord Mantis. It opens slow as pitch, but builds steadily to a mid-paced riff-fest and not in the stodgy, bland way. Each riff has the space to ooze. Nasty in a really satisfying way.
Try before you buy: Highlander (Bandcamp)

Kult of the Wizard – The White Wizard
(Doom metal – United States of America)
Reflections Records – 2015/03/13

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Bonged out doom firmly in the mould of Blood Ceremony. According to the band themselves, this is their first release with vocals. I’m glad they took their time, because she’s amazing. She has that sultry white soul quality; it makes you wonder why she isn’t singing about not going to rehab because of the son of a preacher man. She gives the otherwise standard doom the necessary lift to separate it from the masses.
Try before you buy: Black Moon (Bandcamp)

Lamb of God – VII: Sturm und Drang
(Groove metal – United States of America)
Nuclear Blast – 2015/07/24

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Lamb of God: the Garth Brooks of metal. Sure, they’re popular, but why? Didn’t understand the appeal for years. But their seventh album¹ makes me eat my words and my doubts. There’s a melodic quality to the tracks that brings to mind the peak of the Gotherburg sound, but it doesn’t sacrifice the Lynard-Skynard’s-grindcore-album Southern rage that has made them Pantera’s spiritual successors.
Try before you buy: Overlord (YouTube)

Melechesh – Enki
(Blackened death metal – Israel)
Nuclear Blast – 2015/02/27

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How have I not listened to Melechesh before? It should have been a no-brainer given that to my ear they sound like an amalgamation of Absu and Rotting Christ. I love Enki. It wields fury and malice like a fanatic wielding a censer brimming with balefire. But it’s done with a level of nuance that turns a relentless assault into a cinematic portrayal of devotional violence. I can listen to it over and over.
Try before you buy: Multiple Truths (YouTube)

Padre Lobo – Padre Lobo
(Stoner sludge metal – Spain)
Self-released – 2015/07/17

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The first thing that stood out to me was just how much the vocalist, Lore, sounds like Jessicka from Jack Off Jill. I actually double checked to be completely sure she wasn’t. It’s uncanny and, more importantly, very appropriate. The riot grrrl by way of goth vocals belted out over the top of Orange Goblin proximate stoner jams works in a satisfying way. They could probably benefit from a whisper more variety, but damn this is fun.
Try before you buy: Lilith (Bandcamp)

Rebel Wizard – Negative Wizard Metal
(Blackened heavy metal – Australia)
Self-released – 2015/07/17

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First Peasant, and now Rebel Wizard. I’m coming across a few blackened heavy types at the moment. Rebel Wizard are pretty good too. They do lack the knock out punch that Peasant has, but that’s a slightly unfair criticism. The important thing is the riffs the rock are high energy and on the thrashy end of NWOBHM worship. They still retain the sinisterness that black metal requires. Blast it a kvlt gatherings.
Try before you buy: Heavy Negative Wizard Metal (Bandcamp)

A Secret Death – Epilogue
(Hardcore – Australia)
Monolith – 2015/06/25

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Good hardcore is a bit like religion; you hope and you pray for it, but a lot of the time it feels like nothing’s there. But then an album like Epilogue descends like an ecstatic vision. Nuanced aggression is interwoven with deft touches of gentle melody and passages of Dillinger-esque intensity. There is a level of sophistication here that is so very rare in the broader genre. It’s a bright light in an often dark place.
Try before you buy: Strong, Silent Type (Bandcamp)

Sigh – Graveward
(A little bit of everything – Japan)
Candlelight Records – 2015/05/04

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This may seem like a strange thing to say in a metal review, but this is a noisy album. Obviously it’s loud. I mean noisy in the sense that there is a lot going on. It’s confrontational in its creative scope. I still have a fondness for the album, but there’s no doubt I had to open myself up to it. Mirai is one of metal’s great composers; I don’t think anyone else could get this to work. Chaos is a tough thing to reign in.
Try before you buy: Out of the Grave (Bandcamp)

Symphony X – Underworld
(Progressive neoclassical metal – United States of America)
Nuclear Blast – 2015/07/24

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I get the feeling their time on Nuclear Blast hasn’t been the happiest, but Underworld gets it right. It maintains the heavier tone of their recent output, but is reinvigorated with the complicated fret work that made their earlier work so good. It’s lyrically sophisticated too; successfully synthesising classical mythology and mediaeval poetry into a cohesive whole. A long awaited and much appreciated return to form.
Try before you buy: Nevermore (YouTube)

Vanum – Realm of Sacrifice
(Black metal – United States of America)
Profound Lore Records – 2015/06/23

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Vanum have a real sense of organic flow on display with Realm of Sacrifice. And by organic flow, I mean every note is driven by what comes before and in turn pushes the rest of the album forward. It’s like blood coursing through your veins or synapses firing across the cerebellum. Experiencing an album like this is like having another key system in your body. It becomes a part of you and you need to let it do its thing.
Try before you buy: Convergence (Bandcamp)

Vishwanath – Portals to the Inanimate
(Progressive metal – India)
Self-released – 2015/02/18

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I really like this. So much could have gone wrong with a one man, self-released, progressive title. Especially since he openly discussed production problems on his Bandcamp page. But any negatives are quickly brushed aside by his excellent sense of melody. Effortlessly transitioning between heavy grooves and delicate movements is not a skill usually seen in prog part-timers. Thoroughly enjoyable.
Try before you buy: Perception (Bandcamp)

¹Burn the Priest never counts.