June 2015 Review Round Up

June is gone. More than halfway done for the year 2015. It’s going quick.

It’s been a surprisingly big month for me. It’s still less than a release per day, but that 25 review count snuck up on me. Lots of competition for the top spot this month too.

I couldn’t pass on High on Fire for album of the month. Luminiferous is such a colossal sounding album that I needed to expand my scope for metaphors.

I’m also giving a nod to Folivore. A band still getting on with business via demos has no right releasing music so good.

Thanks to everyone who has shared Metalshopped over the last few months. I may not have a huge readership, but that only makes me appreciate the support I get more.

As usual, you can reach me on Facebook. If you give me a share, drop me a line too.

Now to get started on July. Good times.

Album of the Month
High on Fire – Luminiferous
(Sludge metal – United States of America)
eOne Music – 2015/06/23

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You should already know that High on Fire go large. Luminiferous is an album where they go HUUUUUGE. The riffs soar way higher than Everest; they proudly plant their flag atop Olympus Mons. Matt Pike’s vocals are so gravelly, it’s like someone turned the Himalayas into a quarry. The whole album sounds heavier than the Hercules–Corona Borealis Great Wall. You may think I’m overselling this, but trust me; it’s that big.
Try before you buy: Slave the Hive (YouTube)

Honourable Mention
Folivore – Eve of Conception
(Blackened stoner doom – United States of America)
Black Goat Records – 2015/04/20

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This blew me away. Even now, multiple listens in, I can’t quite get over how good this. And it’s a demo. A goddamn demo. It’s a particularly whacked out blend marijuana and Mephistopheles. Kind of like Mayhem after many cones of dank skunk. Or Electric Wizard peaking on mdma. I got high just listening to it’s fuzzed out tributes to evil. It’s a gateway drug that will result in the loss of your soul.
Try before you buy: Black Magic Baptism (Bandcamp)

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Abaton & Viscera/// – Diade(ms)
(Post-black metal – Italy & Italy)
Sentient Ruin Laboratories et al – 2015/06/23

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Definitely an interesting collaboration. I wasn’t familiar with either band beforehand, but my interest has been piqued in both. Abaton’s doom infused black metal blends with Viscera///’s post-metal to create a weighty, intellectual sound. The overwhelming theme is one of brooding malevolence. The darkness is almost tangible; it’s like a looming darkness always threatening to overtake you. Intriguing stuff.
Try before you buy: Special Needs (Bandcamp)

Before the Harvest – Wretched Existence
(Deathcore – Australia)
Vicious Instinct Records – 2015/06/15

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Always good to find some deathcore that I like. There’s a certain spiritual connection between these guys and Fleshgod Apocalypse, as they incorporate some symphonic-esque elements to great effect. There’s nothing delicate about them though. They bludgeon with a persistent aura of brutality. It creates a thoroughly entertaining sense of sophistication portrayed by early man.
Try before you buy: Filthy Breed (Bandcamp)

Carnero – Carnero
(Hardcore – Italy)
Self-released – 2015/05/29

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Maximum bang for your pay-what-you-want buck. It’s releases like this that keep me engaged with hardcore. It has enough metallic elements to give it some extra oomph, but it remains utterly true to its roots. There were more than a few times I found myself making favourable comparisons to Minor Threat. It has that perfect combination of energy, intensity, and message that all great hardcore has.
Try before you buy: La scelta del corpo (Bandcamp)

Casket Garden – In the Name of Nobody
(Crusty death metal – Italy)
Self-released – 2015/01/03

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The first time I listened to this, I wasn’t a fan. I didn’t hate it, but I did feel underwhelmed. That was my fault, not Casket Garden’s. You see, I was listening to it while actively relaxing and a chilled out frame of mind is totally inappropriate for this blend of death metal and agitated punk. Their Bolt Thrower meets Black Flag sound requires emotional investment on their level. Get mad, stay mad.
Try before you buy: Alpha, Beta, Gamma Rays (Bandcamp)

Church of Lies – No Gods… No Manners
(Stoner doom metal – United Kingdom)
Self-released – 2015/06/10

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Music can take you to strange places, but Church of Lies decides to go somewhere more familiar. It takes you to a raucous party with a beer in one hand, whiskey in the other. People are doing bucket bongs in the next room, but they’re giggling about pepper cones so you’ll give it a miss for a bit. Someone keeps yelling “FUCKING SLAYER”, regardless of what’s playing. It’s nothing new, but it sure is fun.
Try before you buy: Desperate Words (Bandcamp)

Cloud Rat – Qliphoth
(Grindcore – United States of America)
Halo of Flies – 2015/05/29

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Cloud Rat are a provocative grindcore act. I don’t mean in the lyrical sense. Every grind act should aim to be lyrically provocative. Cloud Rat are provocative in the sense that they dare to be melodic, something that is usually antithetical to grind as a whole. Qliphoth is an album that really drives this point home. 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.
Try before you buy: Botched (Bandcamp)

Dakhma – Raze
(Black metal – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/03/06

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It’s a little bit repetitive and it’s hardly ground breaking, but I challenge you to not like this. The success they achieve here is the malevolent atmosphere they build and maintain throughout the course of the four tracks. It allows the listener to comfortably gloss over any misgivings they might have. I may have mentioned repetition above, but the music still keeps the listener engaged with their malice.
Try before you buy: Eulogy (Bandcamp)

Eigenlicht – Sacrel Regicide
(Blackened doom metal – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/05/05

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I say blackened doom metal above, but maybe that should read doomy black metal. It’s a very fine line separating the dominant genre on this release. Nomenclature aside, this is two tracks of atmospheric heaviness that could be spectacular, but for production problems. It sounds muffled. Not lo-fi. Not fuzzed out. Muffled. It needs to be levelled better because it’s loaded with stirring passages.
Try before you buy: Province of Immolated Kings (Bandcamp)

Exhaaust – Demo
(Hardcore – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/05/26

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This is muscular hardcore. And by muscular I mean veins bulging like a steroid boosted power lifter getting furious at someone mid lift muscular. It was a bit of a calculated risk. Other bands have taken a crack at the ultra-buff sound and it has turned into limp, dull affair. Exhaaust got it right though. It gets consistently in your face; you can almost feel the vocalist’s spit on your face.
Try before you buy: The Same Last Straw (Bandcamp)

Fermented Masturbation/Decomposition of Entrails/Morphogenetic Malformation/注射針混入豚¹ – Impregnated Through Pathogenic Agony
(Brutal death metal – Norway/Russia/Russia/Japan)
Rebirth the Metal Productions – 2015/06/06

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Brutal death metal is supposed to scratch a very specific itch: bloodthirsty depravity. The four bands on display here more than scratch it; they cut off the offending appendage and serve it to some poor sod trapped in their basement. The alpha brute is definitely 注射針混入豚. It’s bowel-loosening horror given a soundtrack. The others are no slouches either. Prepare for death by slam.
Try before you buy: Manipulate the Mangle Roller (Bandcamp)

A Forest of Stars – Beware the Sword You Cannot See
(Avant-garde black metal – United Kingdom)
Prophecy Productions – 2015/02/27

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I normally don’t go in for steampunk. The cogs and octopuses just aren’t my thing. I can’t deny A Forest of Stars make it work for them. I also can’t deny that I enjoyed the hell out this album a lot more than their previous work. They got the interplay between blackened intensity and Victorian aesthetic spot on. They finally sound like the arcane and esoteric society they portray.
Try before you buy: Proboscis Master Versus The Powdered Seraphs (Bandcamp)

Funeste – Demo MMXV
(Black metal – Canada)
Self-released – 2015/05/01

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Knowing your target demographic is an important thing. Funeste is not going to win any converts to black metal, but these sinister Quebecois make damn sure that if hellish cacophony is your thing then so are they. And that’s not a bad thing at all. They are another band that truly understands the necessity of atmosphere to the genre. It’s a cornucopia of negativity. Murderously depressing stuff.
Try before you buy: Diptera (Bandcamp)

Hadak Ura – Forever Dying//Forever Dead
(Death grind – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/05/06

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They may tag themselves as blackened, but I hear way more Trap Them in them than I do anything grim and frostbitten. Happy to be proven wrong, but ultimately it doesn’t make a whole lot of difference. Hadak Ura build atmosphere like pros. A few atmospheric interludes here and a truckload of chainsaw riffs there and all of a sudden you’re listening to an album that cons its way inside then brutalises you like a Kubrick film. An audio nasty.
Try before you buy: Cannabis Ex Mortis (Bandcamp)

Nel Ventre Della Bestia – Nel Ventre Della Bestia
(Drone – Italy)
UTU Conspiracy – 2015/04/10

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Drone fans rejoice; this is a band that gets it. It opens with with a maddening ten minute loop with only subtle variations providing relief. It is a fine example of monotony as a weapon. It finally gives way to crushing, bass-heavy, speaker destruction. It’s like a ten tonne weight on the brain. The crushing heaviness that follows the monotony perfectly encapsulates the soul-rendering bleakness of the genre.
Try before you buy: Bordoni e bordate (Bandcamp)

Occult 45 – Human Abhorrence
(D-beat – United States of America)
Broken Limbs Recordings – 2015/03/10

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It’s a release that opens with a lot of promise, but does tend to peter out by the end. The positives come in the form of ultra-aggressive d-beat. And they maintain the rage for the duration. They get that part of the equation spot on. The problem is that the rage ends up being the totality of the experience. It becomes a one-dimensional experience pretty quick and the tracks all roll into one big curbstomp.
Try before you buy: Tyranny Stomp (Bandcamp)

Okazaki Fragments – Abandoned
(Death grind – Canada)
Self-released – 2015/06/06

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It’s not for me, but it may well be for you. It takes grind’s discordance to the verge of avant-garde. It may well cross that line. But it still has the lumbering meathead violence of brutal death metal. It’s like a roided up pit fighter (it’s Brock Lesnar in my mind) hooked up with Yoko Ono, did a shit-tonne of pcp, and decided to go on a cross-country rampage, a la Starkweather and Fugate. If this is your thing, enjoy.
Try before you buy: The Earth Aflame (Bandcamp)

Pattern Breaker – Demo for Sagan
(Oddcore – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/06/11

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This started out as a short, sharp shock of hardcore, but by the end it’s like they blew a steaming money shot of weirdness into my ears. The samples and the riffs are designed to leave the listener completely bewildered. It makes for a demo that’s simultaneously highly entertaining yet very challenging. If you like simple, mosh-friendly core, Pattern Breaker may not be for you. Personally, I like having my head fucked with.
Try before you buy: For Sagan (Bandcamp)

Peasant – Go to Hell
(Blackened heavy metal – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/04/20

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I’ve always said that Venom started out as a nwobhm band that couldn’t play very well and decided to be evil instead. Peasant remind me of early Venom, with one very important distinction: they can actually play damn well. It’s unmistakably black metal, but it’s played like it’s classic heavy metal. It doesn’t worship at the altar of nostalgia either. This is an album that gushes evil from every rollicking note.
Try before you buy: Wretched Codex (Bandcamp)

Serial Apathy – Hate in the Name of Love
(Grindcore – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/06/07

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It’s a loud burst of rage. While I’m sure he was aiming for the primal rage of a great beast, unfortunately he only managed the rage of a boozehound so wasted you can’t tell what they’re mad about. Maybe his wife left him. Maybe he just spilled his beer. I understand that lo-fi has its place. I listen to way to much grind and black metal to deny that. But this is just an unfocused, undifferentiated mess.
Try before you buy: Null (Bandcamp)

Shaidar Logoth – Chapter II: The Ritualist
(Atmospheric black metal – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/03/01

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Hidden in the world there’s a long abandoned church. Amidst the rubble, there is an unhallowed space. The holy space has been profaned, the air is noisome with rot, and the walls tangibly hum with the susurrus of vermin. Sitting at the nadir of the ruin is a man in immaculate white clothing, telling parables of malice and self-gratification. His evil is undeniable, but is utterly compelling. I love the effect evocative music has on me.
Try before you buy: Drink Thine Wretched Wine (Bandcamp)

Strutter – Demo 2015
(Hardcore – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/04/04

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Walking a fine line between punk and hardcore, Strutter are certainly entertaining. They combine the three chord simplicity of the Ramones with the outright oddity of the Dead Kennedys and then play it with the rough and ready rawness of early hardcore. It may not be the greatest thing you’ll ever hear, but it does the heart good to see a band keeping the spirit of punk alive and well. Definitely worth a listen.
Try before you buy: Forced Entry (Bandcamp)

Sunset in the 12th House – Mozaic
(Post-rock – Romania)
Prophecy Productions – 2015/06/05

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I had an immediate and intensely positive reaction to this album. It’s one of those albums that creates an emotional bond with the listener from the first note. Mostly instrumental, melody ebbs and flows like the tides, building to a massive storm surge of blackened elemental fury on the final track. Stylistically, it’s a very complicated album; it’s a spectacular blend of traditional arrangements, metal, and post-rock.
Try before you buy: Paraphernalia of Sublimation (Bandcamp)

The Vintage Caravan – Arrival
(Rock – Iceland)
Nuclear Blast – 2015/05/15

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It opens with substantially less bombast than their previous release, but it develops into a far superior album. It takes their existing classic rock love of free-wheeling guitars and builds stronger, catchier tunes around them. This allows the listener to remain actively engaged for the duration of the songs, rather than killing time between awesome widdly guitar bits. They remain the future of rock.
Try before you buy: Crazy Horses (YouTube)

¹Needle Contaminated Pork

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March 2015 Review Round Up

March has been a pretty damn fine month. Psycroptic’s new album is a towering achievement. A focus on songwriting rather than notes per minute delivered an album that is still technical as hell, but is an enjoyable experience.

I chose Leviathan’s Scar Sighted as my honourable mention. Its twisting malevolence cuts deep into the psyche.

Feel free to Facebook me with comments or feedback.

I’m already looking forward to next month. Eyes and ears ever forward.

Album of the Month
Psycroptic – Psycroptic
(Technical death metal – Australia)
Prosthetic Records – 2015/03/09

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Trust Psycroptic to expose the flaws in my reviews. I’ve forgotten far too much of my music theory to give this brilliant album the treatment it deserves. It really does have some amazing thingamajigs and some of the whatchamacallits are frankly jaw-dropping. What I can say for sure is that they haven’t just thrown together complicated strings of notes; they have recorded complex marvels that remain at the forefront of memory for hours.
Try before you buy: Cold (YouTube)

Honourable Mention
Leviathan – Scar Sighted
(Black metal – United States of America)
Profound Lore Records – 2015/03/03

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This is an album that will steadily improve in my estimation over the year. Every listen uncovers new shades of darkness. Trust Wrest to release an album of inscrutable blackness. His vocals range from the evil to the tortured. Genuinely so across the full range too. Musically, Scar Sighted expertly balances esotericism and malice. This makes for an album that is simultaneously contemplative and destructive. An unmistakable horror.
Try before you buy: Wicked Fields of Calm (Bandcamp)

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Anti Social Behaviour Order – Anti Social Behaviour Order
(Grindcore – United Kingdom)
Self-released – 2015/03/11

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I love grindcore. I don’t love this. Don’t get me wrong, it dots the is, crosses the ts, blasts the beat, and fights the power. It should push all of my grind buttons. But it doesn’t. I just find the whole affair rather uninspiring. The thirteen tracks come and go without leaving an sort of emotional impact. It doesn’t even do enough to make me hate it. It’s another example of a band nailing the genre tropes but doing it in such a trite fashion as to completely kill the atmosphere.
Try before you buy: Eternal Warzone (Bandcamp)

Archelon – I
(Sludge metal – United Kingdom)
Self-released – 2015/03/01

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Sludge is a many varied thing; a wide range of sounds are all recognisable as part of the genre. As such it’s often necessary to find a convenient comparison. In this case, Archelon sound a lot like Torche, but where the later channels as much positivity into their thunder pop as possible, the former goes somewhere darker with it. Much darker. I is thoroughly infectious bleakness. You can’t help but be drawn into it, but it takes a heavy toll on the soul.
Try before you buy: Blood on the Sabre (Bandcamp)

Bleed the Pigs/Thetan – Split
(Grindcore – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/02/27

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A fantastic split from Tennessee’s finest noise makers. I wasn’t familiar with Thetan, but they get up close and personal real quick. It was the perfect way to open the split, as their abrasiveness gets the adrenaline flowing and the blood pumping. Bleed the Pigs’ side has more polish, but it’s spit polish so it’s not exactly clean. It’s like Thetan kick in the door and Bleed the Pigs torch the place. They’re different, but they work their violence well in tandem.
Try before you buy: Justified (Bandcamp)

Enforcer – From Beyond
(Speed metal – Sweden)
Nuclear Blast – 2015/02/27

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Enforcer write music for the good times, but with From Beyond they managed to top themselves and write music for the best times. Loudest music, fastest cars, fastest women. Part of this transcendental awesomeness is the fact that they’ve finally harnessed the amazing power of restraint. It allows them to hammer out riff after rollicking riff without coming off the rails. It’s a glorious reaffirmation of everything good about heavy metal.
Try before you buy: The Banshee (YouTube)

Enslaved – In Times
(Progressive black metal – Norway)
Nuclear Blast – 2015/03/06

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From start to finish, In Times soars to the towering heights of majesty. The interplay between the blackened growls and the clean vocals only serves to highlight their strengths. The guitar work is spectacular: intricate, sophisticated, and always engaging. The keyboards, bass, and drums shouldn’t be undersold either. All the elements are perfectly combined into six tracks of unrelenting precision. Black metal is rarely this awe-inspiring.
Try before you buy: One Thousand Years of Rain (Soundcloud)

Ēōs – Ēōs
(Drone doom – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/01/01

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This is glacial doom at its finest. In many ways it reminds me of The Ocean’s amazing, seizure-inducing masterpiece, Pantheon of the Lesser. The key difference is Ēōs layers far more melancholy on top of their misery than The Ocean and their unwholesome preference for misanthropy. Make no mistake though; this is as slow as geological time. It takes a remarkably self-assured band to have such confidence in playing so grave.
Try before you buy: Umwelt (Bandcamp)

Flowers & Fire – Demo
(Post-punk – Canada)
Self-released – 2015/02/24

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2014 was hit and miss for post-punk. At least one release made me want to punch the genre in the face. So it’s nice to have a half-decent demo turn up early in the year. Gives me hope that more bands can also get it right. The music is on the goth end of the spectrum, but is delivered with nuance. There’s more than just an abiding love of the Smiths here. The vocals are a stand out; her voice is soulful and raw in all the right places. Gloom done right.
Try before you buy: Etched in Wine (Bandcamp)

Gay Kiss – Preservation Measures
(Noise punk – United States of America)
Sorry State Records – 2015/02/28

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Gay Kiss are about as far removed from commercial punk as they can possibly get, and I couldn’t be happier. The up-tempo, blisteringly short tracks are performed with a verve that matches their talent. Layers of distortion and other assorted noise complement the musicianship and make for an experience that is quite unlike the overwhelming majority of punk I come across. At no point is listenability compromised either. Awesomely nasty.
Try before you buy: Fatal Earth (Bandcamp)

Lamentations of the Ashen – Libertine Cyst
(Atmospheric black metal – United States of America)
Sylvan Screams Analogue – 2015/02/24

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Welcome to Cocytus in the depths of winter. The lowest plane of Hell belongs to the most damned on the best of days and this is far from that. Hellish winds propel razor-like shards of ice at nightmarish speed, annihilating those few living who could withstand the extradimensional cold. That’s what listening to Libertine Cyst feels like. Its long songs offer only bleakness and despair. This is one of the most horrific hellscapes that has ever seen the light of day.
Try before you buy: II (Bandcamp)

Natanas – Xylophar
(Black metal – United States of America)
Depressive Illusions Records – 2015/03/08

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I’m not going to say it’s the worst thing I’ve ever heard, but it does make some famous turds look inspired by comparison. The melodies are repetitive and simplistic. The vocals are insipid attempts at rasps. The synths sound like the owner has only just learned how to turn off the bosa-nova setting. And, at nineteen tracks, it manages to push through self-indulgence and deep into torturous pointlessness. I hate it more than soup skin.
Try before you buy: Lucid (Bandcamp)

Nest – Nest
(Sludge metal – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/01/12

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Never have I come across such a bad omen release. Took me most of the month to review it, as every time I listened to it, something went terribly wrong elsewhere on my life. Coincidence for sure, but it sure got frustrating. It’s a shame I have such dark associations with Nest; it’s actually a pretty remarkable release. Crushing, misanthropic sludge is embellished with avant-garde flourishes. Fiercely challenging but satisfying.
Try before you buy: (Bandcamp)

Pyramids – A Northern Meadow
(Post-black metal – United States of America)
Profound Lore Records – 2015/03/17

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A marriage of grace and heaviness now being consummated atop a colossal mountain of disorientation. Pyramids don’t make things easy for the listener. Melodies are unforgivingly intricate, rhythms are monstrously complex, and the vocals are eerily unnerving. But these are not criticisms; A Northern Meadow rewards the listener with the fortitude to endure it. There are times when it seems unconquerable, but the vistas atop the mountain are worth the climb.
Try before you buy: The Substance of Grief is Not Imaginary (Bandcamp)

Rotten Light – II: A Way of Life that You Can’t Understand
(Depressive black metal – Spain)
Depressive Illusions Records – 2015/02/15

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This is growing on me. The first selling point is that it actually sounds depressed. So many dsbm acts come across as angry about not being sad; Rotten Light come across as legitimately damaged. There is a monotony to the music too, but it strikes me as intentional. This crafts an atmosphere of crippling bleakness from which there is no escape. It’s not a perfect example of the genre but there are more redeeming features than irritants.
Try before you buy: Dreadful Depression (Bandcamp)

Wojtek – Subsuming the Souls of the Coven into Malignant Entity
(Blackened grindcore – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/03/08

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This is about as ferocious and uncompromising as it gets. Wojtek combine lo-fi grindcore and raw black metal into a howling cacophony of hatred. Grind often comes across like a punch in the face or a brutal assault; Subsuming is like being stuck in a tornado, being buffeted from every angle while being torn apart by the uncontrollable energy. To say it’s intense is a massive understatement. Unrelenting murderous intent is more apt.
Try before you buy: Suffocating Despair (Bandcamp)

Releases of the Year for 2014

It’s finally here. A bit later than most annual lists, but I stand by my policy of waiting to review everything. Some amazing albums turned up late in the year and no list would be complete without them.

I’ve put the list together differently this year. Last year’s list was just a collection of my previously unreleased reviews. Reposting old reviews didn’t seem right, so I went back, relistened to everything, and tried to reflect on the year.

So without further adieu, here’s my best of 2014.

Album of the Year
Sólstafir – Ótta

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Season of Mist – 2014/08/29

What I said then: If you can’t appreciate the wonder of this album, I weep for you.
What I say now: This album really does improve with every listen. By the time I’m two tracks in, I’m already choked up. It’s raw and devastatingly emotional, but it’s so beautiful I will take the pain.

Some Other Top Things Worth Mentioning
Best Live Act: Death Angel

I saw these guys supporting Kreator. They completey blew their Teutonic compatriots off the stage. I haven’t been so thoroughly entertained by a band for a long, long time.

Best cover art: Among the Ranks of the Unconquerable by Ola Larsson

It’s a remarkably evocative piece of art, perfectly suited to its album. It doesn’t just convey a sense of palpable darkness; it conveys the futility of even attempting to fight it.

My Other Picks for 2014
2) Primordial – Where Greater Men Have Fallen

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Metal Blade Records – 2014/11/25

What I said then: Few bands can do what Primordial do; fewer still could match this effort.
What I say now: I really didn’t expect another album to muscle its way into the top three, but underestimating Primordial was foolish on my part. Awe inspiring and heart wrenching in equal measure.

3) Triptykon – Melana Chasmata

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Century Media Records – 2014/04/14

What I said then: [The] album is replete with the seething contempt and haunting introspection that make his work so engaging.
What I say now: The darkness only deepens the more you listen to it. Hardly a surprise though. Triptykon are masters of the inky depths. Few bands can juggle beauty and despair this well.

4) Wolves in the Throne Room – Celestite

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Artemisia Records – 2014/07/08

What I said then: It takes alienation and isolation, and makes them beautiful.
What I say now: Easily the most soothing release on this list. I can lose myself in their ambience for a long time, reclining into their subtle blend of delicacy and tension. It’s a thing of beauty.

5) Opeth – Pale Communion

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Roadrunner Records – 2014/08/24

What I said then: Rich, evocative rhythms are woven through with striking string passages and delicate accoustic movements, creating sumptuously dark listening experience.
What I say now: I figured Pale Communion might have lost some lustre over the passing months. Wrong. Very wrong. It drew me in as easily now as it did when it was released in August.

6) Swans – To Be Kind

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Young God Records – 2014/05/12

What I said then: That an album can be so dense and seemingly impenetrable, but be utterly compelling is a mark of true genius.
What I say now: It admittedly isn’t an album I’ve returned to often, but that’s because every time I start, I’m compelled to listen to it in its entirety. It’s an album that demands to be experienced.

7) Wovenhand – Refractory Obdurate

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Deathwish Inc – 2014/04/29

What I said then: Just as the band deftly tiptoes around classification, so too do the songs dance gracefully across the emotional spectrum.
What I say now: Wovenhand really have put together something wonderful. It’s contemplative in a way that shouldn’t be possible given the album’s pacing. Excuse me while I rock out while meditating.

8) Trap Them – Blissfucker

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Prosthetic Records – 2014/06/10

What I said then: You are pummled with fury and defiance, and yet, track by track, desperation and exhaustion creep in.
What I say now: The fury of this album is still the chief selling point of this album. Lots of bands do angry; few do it with the absolute lack of restraint on display here. Relentless, malicious abandon.

9) Devin Townsend Project – Z²

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HevyDevy Records – 2014/10/28

What I said then: This double album hammers home both Townsend’s talent and his bizarreness.
What I say now: Devin Townsend makes his music so damn easy to listen to. It’s big and bombastic, successfully filling any empty space in your mind with ridiculously good music.

10) Decapitated – Blood Mantra

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Nuclear Blast – 2014/09/26

What I said then: Blood Mantra is polished death metal perfection, delivering non-stop pummelling action.
What I say now: The polish has endured; not a hint of tarnish to be seen. It remains an album that blows you away from the moment you press play. It deserves it’s ‘2014 best death’ crown.

11) Various Artists – One and All, Together, For Home

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Season of Mist – 2014/05/23

What I said then: Serious, moving, and proof that black metal can have some pride without going full Varg.
What I say now: The contributing artists clearly throw everything into these songs, as the raw emotional heft remains as potent today as it was in September. Best compilation in years.

12) Agalloch – The Serpent & the Sphere

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Profound Lore Records – 2014/05/13

What I said then: The rhythms and melodies flow with a natural progression that turn lengthy songs into meaningful reflective experiences.
What I say now: The Serpent & the Sphere is the model modern black metal album. It doesn’t piss away its energy with mindless fury; rather, it cultivates a mature, yet devastating ambience.

13) At the Gates – At War With Reality

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Century Media – 2014/10/27

What I said then: They have released an album that sounds exactly like it came out of the creative high-point they were in for Slaughter of the Soul.
What I say now: The comparison to Slaughter of the Soul may have been a whisper generous, but this is still some of the best melodeath out there. Easily the best thing out of Gothenburg for a long time.

14) Winterfylleth – The Divination of Antiquity

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Candlelight Records – 2014/10/07

What I said then: The guitars are furious but clockwork precise, the drums are captivating in their intricacy, and the vocals have a nuance rarely seen in black metal.
What I say now: Winterfylleth improve with every album they do. And The Divination of Antiquity is far and away their best effort to date. Technically proficient and emotionally mature metal.

15) Death Fortress – Among the Ranks of the Unconquerable

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Fallen Empire Records – 2014/11/15

What I said then: Their take on darkness is a contagious invocation of malice and domination, infecting your soul with hatred most profane.
What I say now: When it starts, you wonder what you’ve gotten yourself into. By the end, you’re pretty sure you can’t live without it. Congratulations, Death Fortress has recorded damnation.

16) Mayhem – Esoteric Warfare

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Season of Mist – 2014/06/06

What I said then: It’s easily the best thing they’ve done since they defined the genre all those years ago.
What I say now: Alienation and obliteration. That’s what Esoteric Warfare serves up. This isn’t just Mayhem; this is Mayhem at their most ruthless. Which is a terrifying thought.

17) Plebeian Grandstand – Lowgazers

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Throatruiner Records – 2014/03/31

What I said then: It’s a combination of avant-garde darkness and technical fury that creates an atmosphere of relentless misanthropy.
What I say now: That it sounds like a combination of blackened horrors, Deathspell Omega, and jazz metal weirdos, Shining, is reason enough to get this. It remains a dark revelation.

18) Grand Magus – Triumph and Power

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Nuclear Blast – 2014/01/31

What I said then: Triumph and Power has everything you could possibly want in a metal album: anthemic choruses, towering solos, fist-pumping rhythms.
What I say now: It’s an album I have listened to a lot this year. I keep on getting the itch and it can only be scratched by Grand Magus’ particular brand of metalness. Rousing good times.

19) Earth – Primitive and Deadly

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Southern Lord – 2014/09/01

What I said then: It can bring a tear to the eye while simultaneously destroying speakers.
What I say now: Sublime in its contemplativeness, Primitive and Deadly is an album that, four months on, is already demonstrating that it will stand the test of time. Irresistible and immovable.

20) Horsehunter – Caged in Flesh

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Self-released – 2014/09/30

What I said then: Even the weakest track on the album will kill the competition.
What I say now: Horsehunter justifiably took home the crown for best self-released title for the year. What they’ve done on their own, most of their labelled genre-mates couldn’t hope to achieve.

21) Pallbearer – Foundations of Burden

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Profound Lore Records – 2014/08/19

What I said then: It draws you in and keeps you nestled in its heart.
What I say now: Pallbearer have put together a benchmark album here; it’s the album by which they, and many others, shall be judged from here on out. It’s a defining moment in quality doom.

22) Gnaw Their Tongues & Alkerdeel – Dyodyo Asema

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ConSouling Sounds – 2014/01/01

What I said then: Be transported to a scene of abject horror.
What I say now: Sweet Jesus, this is bleak. I’m used to Gnaw Their Tongues’ brand of horror, but the introduction of Alkerdeel’s maddening sludge took this to an unexpected realm of darkness.

23) Mastodon – Once More ‘Round the Sun

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Reprise Records – 2014/06/24

What I said then: It’s a beautiful expedition into progressive expanses, that is challenging, uplifting, and hard rocking.
What I say now: There was a 50/50 chance I was going to return to this and feel let down. But I wasn’t; it’s held up over the passing months. It remains an album dedicated to rocking the great riff.

24) 铁骑 [Tengger Cavalry] – 远古呼唤 / Ancient Call

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Metal Hell Records – 2014/02/01

What I said then: Ancient Call is more blackened than their last album, but it is still an utter joy to listen to.
What I say now: I fretted that maybe Tengger Cavalry were, dare I say it, a one trick pony. But I can’t argue with results. They put out consistently high quality blackened folk that begs to be heard.

25) Woundvac – Woundvac

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Self-released – 2014/02/25

What I said then: Woundvac’s self-titled debut is the sound of emerging from a mosh pit, covered in sweat and blood (not all of it mine), nose busted across my face, spitting teeth, and smiling like a madman.
What I say now: Why did I rate this so highly? Oh yeah. That’s right. It kicks the living shit out of everything in sight. It’s easily the best pure grind album in a year populated with excellent grind releases.

26) Blut Aus Nord – Memoria Vetusta III: Saturnian Poetry

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Debemur Morti Productions – 2014/10/10

What I said then: It’s an album that, knowing it already speaks to the other, seeks to engage rather than alienate.
What I say now: I’m glad that this is another addition to the Memoria Vetusta series. As much as I love Blut aus Nord’s more avant-garde material, what they do with trad black metal is amazing.

27) Lord Mantis – Death Mask

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Profound Lore Records – 2014/04/29

What I said then: Death Mask is a concentrated mass of metastasised malignancy.
What I say now: It hasn’t so much aged like fine wine as it has putrefied like a corpse in a swamp. It was nasty when I first got it and has somehow grown into something much worse in the interim.

28) Eyehategod – Eyehategod

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Housecore Records – 2014/05/27

What I said then: Thanks to Hurricane Katrina and their own personal demons, the notorious sludge lords truly have been through hell and back, [which] has translated directly to their music.
What I say now: I enjoyed revisiting this. I had forgotten just how punk it was. Unmistakably metal, don’t get me wrong, but still punk as fuck. It makes an already grimey band sound extra dirty.

29) End Silence – The Waters

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Self-released – 2014/09/19

What I said then: Everything from the vocalist’s range to the intriguing solos is near perfect.
What I say now: The year’s best thrash album, right here. The fact that it doesn’t play to either the traditional thrash tropes or a frat house mentality helps. That it kicks ass is more important.

30) Rotten Soil – Los Caretas

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The Olmo Records – 2014/06/02

What I said then: Aside from the in your face immediacy, Los Caretas succeeds in combining hardcore rhythms with death metal tuning in a way that few of their genremates do.
What I say now: I continue to be a huge fan of their deathcore for the attention deficient. The album snaps by a breakneck speed, but still somehow allows the music room to breathe.

31) Tombs – Savage Gold

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Relapse Records – 2014/06/10

What I said then: Densely symbolic. Thematically complicated. Tantalisingly unknowable.
What I say now: I have always been a fan of Tombs’ smart metal. I love to be challenged intellectually by music. Savage Gold takes the intellectual approach and adds extra layers of nasty.

32) Lxs Jugadxs – Demo 2014

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Self-released – 2014/07/02

What I said then: There is more to this than naked rage; there’s something darker in there, possibly grief, possibly melancholy.
What I say now: A grimey grindcore nasty, Lxs Jugadxs’ most recent demo stands as a firm reminder that some of the world’s best grind comes from deep in the underground. ¡Viva grind!

33) The Haunted – Exit Wounds

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Century Media Records – 2014/08/25

What I said then: This is a seemless blend of thrash and melodic death metal, keeping the invigorating energy of the former and the naked aggression of the latter.
What I say now: The simple joy of Exit Wounds makes you wonder why they’re the only ones nailing it. It has a familiarity that allows you to drop staight in at the deep end of the mosh.

34) Alcest – Shelter

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Prophecy Productions – 2014/01/17

What I said then: The end result is a sun-drenched journey through the ether.
What I say now: Neige’s full embrace of shoegaze is a welcome thing. I loved his previous trvegaze work, but Shelter is a step apart. It allows his dreams to bloom out of the shadow of nightmare.

35) Nachtmystium – The World We Left Behind

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Century Media – 2014/08/05

What I said then: Bitterness, regret, and occasional self-pity make for a surprisingly honest outcome.
What I say now: Blake Judd may have gone out of his way to act like a colossal, steaming turd, but that’s no reason to take it out on The World We Left Behind. It’s a striking, stark beauty.

36) YOB – Clearing the Path Ascend

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Neurot Recordings – 2014/08/29

What I said then: Another fantastic addition to Yob’s already outstanding catalogue of American heaviness.
What I say now: As ominous and oppressive as a looming thunderstorm, Clearing the Path to Ascend is a literal embodiment of doom. It has some rough edges, but that’s not a bad thing.

37) Panopticon – Roads to the North

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Bindrune Recordings – 2014/08/01

What I said then: Roads to the North is absolutely coruscating black metal that incorporates Southern song structure and fiddles in a way that pays due homage to the band’s Kentucky heritage.
What I say now: I’m willing to add Panopticon to the list of bands that get heritage metal right. Right up there with Primordial, Winterfylleth, and Drudkh. Heartache and fury abound.

38) Ancient VVisdom – Sacrificial

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Magic Bullet Records – 2014/10/28

What I said then: It sounds fantastic and feels like you are having your own damnation broadcast directly to you.
What I say now: Coming across as less folksie and more like a lower, slower Ghost (B.C.) has worked wonders for the band. It sounds like they actually have forward momentum again.

39) Ofghost – Eeva

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Self-released – 2014/08/01

What I said then: The driving rhythms speak to a post-humanity environment; mankind is dead and this is the music of the machines.
What I say now: I’ve heard lots of industrial influenced black metal in my time, but Ofghost’s synthesised approach sets it apart. It adds some novelty to a genre that is normally far too staid.

40) Shores of Null – Quiescence

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Candlelight Records – 2014/03/24

What I said then: You don’t often get to associate the word ‘beautiful’ with death metal, but that’s what Quiescence is: beautiful death metal.
What I say now: This is somewhat more aggressive than memory served. But so it should be. I remembered the excellent gothic parts, but I needed the reminder of how kickass the death passages are.

41) Außerwelt – Our Lives Out of Balance

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Self-released – 2014/09/21

What I said then: It truly is a remarkable ep; every listen unearths something new, nuances in song structure that, while not immediately noticeable, make every song completely and truly vital.
What I say now: As much as I love Our Lives Out of Balance, I still feel I’ve underrated it. It plays with black metal tropes like a cat with its prey. It sounds familiar but is remarkably different.

42) Black Khox – Akab

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Self-released – 2014/04/20

What I said then: Once the sample fanfare ended and the rock started, I was left with an ear to ear grin.
What I say now: There’s way more fun contained here than should be legal. I’m sure some will say it needs more polish, but they’re the sort of people who think no social event is complete without doilies.

43) Vermin Womb – Permanence

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Throatruiner Records – 2014/09/01

What I said then: Its merciless, pitiless, remorseless blast-driven beat underscores some of the nastiest guitar work I’ve heard this year.
What I say now: Permanence goes way past nasty. This is the sonic equivalent of violently hate-fucking in filth. It’s hateful, malicious, and contemptuous. It would kill you if it could.

44) Old Man Gloom – The Ape of God

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Profound Lore Records – 2014/11/11

What I said then: Much like a mad emperor, it effortlessly commands you, but you cannot be at ease.
What I say now: The decision to write fewer tracks but make them substantially longer paid dividends. This isn’t only the superior Ape of God; this is an outstanding album in its own right.

45) Twilight – III: Beneath Trident’s Tomb

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Century Media Records – 2014/03/17

What I said then: Twilight is black metal that embodies the death of light of their namesake phenomena.
What I say now: It’s a crying shame that Twilight have gone their separate ways, as they improved with every release. Beneath Trident’s Tomb is sinister black metal performed at the highest standard.

46) Anopheli – A Hunger Rarely Sated

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Self-released – 2014/04/24

What I said then: The combination of harsh, crusty guitars and more elegant string sections create an e.p. that is beautiful in its anger, furious in its eloquence.
What I say now: It still seems somewhat antithetical for a crust album to not be 100% grimey, but credit to Anopheli, they have successfully incorporated lighter, cleaner elements without losing impact.

47) ACxDC – Antichrist Demoncore

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Melotov Records – 2014/06/24

What I said then: The sheer level of audio violence crammed into these twenty odd minutes is truly inspiring.
What I say now: Wild and anarchic, I had forgotten just how punishing this album was. There is no safe volume level for this. Played at one, it’ll start a fight. At eleven, it’ll start wars.

48) Amnesian – No Atonement

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Self-released – 2014/02/08

What I said then: I could easily ramble about the quality of the performers, but I’d rather marvel in the creation of a sound that is distinctly, and uniquely, Amnesian.
What I say now: It may seem a bit low on the list, but I love Amnesian. They approach grind in a way that still seems fresh almost a year after this was released. An amazing new band.

49) Fvck Mountain – Dead Dogs

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Self-released – 2014/10/02

What I said then: As I listened to Dead Dogs it slowly dawned on me that I may be listening to the best hardcore release of the year.
What I say now: I was right; it is 2014’s best hardcore release. They strike a balance between technical skill and pure vitriol that is desperately lacking across the genre as a whole.

50) Morbus Chron – Sweven

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Century Media Records – 2014/02/24

What I said then: Their music has an otherworldly quality to it now, which allows them to expand their songwriting into progressive territory, while still indulging in the supernatural.
What I say now: Sweven remains a stand out album for straight up death metal. What it trades out in tempo it more than makes up in composition. Swedeath has a bright future here.