October 2018 Review Round Up

The year might be getting close to wind up, but October served up some mighty releases. Hopefully November and December will keep on delivering even though the release rate slows.

Bliss Signal justifiably took home the Album of the Month. The melding of Altar of Plagues grimness with club scene electronica works in all sorts of ways it shouldn’t.

I have a temporary employment deficit issue going on at the moment, so November and possibly December might be a whisper slower, but I’ll keep going because I love it.

As usual, if anyone wants to contribute to my Red Bull fund, I still have my ko-fi up and running.

And, as usual, if you have critique or commentary, you can reach me at Facebook.

See you next month.

Album of the Month
Bliss Signal – Bliss Signal
(Blacktronica – Ireland/United Kingdom)
Profound Lore – 2018/09/28

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Bliss Signal is possessed of that beautiful, casual genius that you know will never lose its tarnish no matter how many times you listen to it or how long it has been between spins. It’s nice to see James Kelly return to the more abrasive, blackened sounds, but combining it with grime creates a sublime, haunting sound I didn’t think could exist.

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Anaal Nathrakh – A New Kind of Horror
(Blackened Industrial Grind – United Kingdom)
Metal Blade – 2018/09/28

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Good to see that a band as committed to unapproachable blackened noise as Anaal Nathrakh can still endeavour to mix things up. With vocals approaching comprehensible and a satisfyingly King Diamond-esque approach to delivery, this may be the closest we get to an accessible album from them. It’s still horrific hell noise though.

Behemoth – I Loved You At Your Darkest
(Black Metal – Poland)
EVP Recordings – 2018/10/05

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Despite being no strangers to blasphemy, this sounds like Behemoth’s Martin Luther moment. Of course, they’re not nailing their list of grievances to the church door; they’re shoving it right down the throat of the church. They understand and articulate their theological underpinnings while making their declaration of eternal war sound so seductive.

Boar Worship – Balance of Terror
(Deathly Sludge Metal – United States of America)
Self-Released – 2018/09/23

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Balance of Terror takes sludge and breaks it down to its barest elements. Guitar, drums, vocals, no messing about. It’s a risky strategy to strip things back this much, but Boar Worship have truly embraced this stylistic primitivism. It raises the riff to a totemic ideal: a spiritual force comprised entirely of rancor. Boar worship? No. Hate worship.

A Forest of Stars – Grave Mounds and Grave Mistakes
(Psychedelic Black Metal – United Kingdom)
Prophecy Productions – 2018/09/28

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This came awfully close to a bad review. It took so many begrudging listens to get to a point where I could review it. But during that last spin, something clicked. Suddenly what was plodding became deliberate, what was melodramatic became operatic. The trick was I had to be alert. This is way too smart an album to be half-arsed.

Gevurah – Sulphur Soul
(Black Metal – Canada)
Profound Lore – 2018/09/28

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Gevurah are where I put my money when asked who I think the most dangerous sounding black metal act is. There’s no lecturing. There’s no preaching. There’s no posturing. There is only black metal at its most fundamentally visceral. Sulphur Soul doesn’t need to deviate from this; something so unhallowed in its simplicity yields its own dark rewards.

High on Fire – Electric Messiah
(Sludge Metal – United States of America)
eOne – 2018/10/05

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High on Fire don’t do bad albums. I’ll just put that out there first. That being said, not all their albums live up to their high standards. Electric Messiah is one of those. It wants for that special combination of resinous sludge and bombastic riffage that make the great albums so memorable. It’s still a good album, but I won’t have any reason to revisit it.

Horrendous – Idol
(Death Metal – United States of America)
Season of Mist – 2018/09/28

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Horrendous faced that nightmare of how to follow up a brilliant album with quiet aplomb. Idol follows Anareta but subtly tweaking the things that made their previous release so good. They haven’t radically changed things; rather, their sound has taken on more progressive elements. It a more complicated experience, but in a good way.

Kurushimi – What is Chaos?
(Avant-garde Jazz – Australia)
Art as Catharsis – 2018/09/13

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No matter how weird/inaccessible you may find [insert metal subgenre here], jazz at its weirdest will always make everything else seem normal in comparison to its batshitness. What is Chaos? is hallucinogenic in delivery, veering wildly between spaced out headfucks and aggressive, grind-esque pummellings. It is absolute madness.

Moss Upon the Skull – In Vengeful Reverence
(Progressive Death Metal – Belgium)
I, Voidhanger – 2018/10/19

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Taking Orchid-era Opeth’s pronto-sensitivity, combining it with Cascadian black metal’s hermit tendencies, then wrapping it in trad death metal hostility is ambitious. Extremely ambitious. But fortune favours the brave because I can’t get enough of this. It manages to strike the perfect balance between sophisticated insight and naked hostility.

Pig Destroyer – Head Cage
(Grindcore – United States of America)
Relapse – 2018/09/07

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I love a bit of grindcore that’s not afraid to add a bit of swagger to their blasts. Head Cage has swagger in spades, but there’s no tongue in cheek, no knowing wink. It’s bravado being delivered with maximum aggression. The great thing about this is the combination of white hot anger and rhodomontade is it super catchy.

Revocation – The Outer Ones
(Technical Death Metal – United States of America)
Metal Blade – 2018/09/28

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You’ve got to admire Revocation; they are the hallmark of consistency and innovation. They’re on to their fifth album this decade and again they’ve delivered a corker that sounds substantially different to what has come before, but is still distinctly them. The Outer Ones is sinister, almost blackened in tone and gives their aggressive style an icy precision.

Sumac – Love in Shadow
(Post Metal – United States of America)
Thrill Jockey – 2018/09/21

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Aaron Turner really knows how to score a headfuck of an album. Pounding sludge deconstructs into spirals of noise and free jazz only to resolve itself almost imperceptibly back into form. And then it splinters off in another direction. Then another. But all of this happens so organically, that it’s the only logical way these tracks can play out.

Voivod – The Wake
(Progressive Thrash – Canada)
Century Media – 2018/09/21

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This is a great Voivod ep wrapped up in a mediocre album. The last half is top notch, weird as a Bosch painting Voivod. But those first few tracks are just such an exhausting slog to get through. The problem is they are lifeless. Barren as the lunar surface with about as much atmosphere. Suffer through the insufferable prog-lite, reap the rewards of later.

Windhand – Eternal Return
(Stoner Doom Metal – United States of America)
Relapse – 2018/10/05

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Of all the stoner doom bands you should know, Windhand are probably the most grounded in reality. There’s no hammer horror, no over the top misanthropy, and no transcendental musings. What there is though is a haunting, sad insight into life. Eternal Return is bleak, but is fuelled by a fire of determination that gives it a curious optimism.

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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.

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

April 2015 Review Round Up

I’m way too much of a soft touch. Either that, or I’ve become more discerning somehow, as it’s been pretty well impossible to hate anything this month. Going to chalk it up to good luck at this point.

The album of the month rightfully belongs to Bell Witch. It’s one of those rare albums that should transcend taste. You may not like it low and slow, but you will like Four Phantoms.

Leucrota’s Demo is something to get behind. Throw money at this band. Get them as much exposure as you can. If this is what they’re capable of on a demo, imagine the wrecking ball they could put to wax with enough support.

I’ve decided to retire Om as a basis of comparison. Negură Bunget’s magnum opus is, simply put, such a creative outlier that it will always make other albums in its shadow look weak. People will inevitably listen to Tău, say it’s not as good as Om, and dismiss it. I don’t like that, as it’s certainly better than Vîrstele pămîntului, which was a fine album in and of itself. I honestly doubt that Om will ever be topped by Negură Bunget (or Dordeduh); it’s a masterpiece and, as such, that renders it useless as a tool for critical comparison. I will inevitably retire other similar masterworks in the future, but for now I think I’m just going to bask in the majesty that is Om.

I’d like to give a big shout out State Line Records for sending me the copy of Back From the Land of Nod. I ordered it without noticing that they only shipped to the USA. I may have been a little overwhelmed with Ramallah related excitement. They would have been well within their rights to say no to shipping to Australia and refund me, but they followed through on the order anyway. Super stoked about that.

Hope you enjoy this month’s releases. I know I did. As usual, you can reach me on Facebook. See you next month.

Album of the Month
Bell Witch – Four Phantoms
(Funeral doom – United States of America)
Profound Lore Records – 2015/04/28

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Most funeral doomsters create an atmosphere of all encompassing darkness, crushing the listener with an oppressive atmosphere. Bell Witch do it differently. They let the light in. That doesn’t make it any more pleasant. The flashes may stop the lonely fumbling in the dark, but they do illuminate the barren hopelessness that surrounds you. It’s one of the grimmest albums I’ve heard. That they achieve all of this with only drum, bass, and vocals is amazing.
Try before you buy: Suffocation, A Drowning: II – Somniloquy (The Distance Of Forever) (Bandcamp)

Honourable Mention
Leucrota – Demo
(Crusty hardcore – United States of America)
Sentient Ruin Laboratories – 2015/02/28

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I love a demo I can really sink my teeth into and Leucrota’s demo is a big hunk of raw meat just waiting for mastication. The promo tag over at Sentient Ruin describes it as, “completely wretched, botched, cruel and self-mutilating hardcore punk” and it’s impossible to disagree with that assessment. But raw masochism only goes so far. Fortunately, Leucrota have the talent to fill out any of the gaps. It’s unforgiving, but absolutely necessary. Buy it. Buy it now.
Try before you buy: Systematic Violence (Bandcamp)

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Abstracter – Wound Empire
(Blackened doom metal – United States of America)
Sentient Ruin Laboratories et al – 2015/02/10

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I think I may need to create a word for Wound Empire. Misegony. Not misogyny. Misegony. The hatred of the self. That’s exactly what Abstracter have delivered here. They have taken all of black metal’s misanthropy and reflected it inwards. This amplifies doom’s existing penchant for depression into something much darker and more intense. And yet, it doesn’t sound like a down-tuned suicide note. It’s actually captivating in its misery.
Try before you buy: Open Veins (Bandcamp)

Concealed Blade – Demo 2015
(Hardcore – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/02/17

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Do you like Sick of It All? I love Sick of It All. And it’s clear Concealed Blade do too. They’ve done a fantastic job of incorporating that high impact energy, without nakedly imitating the sound. Short, catchy tracks are brimming with the sort of aggression that you would associate with a band willing to punch on with their fan base. And they do it without ever becoming repetitive. It’s a direct line to the underground that’s guaranteed to get your blood pumping.
Try before you buy: Don’t Get Caught (Bandcamp)

Deathblow – The Other Side of Darkness
(Thrash – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/04/21

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Deathblow have served up a short but intense serve of classic thrash. It’s like the eighties have only just got to Utah, because this would slot in nicely next to Exodus and Testament on a play bill. As you listen to the five tracks, you will definitely pick out their influences, but there is no way it would fair to call them derivative. They have put together a fantastic package of breakneck thrash. It redlines the whole way through. Even slow passages race by. Roaring good stuff.
Try before you buy: The Other Side of Darkness (Bandcamp)

Dødheimsgard – A Umbra Omega
(Black metal – Norway)
Peaceville Records – 2015/03/16

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A Umbra Omega is kind of like the foie gras of black metal; it’s extravagant, but it’s also a little bit indulgent and to make it, the band crammed an unnecessary amount of material into it. The songs shouldn’t have been trimmed back to 3½ minute standards, but I am fairly certain the 10+ minute tracks could have been pared down. They get everything else right on this album. In many ways it’s revelatory, which is why I’m (probably) unfairly harping on about song length.
Try before you buy: Aphelion Void (YouTube)

Hurricane Death – Demo
(Grindcore – Australia)
Castigated Records – 2015/03/08

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I like this a lot. The Brisbane grind scene is wonderfully fruitful at the moment and Hurricane Death is a particularly choice morsel. They incorporate enough death metal into their work to add some real edge, but not enough to be called deathgrind. In my mind there’s a certain Napalm Deathness to their sound, which is a big plus in my book. It’s raw and rough, but it manages to be memorable in a way that puts most other grinders to shame.
Try before you buy: Gutter Rat (Bandcamp)

Kindergarten Hazing Ritual – Ugly World Order
(Cybergrind – United States of America)
37564 Recordings – 2015/03/31

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Grindcore is often symbolised by two struck-through quavers. Ugly World Order lives up to this emblam, because it is a jarring, disorientating experience. Wonderfully so I might add. It’s kind of like a musical equivalent of 2 Everything 2 Terrible 2: Tokyo Drift; every time you think you get comfortable with what’s happening, KHR throw in some weirdness from left field, bewildering you and yet, somehow, advancing the narative. Odd genius.
Try before you buy: extreme home makeover urban edition turbo hyper fighting (Bandcamp)

Negură Bunget – Tău
(Blackened folk metal – Romania)
Lupus Lounge/Prophecy Productions – 2015/02/27

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I never tire of the soundscapes that Negru and his cohorts create. The blending of haunting black metal and beautiful folk generates near endless possibilities for emotional discovery. Tău itself is the first part of a trilogy dedicated to Transylvanian heritage. There is a profound but extraordinarily proud sadness to it. The combination of the vocal tone, the blackened guitars, and the traditional instruments is both stark and lush. I await part two with baited breath.
Try before you buy: (Bandcamp)

Perspex Flesh – Ordered Image
(Hardcore – United Kingdom)
Self-released – 2015/03/31

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The Golden Age of Hardcore (i.e. the 80s) lives on loud and proud in Perspex Death. The guitar tone, the rhythms, the vocals – it’s all spot on with some of the greats. The vocals are initially jarring, but they quickly become absolutely vital. Reminds me of my initial contact with HR. The melodies are infectious. It’s exactly the sort of music that takes me back to the few basement punk gigs I got along to in my youth. It’s a release of pent up tension that is cathartic and joyous.
Try before you buy: Euthanasia (Bandcamp)

Ramallah/Sinners & Saints – Back From the Land of Nod
(Hardcore – United States of America)
State Line Records/Last Punk Rockers Records – 2015/04/28

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Anyone who knew me circa 2007 couldn’t help but know how much of a hard on I had for Ramallah. So I was overjoyed to see them return after a long absence. Getting tracks from Sinners & Saints was a bonus. Truth be told, I feel sort of bad reviewing this. Lind has clearly used this split to exorcise some particularly nasty demons. I miss the fierce political invective, but not so much that I can’t appreciate how devastatingly raw these tracks are.
Try before you buy: Here We Are (Bandcamp)

Torche – Restarter
(Sludge metal – United States of America)
Relapse Records – 2015/02/24

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I challenge you not to like Restarter. If it’s one thing that Torche does well, it’s writing an album that is eminently likeable. Few metal bands do this. They’ve all got agendas and angst and whatnot; Torche just want you smile. It makes them unique. To review this album properly, I have to contextualise it within their canon. It’s a slightly more dour album, but I think that’s a necessary correction after successive albums of gooey thunder pop. It’s still fun.
Try before you buy: Annihilation Affair (YouTube)

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.