Albums of the Decade 2010-2019, Part 3 (40-11)

Part 3 of 4. Getting ever closer to the top of the tree. The bands that have got themselves this far have truly produced some amazing work to get here. Not just to beat out the previous 60 acts, but to also beat out the 100s of great albums that almost made the list. For the record, if I’m asked why [insert album here] isn’t in the top 100, it came in at 101.

As usual, enjoy.

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40) Inter Arma – Paradise Gallows
Relapse – 2016

Crushingly heavy. I swear, I’m going to overuse that phrase, but it’s so useful. And there’s a surprising amount of room to move with it. For example, Paradise Gallows is akin to being caught in one of those moveable wall traps. Think the garbage pit scene from Star Wars, except it doesn’t stop. It’s implacable and remorseless in its attack on your ears. The combination of sludge and drone, held together with blackened threads, is a methodical juggernaut. It cares not for what’s in its path.

39) Nadja – Sonnborner
Broken Spine Productions – 2018

I still find the pacing of this album thoroughly confusing. Opening with that titanic, 30 minute track, then following up with a handful of significantly shorter songs is odd. And, yet, it works so well. They present drone in a way that’s beautiful in a haunting sort of way. The distortion and the sustains warm the soul. And then it transitions to a more up-tempo approach, which breaks the reverie and re-engages the listener with reality. It’s a welcome reinterpretion of the genre.

38) Esoteric – A Pyrrhic Existence
Season of Mist – 2019

Is this actually slow? It seems pretty damn fast in places. The confusion is pretty intense. The thing you have to realise is that Esoteric have hit that terminal point of heaviness. The singularity. Black hole density. Listening to A Pyrrhic Existence puts you firmly past the event horizon and time starts to distort, to lose meaning. It’s satisfyingly weird to have something so crushingly heavy yet dexterously mercurial. It gave me a fresh insight into how funeral doom can shift within its own boundaries. Innovation can be a jovian weight to bear.

37) Batushka – Litourgiya
Witching Hour Productions – 2015

May the metal gods continue to bless the black metal drama machine and keep its cogs oiled and toothsome, because I would never have discovered this gem of an album if the band didn’t go the full Gorgoroth. Whatever your opinion on the acrimony, there’s no denying that Litourgiya is the work of a very skilled band. The interplay between Eastern Orthodox liturgical music and black metal is thoroughly engaging. I wanted, no, needed to keep listening to it; I had to unravel all its hidden truths.

36) Pissgrave – Posthumous Humiliation
Profound Lore – 2019

Death metal, by its very nature, has a certain degree of inherent violence. It’s up to each band to decide how exactly they want to channel it and how they want it dressed. Pissgrave come at the violence with absolutely zero artifice. Their approach is horrifyingly stark. There’s no attempt abstract or obfuscate their aggression; they lay it out naked and unadorned for the world to recoil from. To listen to it is to allow yourself to be dehumanised. It’s sadistic in a way that defies description.

35) Kvelertak – Kvelertak
Indie – 2010

When this came out in 2010 I had no idea how much I would want it. Then I got a taste of their faintly blackened, definitely over the top punk rock hullabaloo and it’s an album that’s been on regular rotation ever since. It’s got punch in the face tempos, ridiculous hooks, and the catchiest damn Norwegian lyrics ever. I don’t understand a word being yelled, but I yell right along with it. Or at least as well as my understanding of phonics will let me. I still get that rush every time it kicks off.

34) Lxs Jugadxs – Demo 2015
Self-Released – 2015

I very nearly cheated and put down all three of their demos in one entry. They’re a hell of an act. But doing that would undersell how good these four songs actually are. They’re a whirlwind of absolute madness, forever threatening to completely tear itself apart but always hanging on by the loosest of frayed threads. That the closing track feels so titanic at just under two minutes is indicative of just how brilliantly wild the preceding three tracks were. I hope they continue to play and release material.

33) Today is the Day – Pain is a Warning
Black Market Activities – 2011

One of my go-to albums for getting amped all the way up. It’s not just that it’s an energetic exercise in noise rock; it’s that it’s so smartly delivered. The slow passages brood with barely constrained intensity, the fast movements drive with pulsating dynamism, the clean vocals croon with genuine soul, and the harsh vocals are like acid, hallucinatory and corrosive, on the ear drums. It’s a sonic package so expertly delivered that it continues to surprise and amaze years after release.

32) Blood Incantation – Starspawn
Dark Descent – 2016

No band does death metal like Blood Incantation. They work at an intensity level that deliberately pushes them far outside conventional comfort limits. They take hostility and magnify it to apocalyptic rage. They take dread and amplify it to chthonic horror. And they take bloodlust and warp it into a febrile, extrasensory longing that can never be satiated. Starspawn attacks you and it’s up to you to endure it. It’s unhinged and does what it wants. Such a monstrosity is something that needs celebrating.

31) Napalm Death – Apex Predator – Easy Meat
Century Media – 2015

That the grindfathers of grindcore have released an album of this vitality so far into their career is testament to their relentless drive and commitment to their message and to their craft. It’s not just that they blast incendiary beats as hard as they can; it’s that they’re willing to throw in curveballs for the listener. The industrial vibe of album’s title track and the oozing sleaze of Dear Slum Landlord… are prime examples. It’s a furious album that indulges in the many faces of anger.

30) Alcest – Les Voyages De L’Âme
Prophecy – 2012

Alcest are probably my favourite practitioners of blackgaze and Les Voyages de L’âme is definitely my favourite album. It perfects the interplay between shoegaze and black metal. The songs are written with a beautiful, dreamy ambience that fills the sonic space with light. But that light, glorious and blinding, casts long, inky shadows. In those shadows lurk beasts, sharpened fangs, and razor claws. An insatiable hunger lies at the heart of this album and all the splendour does is mask its ravenous intent.

29) Leprous – Malina
InsideOut – 2017

Malina is possibly the most depressing album on this list but certainly the most beautiful. Leprous have taken inspiration from a piece of bleak and oblique Austrian literature and transformed it into a gorgeously affecting prog opus. Heavily syncopated, the album conveys a necessary level of turmoil and unrest without sacrificing narrative flow. And I cannot think of a better vocalist for this than Einar. His contra-tenor is thematically perfect. Sad, sensitive, wonderful.

28) Bell Witch – Four Phantoms
Profound Lore – 2015

I still struggle to reconcile the sheer power of this album to the fact it’s a two piece: bass, drums, vocals, that’s it. It’s so heavy that it sets everything nearby rattling; so much so that you can’t play it subtly. If it’s on, you will feel it. But the amazing physical phenomena on display pales in comparison to the music itself. Yes, it’s heavy, but it’s delivered with such a deft touch that it transcends funeral doom. It creates a hypnotic effect where the crushing weight traps and holds the light.

27) Primordial – Where Greater Men Have Fallen
Metal Blade – 2014

Soaring, majestic, and strident, Where Greater Men Have Fallen is a stirring lament to the modern ills of this world. It has the requisite level of bitterness for this style of black metal, but it’s delivered as a call to action; Primordial don’t want the listener to passively mourn the what-ifs of this existence, they want people to be pissed off and engaged with their rage. This dynamism and purpose is truly what sets them apart. They want compatriots not witnesses.

26) High on Fire – Luminiferous
eOne – 2015

An unstoppable beast of an album, Luminiferous sounds like nothing less than an out of control freight train made entirely out of thunder. There’s no second guesses and no chance to over-think things; there are only titanic riffs rolling over everything in their path. And the beauty of it all is that this is not a simple album. There’s a sophistication to it that is only enhanced by the rampaging juggernaut beat down it inflicts. It leaves you with things to think about once you’re standing and have found your teeth.

25) Horrendous – Anareta
Dark Descent – 2015

I think the highest possible praise I can give to Horrendous here is that Anareta gives me the same satisfaction that Leprosy does. Yep, I’m comparing them to Death. While they are very much their own band with their own approach, the end result is an album that marries visceral intensity with distinctive technical flourishes and is delivered with passion and an ear for the listener. In that regard, it’s very similar to a certain, dearly departed Floridian’s oeuvre. A classic album born of legendary roots.

24) Bölzer – Hero
Iron Bonehead – 2016

The moment the intro track, Urðr, starts, you know you’re listening to something different. Something special. It somehow succeeds in being extremely traditional black metal and a wholly new approach to the genre all at once. It burns as brightly as the most powerful stars in the sky, but is kept grounded by a chill groove that is unusual stylistically yet thoroughly welcome. It’s an album of contrasts, as the band juggle the infernal and the mortal. It’s a remarkable album from a remarkable band.

23) Watain – Lawless Darkness
Season of Mist – 2010

Stirring anthems and soaring choruses aren’t just for power metal, you know. Done right, they have a happy home in any genre, irrespective of how ordinarily abrasive it usually is. This is an excellent thing for Watain, who have approached their proselytising for the Dark Lord with both the fire of abject zealotry and the huge hooks of stadium rock. Some may cry “FALSE!” Fuck ’em. As devotees of darkness, they understand that preaching to the choir is reductive and self-defeating. Darkness for all!

22) Enforcer – Diamonds
Earache – 2010

As great as this album is, it still manages to sound like a deliciously guilty pleasure. On a technical level, it’s brilliantly delivered speed metal. Driving rhythms, killer riffs, memorable vocals, the whole deal. But then you get to what it is thematically and it is gloriously lurid. High stakes gambling and swordfights on the neon-washed streets of Tokyo seems to be the narrative they were aiming for, but they also threw in a liberal dose of the devil. It’s utter madness and it all the better for it.

21) Trap Them – Darker Handcraft
Prosthetic – 2011

The absolute kings of Entombedcore and the high priests of HM2 worship, Trap Them took a chainsaw approach to their punk, creating an unmistakably hellish racket in doing so. Nothing exemplifies this as much as Darker Handcraft. Once again, you’ll find yourself in Barren Praise, the ghost town the band centre their narrative around. But this particular trip is harrowing, miserable, and dangerous. Their blend of grindcore and hardcore shouldn’t be this gloriously atmospheric, but it is.

20) Sólstafir – Ótta
Season of Mist – 2014

Winner of the “Holy Shit I Should Learn Another Language” award goes to Sólstafir. Ótta is haunting, lonely, and dripping with ennui. It’s evocative of a weary traveller crossing the tundra on a misty evening. I just wish I could match the lyrical themes to the music. The lyrical delivery is so delicate, sounding so pained yet so inviting at the same time. The emotional depths that this album plumbs transcend language barriers; I may not completely understand it, but I remain touched and enthralled throughout.

19) Altarage – Endinghent
Season of Mist – 2017

I probably overuse the word relentless. I don’t really think about that sort of thing usually, but upon revisiting Endinghent, it’s abundantly clear that I do. And shame on me for watering down the word through overuse, as no other album embodies relentlessness as completely and overwhelmingly as Altarage’s second full length. It’s as delirious and as terrifying as a fever dream in a war zone. Every beat and every riff sounds like they are trying to tear down the walls of reality. Relentless indeed.

18) Alder Glade – Spine of the World
Self-Released – 2017

It still strikes me as odd that an album so deeply rooted in Nordic heathenism could be made to such high quality by one man in Brisbane, Australia. Brisbane: the city winter forgot. But whatever journeys brought him to this point payed dividends, as Spine of the World is possessed of a true blackened aesthetic that makes you believe magic is very real and very dangerous. It helps that the magic is backed up by a unique approach to the genre. It’s crisp and sharp, like it’s been flash frozen in nitrogen.

17) Cloud Rat – Pollinator
Artoffact Records – 2019

This is nothing less than a startling vision of what grindcore could be. Of what it should be. Here is a band that is unafraid to take their fury and vitriol and wrap it in something more than blasts, shrieks, and distortion. It still has all those things, but the band unleash them with a sophistication more akin to prog or post-metal. They present their anger with as much complexity musically as there is in day to day existence. The real world isn’t simple and Cloud Rat dare to acknowledge that.

16) Revocation – Chaos of Forms
Relapse – 2011

Revocation’s signature blend of technical death metal and classic thrash was perfectly realised on Chaos of Forms. Oddly enough, I firmly believe the key to marrying the two genres together this well lies in David Davidson’s jazz background. He understands how to channel different sonic forces and wield them together to create a seemless, yet unpredictable union. In this sense, the title “Chaos of Forms” is entirely apt. Every song is a whirlwind of sound, a technical wonder and a classic banger all in one.

15) Clutch – Earth Rocker
Weathermaker Music – 2013

This is an album that never fails to get me, as they say, right in the feels. So you don’t misunderstand me, this isn’t some florid, weepy exercise in melodramatic sentimentality; rather it’s a powerful testament to healing powers of rock and roll. I never really thought about how much music has helped me get by in life until Earth Rocker stirred me up and got me assessing things. It’s an album that puts its existence up in lights and justifies the ever-living shit out of it with pure rock fury.

14) Nachtmystium – Silencing Machine
Century Media – 2012

There’s an awful lot of awful things you can say about Nachtmystium’s front man, Blake Judd. Junky, thief, and conman leap to mind. But there’s no doubt that when he channelled his self-destruction into his music instead of himself, the results were intense and inspired. Produced just before his life fell completely to shit, this is an album all about the stuttering flame of hope being snuffed out. It’s industrialised, progressive black metal at its most despairing.

13) Hacride – Back to Where You’ve Never Been
Indie – 2013

If you had asked me at the start of the decade which emotionally mature French progressive death metal act would make the most impact on me, I genuinely doubt Hacride would have been on my list. But BtWYNB is an absolute revelation. It sounds absolutely huge; the sumptuous and verdant soundscapes they create are a joy to luxuriate in. And yet, the songs are so personal, so intimate that it feels almost like an intrusion to listen to them. Their combination of hefty sonic bombast and intense emotion leaves an indelible impression.

12) Turbonegro – Sexual Harassment
Volcom – 2012

This is more than a return to form; this is a glorious, sleazy, denim-clad triumph over adversity. The Duke of Nothing on vocals isn’t Hank, but that’s the point. The ten tracks on offer require a rougher approach and that’s what he brings. Sexual Harassment doesn’t just showcase the band’s still-sparkling talent; it allows them to exorcise all the demons born of their turbulent hiatus. It makes for an unusual, yet real mix of hostility, bitterness, relief and gratitude. Catharsis sometimes requires raucous partying.

11) Swans – The Glowing Man
Young God – 2016

Come. Come to the great high mass. Give yourself to the church of sound and abase yourself upon the altar of Swans. Michael Gira’s masters of post-punk have always delivered in ritualistic, almost fevered fashion, but The Glowing Man is transcendent. It offers mania and catharsis, but it requires time and commitment. Exposing yourself fully to its complete panoply of sound is to give yourself over to a devotional that extends to almost the two hour mark, but will leave you feeling the touch of the divine.

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

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

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100) True Widow – Circumambulation
Relapse – 2013

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

99) Vallenfyre – A Fragile King
Century Media – 2011

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

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

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

97) Hate Eternal – Infernus
Season of Mist – 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

93) Cephalic Carnage – Misled by Certainty
Relapse – 2010

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

92) Heresiarch – Death Ordinance
Dark Descent – 2017

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

91) Power Trip – Nightmare Logic
Southern Lord – 2017

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

90) Corpsessed – Impetus of Death
Dark Descent – 2018

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

89) Monolithe – Monolithe IV
Debemur Morti – 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

84) Friendship – Hatred
Southern Lord – 2017

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

83) Fleshgod Apocalypse – King
Nuclear Blast – 2016

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

82) Absu – Abzu
Candlelight – 2011

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

81) Winterfylleth – The Threnody of Triumph
Candlelight – 2012

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

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

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

79) Carcass – Surgical Steel
Nuclear Blast – 2013

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

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

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

77) Opeth – Pale Communion
Roadrunner Records – 2014

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

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

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

75) Enslaved – E
Nuclear Blast – 2017

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

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

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

73) Dragged Into Sunlight – WidowMaker
Prosthetic – 2012

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

72) Darkthrone – Circle the Wagons
Peaceville – 2010

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

71) Mastodon – The Hunter
Reprise – 2011

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

April 2019 Review Round Up

So, that was April. I enjoyed it.

GORE WARNING: PISSGRAVE COVER AHEAD

I might not have bothered with the gore warning, but for the fact that Pissgrave put out my album of the month. They’re a band that take death metal and seek out what ugly depths lie within. Confrontational and violent, Posthumous Humiliation is about as hideous as death metal can get.

April also allowed me to bookend my month with amazing tours. I started the month with Emperor. They were everything I wanted them to be. Their name makes sense, because when they play live, they are nothing short of imperial. I would see them again in a heartbeat.

I ended the month with At the Gates and The Haunted. Technically, they were also on tour with Witchery, but the entirety of Witchery ditched the meet and greet, which is a dick move, so fuck them. That grumble aside, the rest of the night was incredible. The Haunted and At the Gates have very different stage presences, but are both possessed of a captivating energy that holds you from start to finish.

The inexorable march of time will bring us to the May reviews soon enough, so I hope you enjoy my thoughts on April.

As always, you can hit me up on Facebook. I’m always happy to take feedback or suggestions on board.

Enjoy.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Album of the Month
Pissgrave – Posthumous Humiliation
(Death Metal – United States of America)
Profound Lore – 2019/03/04

The level of violence, both overt and implied, in this album is nuts. The vocals are akin to someone drowning in acid, the guitars are like a frenzied ice-pick attack, the drums might as well be hammers swung at your joints, and the solos are like the gears of a horrifying trap grinding into action. Holy crap, they do depravity incredibly well.

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Gold – Why Aren’t You Laughing?
(Post-punk – Netherlands)
Artoffact – 2019/04/05

Do you like songs about terrible relationships, the toxic culture in which they thrive, and the depression that results from it all? Hope so, because that’s what Gold have delivered. It’s a hypnotic, dreamy sort of album, but there’s no getting around how bleak it is. It’s a siren song; it will draw you in, but you’ll dash on its emotional rocks.

Lurid Panacea – The Insidious Poisons
(Grindcore – Australia)
Self-released – 2019/04/14

Lurid Panacea have delivered on one of grind’s greatest and rarest experiences: the hallucinatory mindfuck. The forty seven tracks are a whirlwind of disorientating chaos; there is no respite, there is no hiding, there is no relief. It gets into your head and assaults your synapses until nothing makes sense anymore. Holy hell, I love it.

Misery Index – Rituals of Power
(Death Metal – United States of America)
Season of Mist – 2019/03/08

I’ve been waiting all decade for this: the album Misery Index gets completely right. They’re no longer truly deathgrind in sound, having fully transitioned to a true death metal production, but the grind lives on in them in spirit. This is furious stuff; it’s heartening to hear them consistently and loudly pissed off. Relentlessly agitated.

MoreGore – Додикав Напиздовуют Грачи
(Grindcore – Ukraine)
Self-Released – 2019/01/30

Straightforward and authentic almost to a fault, MoreGore deliver their grindcore without much in the way of unnecessary artifice. A couple of samples are thrown in, but it’s mostly guitar, bass, drums, and shouts. No fancy production tricks; just meat and potatoes grind. Definitely for the genre purists, but solid nonetheless.

Sněť – Promo
(Death Metal – Czech Republic)
Self-Released – 2019/04/08

If you want to know how to use a demo to impress, listen to Sněť’s promo. Only two tracks, six minutes and nine seconds in total, but it wrings every last drop of entertainment out of that brief run time. You like instrumental death metal? Intoxikace will scratch that itch. And Obří Kat does guttural so well, you’ll forget you’re listening to a demo.

Týr – Hel
(Progressive Folk Metal – Faroe Islands)
Metal Blade – 2018/03/08

Finally getting around to Týr. I expected folk metal, but what I really got was melodic death metal that reminded me of when the Gothenburg sound was something to brag about. It’s still upbeat like I would expect from folk metal. It’s thematically on point too. But it’s driven by an energetic, melodeth sound that just begs to be heard.

Venom Prison – Samsara
(Deathcore – Wales)
Prosthetic – 2019/03/15

Deathcore would be much less of a joke if the bands involved could integrate the death metal and the hardcore as well as Venom Prison do. This is full speed, almost uncontrollable in its approach. The furious lyrical polemic is a perfect fit for this onslaught. It’s challenging; not going to lie, but it’s worth it. It’s a workout for your brain.

July 2018 Review Round Up

So. That was July. A month with more than a few surprises. I didn’t expect such a strong showing from the black metal hordes, for example. But Immortal, Deafheaven, and Panegyrist all demonstrated the potential black metal has, be it old school, new wave, or wtf.

I also didn’t expect Khemmis to actually love up to the hype. You hear things about the “it” band doing the rounds and so often you can tack a “sh” onto the front of it. Not Khemmis. Believe in Khemmis.

The final surprise was the album of the month. I wouldn’t have pegged it to be Korean old school thrash. It was bought on a whim with some leftover cash. And it kicks arse. It’s everything positive about thrash. Get into Sahon. They’ve been around for ages apparently. I feel ashamed for not knowing this.

August is looking oddly sparse, so if you know anything I don’t, hit me up. Always happy to take suggestions.

As always, you can reach me on Facebook.

Enjoy August

Album of the Month
Sahon – Chanting for the Fallen
(Thrash – South Korea)
Transcending Obscurity – 2018/07/15

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Old school thrash done properly still holds a certain magic. Sahon have captured this magic, distilled it down to an even purer form, and turned it loose upon an unsuspecting world. With vocals like a halfway point between Lemmy and Joey Belladonna, solos that soar like a drag racing eagle, and rhythms that blast like artillery on speed, how could you not like this?

The Rest in Alphabetical Order

Burial Invocation – Abiogenesis
(Death Metal – Turkey)
Dark Descent – 2018/07/06

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Abiogenesis is the perfect album for when you are already furious. It taps into that primal primate rage that we all try to pretend we’ve evolved past. The four main tracks are lengthy sojourns into death metal’s grimiest, darkest depths. This is appended by a final sinister instrumental track that is cathartic but uncomfortable. It feeds the beast.

Deafheaven – Ordinary Corrupt Human Love
(Post-Black Metal – United States of America)
Anti- – 2018/07/13

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Sunbather was polarising but brilliant on its merits. New Bermuda was an acceptable follow up, but not particularly memorable. So I had to approach this some trepidation. But this could well be their magnum opus. It’s the finest example of their craft. It truly shows that any emotion can be examined in extremity.

Fukpig – Bastards
(Blackened Grindcore – United Kingdom)
Devizes Records – 2018/06/01

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It would appear that they world has become sufficiently messed up for Fukpig to lurch forth and vomit forth their signature bile-crusted blend of grind and black metal. And believe me when I say they are mad as all the hells combined. They’ve never been a band that does pretty, but that ugliness works wonders when spewing invective and polemic.

Golgothan Remains – Perverse Offerings to the Void
(Death Metal – Australia)
Self-Released – 2018/02/08

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I’ve had the difference Satanism and Luciferianism (probably badly) explained as embracing humanity’s beastial nature versus striving to transcend humanity’s mortal limits. Golgothan Remains, judging by this savagery, are definitely on the Satanist side of the fence. Bestial, dark, and remorseless; this is a true embrace of animalistic fury.

Immortal – Northern Chaos Gods
(Black Metal – Norway)
Nuclear Blast – 2018/07/06

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Abbath who? Immortal may have returned sans their most iconic panda, but they have delivered a total masterclass in Fimbulwinter-cold black metal. Demonaz and Horgh play entirely to their strengths, producing an album that is crisp, taut, and furious. It’s a blizzard with the soul of a serial killer; frostbitten violence with intent.

Khemmis – Desolation
(Doom Metal – United States of America)
20 Buck Spin – 2018/06/22

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While technically doom metal, this really sounds like a very muscular heavy metal. Listening to it made me think they were trying to reverse engineer Black Sabbath but only had epic doom and Bay Area thrash to put it together with. I very nearly listed it as doom thrash for that reason. It has that magical quality that old school heaviness used to bogart.

Organ Dealer/Nerve Grind/Invertebrate – Split EP
(Grindcore/Grindcore/Powerviolence – United States of America)
Night Animal Records – 2018/07/01

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You may have noticed that I don’t really do splits, but Invertebrate are long term supporters of Metalshopped. Also helps that the three bands on offer have all delivered the goods. It opens with Organ Dealer’s shouty brand of grind, leads into three tracks of harsh, almost deathgrind from Nerve Grind, before finishing on Invertebrate’s ever-entertaining pv. Cracking stuff from start to finish.

Panegyrist – Hierurgy
(Black Metal – United States of America)
I, Voidhanger – 2018/05/18

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This is a pretty damn incredible album. It is instantly identifiable as black metal, but it sounds so radically different from anything else in the genre. Clean vocals and extensive melodic passages are integrated into Hierurgy alongside aggressive abrasiveness in such a seamless way that they sound as one. It is breathtaking in its technical merit.

Shrine of the Serpent – Entropic Disillusion
(Sludgy Death Doom – United States of America)
Memento Mori – 2018/04/23

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Grimey, slow, and heavy, Entropic Disillusion is exactly the sort of swampy mire you want to get stuck in. It has venomous ichor pumping through every note, every sustain, every growl. And it seems to improve with each subsequent listen. Put all together, you have an album that masterfully revels in its darkness, malevolence, and filth.

Skeletonwitch – Devouring Radiant Light
(Progressive Blackened Thrash – United States of America)
Prosthetic – 2018/07/20

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I thought I knew Skeletonwitch. Their bruising combination of black metal and thrash was always predictable but welcome. Devouring Radiant Light is an altogether different beast. Sophisticated, intelligent, and nuanced aren’t exactly terms you’re used to seeing next to blackened thrash, but here we are. A huge leap forward for an already great band.

Svalbard – It’s Hard to Have Hope
(Hardcore – United Kingdom)
Translation Loss – 2018/05/25

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Loudly, proudly, and unashamedly liberal and progressive, so if songs about reproductive freedom, wage theft, or animal liberation aren’t your thing, you should probably keep on walking. Those who stick around are rewarded with a rich, satisfying hardcore album. It carefully balances its specific directed fury with moments of delicate introspection.

Whoresnation – Mephitism
(Grindcore – France)
Throatruiner – 2015/04/13

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Fantasy, as a genre, has lied to me. It routinely claims that ritual magic takes a long time to complete. Total bullshit. Whoresnation can ignite the air and reduce everything around them to molten slag in under ninety seconds. It is a hell of sonic assault. They take enough death metal to give the grind some heft and they wield that heft like a vicious weapon.

September 2016 Review Round Up

An abbreviated review collection this month. Metalshopped’s hard earned cash was geared towards live music this month. How could I turn down tickets to Enslaved, Opeth, Meshuggah, etc? They’re not going to see themselves, now are they?

That being said, there was some absolute gold this month. SubRosa’s phenomenal For This We Fought the Battle of Ages ran first with distance for second. Other albums this month were good, even great; but SubRosa stood apart.

Insomnium’s colossal one track album, Winter’s Gate, more than deserved its honourable mention. Listening to what is traditionally a melodeath band put out such a complicated slab of prog is very satisfying.

As usual, feel free to hit me up on Facebook. Especially if you’ve got a release you think is worth a listen.

Until next month
\m/

Album of the Month
SubRosa – For This We Fought the Battle of Ages
(Doom metal – United States of America)
Profound Lore Records – 2016/08/26

In doom circles, SubRosa has always been in a league of their own, but this album sees them push out even further. It’s a perfect combination of ethereal vocals, surprisingly technical guitars, and lyrics that delve deeply into uncomfortable truths. Here is the beauty in despair; here is death’s loving embrace.
Try before you buy: Despair is a Siren (Bandcamp)

Honourable Mention
Insomnium – Winter’s Gate
(Progressive death metal – Finland)
Century Media – 2016/09/23

This is what I like to see; a prog band actually taking a calculated risk to progress themselves as a band. The album’s one track runs for forty minutes, but it uses that time well. In a literal sense, it tells a story. A damn good one. But it’s their music that fleshes out the drama. Riveting.
Try before you buy: the first ten minutes should provide ample introduction. (YouTube)

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Oranssi Pazuzu – Värähtelijä
(Psychedelic black metal – Finland)
20 Buck Spin/Svart Records – 2016/02/26

Your average psychedelic black metal album is the result of taking a load of hallucinogens and embracing the darkness. Oranssi Pazuzu aims to break the mold with Värähtelijä. This is an album that sounds like it’s supposed to be the drug. Its ebbs and flows worm their way into the cracks in your psyche. It wants to alter you. It almost succeeds.
Try before you buy: Saturaatio (Bandcamp)

Schammasch – Triangle
(Black metal – Switzerland)
Prosthetic Records – 2016/04/29

Put some time aside, because at three discs, Triangle needs some time to get acquainted. Humming with monastic contemplation and possessed of a Behemoth-esque fervour, this triple album challenges you to think and rewards you with intensity. There’s something almost perverse about something so austere sounding so lavish.
Try before you buy: Awakening from the Dream of Life (Bandcamp)

Sumac – What One Becomes
(Post-metal – United States of America)
Thrill Jockey – 2016/06/10

This isn’t a bold splash into new territory, which some may see as disappointing. Not me though, because what it does is continue on from where The Deal left off. This isn’t an endnote or an unnecessary sequel; this is an album born of the same creative impetus that gave us one of 2015’s better albums.
Try before you buy: Clutch of Oblivion (Bandcamp)

Tombs – All Empires Fall
(Post-black metal – United States of America)
Relapse Records – 2016/04/01

What Tombs does better than pretty well any other post-black act is subtlety. They blast and howl. They swoon and meditate. This isn’t unusual for the genre. It’s how they incorporate the extremes of style in such an organic, almost imperceptible way that is. An uncannily expert performance.
Try before you buy: Deceiver (Bandcamp)