August 2018 Review Round Up

I entered August without a whole lot on the shopping list for the month, figured I’d clear out some of my bookmarks, and ended up with a surprisingly solid month. Believe me; it’s really good.

It was a crowded field for album of the month, but I eventually settled on Michael Romeo’s often batshit, but always engaging War of the Worlds. It’s pretty impressive what can be done by someone with his level of talent when it’s married to a singularity of purpose.

Never let it be said that I’m above digital panhandling, because judging by this awesome Ko-fi page I set up, I’m very much not. I’d set up a Patreon, but I have no idea what rewards to offer. Maybe in the future. Until then, any tips towards the Metalshopped Needs Red Bull To Live fund are muchly appreciated.

And, as always, you can hit me up on Facebook.

Until October, stay trve. Or false. Whatever works for you.

Album of the Month

Michael Romeo – War of the Worlds/Pt. 1
(Symphonic Neoclassical Metal with Experimental Bits – United States of America)
Music Theories Recordings – 2018/07/27

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Don’t think that this will be more Symphony X just with Michael’s name at the forefront; you’d be wrong. This album pulls into strange territory at times. And it’s all the stronger for it. It still has all the technical merit you’d expect from one of metal’s great guitarists and composers, but it comes without any of self-indulgent baggage of solo projects.

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Barren Altar – Entrenched in the Faults of the Earth
(Blackened Doom Metal – United States of America)
Self-Released – 2018/06/12

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Metal is at its strongest and most engaging when it has something to say. That the band has a message that can only be expressed through growls and blasts and riffs. Barren Altar exemplify this and them some. This album is venomous, filthy and aggressive, but is delivered with such diligence and vigour that nothing gets lost in the malign fury.

Crawl – Rituals
(Death Metal – Sweden)
Transcending Obscurity – 2018/08/20

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We live in a world where Swedish death metal doesn’t hold up to what came before. In Flames, Soilwork, DT; still good live, but that’s about it. Crawl is here to help put things right. Nine tracks, eight of them under three minutes, all of them honed for maximum aggression. It’s a searing beast of an album loaded with killer riffs and an undercurrent of punk sneer.

Divide and Dissolve – Abomination
(Drone – Australia)
Self-Released – 2018/02/16

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Describing the post-colonial experience and its ongoing negative impact on those dispossessed and enslaved through the medium of drone was a surprisingly engaging experience. The rumbling, almost subaudible bass and the machine precise drums create a unique atmosphere of palpable discomfort. Best drone release in a long, long time.

Facegrinder – Kugelblitz
(Grindcore – Australia)
Self-Released – 2018/08/01

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Fearsome, technically precise grind is a beautiful thing and Facegrinder deliver it like an impressionist master. It comes across as techdeath of the more ridiculous variety (think Origin or Necrophagist) that has been stripped right back to the barest essentials necessary to wreck shit in under a minute. Blastbeat nirvana.

Hadal Maw – Charlatan
(Technical Death Metal – Australia)
Self-Released – 2018/08/03

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The more I listen to them, the more I’m convinced Hadal Maw are the best sinister techdeath band out there right now. The way they craft their songs ably marries their undeniable technical skill with pall of tenebrous bleakness. Charlatan continues from this and progresses it further. It’s an album that plays with primal fears like a monstrous 8 string.

Hell to Pay – bliss.
(Grindcore – United States of America)
Self-Released – 2018/03/16

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First impressions were Hell to Pay were going to fill the hole Trap Them left with their split. It was aggressive, abrasive, and fun to listen to. But then shit started getting weird. The tone got darker, song structures got more cryptic, and the whole affair took on a far more menacing demeanour. This is no substitute; this is a new obsession.

Innumerable Forms – Punishment in Flesh
(Death Metal – United States of America)
Profound Lore – 2018/08/17

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About as slow and ominous as old school death metal can get, Innumerable Forms understand what it takes to turn a joyless existence into quality listening. Miserable dirges are juxtaposed against pulverising aggression to create an album that is as bleak as it is satisfying. It’s an album that wants you to embrace your inner darkness.

ION – A Path Unknown
(Ambient Black Metal – United States of America)
Self-Released – 2018/01/28

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It always amazes me how much one little detail can affect an overall review. I really quite like A Path Unknown. It’s long form approach to ambient black metal is mostly engaging. But I have an issue with drum tone. Not all of it, but the kicks sound somewhere between a speed ball being punched, rustling cardboard, and a wet fart. Takes me right out of the moment.

Lurid Panacea – Demo
(Grindcore – Australia)
Self-Released – 2018/07/11

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Melbourne has a very fertile grind scene, absolutely loaded to the gunwales with potential. Lurid Panacea’s potential just happens to be swampy and very much on the deathgrind side of things. This is nasty, visceral grind. Even if it had better-than-demo production values, this would be a rough listen. And that just how these sickos want it.

Neckbeard Deathcamp – White Nationalism is for Basement Dwelling Losers
(Black Metal – United States of America)
Self-Released – 21/07/2018

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I love how unsubtly subversive this is. It takes fantastically delivered black metal and then turns the typical genre tropes on their head by invoking a steady stream of left wing invective. I hope this isn’t a gimmick. I hope it’s not a one shot for shits and giggles. I want this band to keep on punishing the ear drums with pulverising blackened fury.

Obscura – Diluvium
(Progressive Techdeath – Germany)
Relapse – 2018/07/13

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Obscura, for me at least, has always been one of those bands always just shy of greatness. And I’ve tried to give them a chance. Diluvium was my final crack at them. Make or break. And they made it like you wouldn’t believe. Where has this been? Their blend of pulsating technicality and inventive prog comes together seamlessly and joyously.

Rolo Tomassi – Time Will Die and Love Will Bury It
(Mathcore – United Kingdom)
Holy Roar – 2018/03/02

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Unlike most of the mathcore I’m used to, Rolo Tomassi allow their songs to take their time and luxuriate. The end result is an album that successfully manages to indulge in a soothing, Sunny Day Real Estate-esque sensitivity while being able to turn up the aggression to Dillinger/Converge levels of fury as required. It offers a different level of sophistication.

Sleep – The Sciences
(Stoner Doom Metal – United States of America)
Third Man Records – 2018/04/20

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I’ve had to battle some cognitive dissonance to get into Sleep. You hear so much positive press about a band that it turns you off. Glad I finally got over that hurdle because The Sciences is an absolute beast of a doom album. Its four substantive tracks are some of the most fuzzed out, resinous music to ever be heavy. It’s satisfyingly dank.

Urfaust – The Constellatory Practice
(Ambient Black Metal – The Netherlands)
Ván Records – 2018/05/04

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Urfaust are stretching the definition of black metal into bizarre contortions. Aggressively meditative, it sounds like the mad chant of a cultist trying to distort their chakras to awaken a dark godlike force in themselves. And despite the ambient nature of the album, there is no doubt this is black metal to its malevolent core.

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June 2018 Review Round Up

June felt like a productive month. I got through a decent amount of albums while making sure everyone got their fair due in terms of attention. Pretty happy about how it all came together.

Some impressive stuff passed through my ears, but the best of the best is Craft’s latest, White Noise and Black Metal. It’s a perfect example of what modern black metal should sound like.

July will hopefully be as good. I’m keen for Deafheaven and Obscura’s new albums.

Hit me up on Facebook if you want. Always up for a chat.

Album of the Month
Craft – White Noise and Black Metal
(Black Metal – Sweden)
Season of Mist – 2018/06/22

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Not a lot of noise going on here, but there are eight tracks of blackened gelid malevolence. It’s a veritable soundtrack for a frolic through the joyless expanse of Cocytus. Too often black metal finds itself trapped within its own tropes, but Craft have taken these tropes and unleashed them in a storm so furious that everything seems new after the destruction wrought.

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Abstracter – Cinereous Incarnate
(Blackened Sludge – United States of America)
Sentient Ruin Laboratories – 2018/06/08

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When I was a young boy, someone once told me that there was no greater sin, even surpassing the seven deadly sins, than despair, as it meant you believed God was powerless. Abstracter capture this notion of blasphemous misery and turn it loose in an almost weaponised display of sonic might. It’s cacophonous, tumultuous, and savage.

At the Gates – To Drink From The Night Itself
(Melodic Death Metal – Sweden)
Century Media – 2018/05/18

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A slower, more brooding At the Gates is on display here. The anger that has driven their sound to this point has manifested here as smouldering bitterness. It’s not bitter in the sense of hating what their doing. The band still clearly loves performing. It’s bitter about pretty well everything else though. It’s a new plateau of jaded misanthropy.

The Body – I Have Fought Against It, But I Can’t Any Longer
(Avant-garde Metal – United States of America)
Thrill Jockey – 2018/05/11

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Albums like this really highlight the divide between amateur writers, such as myself, and proper music journalists. I just don’t have the vocabulary to do this album justice. It’s ominous. It’s oppressive. It’s sinister as all hell. And bleak doesn’t even begin to describe its emotional darkness. And even with all that laid out, you need to know it goes further and weirder than I can explain.

Funeral Mist – Hekatomb
(Black Metal – Sweden)
Norma Evangelium Diaboli – 2018/06/15

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Not sure if any of you have spent an extended period of time with a crazy street preacher. I have and this reminds me a lot of that experience. An almost overwhelming raging of fevered mania is peppered with moments of terrifying lucidity. It’s the sort of unhinged blasphemous rite that so many black metal acts aspire to, but taken to an extreme beyond expectation.

Genghis Crack – Genghis Crack
(Grindcore – Chile)
House Gore Records – 2018/04/07

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I’m finding South America to fertile ground for excellent grind. From Lxs Jugadxs in Argentina to Kharma in Venezuela, there is a strong trend towards pissed off blasting violence. Feel free to add Genghis Crack to this. I don’t understand all the samples used, but I know anger when I hear it. This is wire garrotte taut and as pummelling as 80s heyday Mike Tyson.

Ghost – Prequelle
(Heavy Metal – Sweden)
Loma Vista Recordings – 2018/06/01

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“Surely the gimmick has worn thin by now?” I hear you asking. And the answer remains no. To be honest, the people in silly masks thing will always be easy to ignore so long as they keep on delivering on quality like they have here. It leans hard into rock territory, making it just as much Bon Jovi as Black Sabbath and that swagger makes it an utter joy to listen to.

Grave Upheaval – —
(Death Doom – Australia)
Nuclear War Now! – 2018/04/15

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I don’t normally enjoy death doom and really only bought this to flex my critical skills. But then it completely kicked my arse. I mean this floored me. It’s so damn heavy that it creates its own atmosphere. It could shatter a diamond. And the vocals sound like a cthonic god slowly tearing into our reality. It’s got me completely turned around on the genre.

Marduk – Viktoria
(Black Metal – Sweden)
Century Media – 2018/06/22

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Marduk is really starting to feel like a spent force. None of their post-Wormwood albums have aged well and Viktoria starts off feeling worse than that. Even when they lean into the controversy surrounding their politics, it feels hollow; it feels like they’re trying to cash in on scandal because it’s all they have left. I know they’re capable of so much more.

Mournful Congregation – The Incubus of Karma
(Funeral Doom – Australia)
20 Buck Spin/Osmose Productions – 2018/03/23

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It might be the clinical depression talking, but I found this to be profoundly soothing. I’m sure that’s not what they were aiming for, but at the same time, it’s not me being critical. It hits that nadir of despair where all of life’s iniquities become a warm blanket, as they allow you to feel something. Anything. It embraces misery in its utter totality.

Necros Christos – Domedon Doxomedon
(Death Metal – Germany)
Sepulchral Voice – 2018/05/18

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I hope everyone is up on their Qabbalistic rituals; pre-Nicean Christian mysticism; and Abrahamic gnosticism, because Necros Christos just assumes you are. For their (alas) swansong they have crafted a complex three disc spiritual meditation that both hyper intelligent and crushingly heavy. I doubt they could have crafted a more fitting farewell. Safe travels, noble initiates; may you find the apotheosis you seek.

Nervosa – Downfall of Mankind
(Thrash – Brazil)
Napalm Records – 2018/06/01

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What you have here is a straight forward thrash album and that needs to be celebrated. It’s not blackened; it’s not crossover; it’s that dying breed of true, fast as hell, angry as a swarm of hornets thrash. It’s a real conflagration of an album too; starts off a bit slow but builds to an intensity that will level whole city blocks and leave a satisfyingly smouldering ruin.

Ritual Necromancy – Disinterred Horror
(Death Metal – United States of America)
Dark Descent – 2018/05/25

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This album earns the critical praise I have seen said of it. And so long as as I’m wearing my critic hat, I’ll recommend it. But as a listener, there’s something not quite to my personal taste here. I think it’s because underneath the blistered exterior of fire and savagery, there’s an unbeating heart of cold, almost alien sterility. It’s uncomfortable to be honest.

Wayfarer – World’s Blood
(Atmospheric Black Metal – United States of America)
Profound Lore – 2018/05/25

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I’m a firm believer that USBM is at its best when it wholeheartedly embraces its American-ness. The gonzo nihilism of Cobalt. Panopticon’s bluegrass/black metal hybrid. And, now, Wayfarer and their desolate, tenebrific distortion of country. There’s no high plains sing-along here. This is all grim paranoia and foreboding cynicism.

Yob – Our Raw Heart
(Doom Metal – United States of America)
Relapse – 2018/06/08

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Despite there being no evidence to back it up, I like to think there’s a competition between Pallbearer and Yob for the USA’s best doom act. And Our Raw Heart puts Yob into the lead. Sure, it’s heavy as a Jovian hell, but it’s the raw emotional heft that makes it such a stunning album. It’s heartfelt, almost touching in places, and bleak without being despairing.

Albums of the Year 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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)


Releases of the Year for 2015

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

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

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

Album of the Year
Prurient – Frozen Niagara Falls

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Profound Lore Records – 2015/05/12

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

Some Other Top Things Worth Mentioning
Best Live Act: Revocation

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

Best cover art: Purple by John Baizley

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

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

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eOne Music – 2015/06/23

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

3) Bell Witch – Four Phantoms

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Profound Lore Records – 2015/04/28

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

4) Napalm Death – Apex Predator – Easy Meat

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Century Media Records – 2015/01/27

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

5) Lxs Jugadxs – Demo 2015

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Self-released – 2015/07/21

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

6) Baroness – Purple

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Abraxan Hymns – 2015/12/18

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

7) Windhand – Grief’s Infernal Flower

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Relapse Records – 2015/09/18

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

8) Gold – No Image

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

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

9) The Rodeo Idiot Engine – Malaise

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Throatruiner Records – 2015/11/23

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

10) Sunset in the 12th House – Mozaic

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Prophecy Productions – 2015/06/05

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

11) Folivore – Eve of Conception

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Black Goat Records – 2015/04/20

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

12) Enslaved – In Times

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Nuclear Blast – 2015/03/06

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

13) Sumac – The Deal

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Profound Lore Records – 2015/02/17

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

14) Abyssal – Antikatastaseis

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Profound Lore Records – 2015/06/23

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

15) Symphony X – Underworld

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Nuclear Blast – 2015/07/24

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

16) Marilyn Manson – The Pale Emperor

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Hell, etc – 2014/01/19

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

17) Peasant – Go to Hell

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Self-released – 2015/04/20

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

18) Leviathan – Scar Sighted

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Profound Lore Records – 2015/03/03

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

19) Pissgrave – Suicide Euphoria

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Profound Lore Records – 2015/08/04

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

20) Deafheaven – New Bermuda

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Anti Records – 2015/10/02

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

21) Gnaw Their Tongues – Abyss of Longing Throats

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Crucial Blast – 2015/08/04

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

22) Motörhead – Bad Magic

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UDR Music – 2015/08/28

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

23) Lamantide – Carnis Tempora: Abyssus

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Self-released – 2015/10/26

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

24) Choking – Choking

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Self-released – 2015/05/15

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

25) Kylesa – Exhausting Flame

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Season of Mist – 2015/10/02

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

26) Leprous – The Congregation

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InsideOut Music – 2015/05/25

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

27) Goolagoon – Patrickviolence Demo

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Dickcrush – 2015/03/30

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

28) Cavernlight – Corporeal

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Self-released – 2015/04/07

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

29) Woundvac – Disgraced Convert

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Self-released – 2015/09/08

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

30) Cruciamentum – Charnel Passages

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Profound Lore Records – 2015/09/04

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

31) Alder Glade – Demo II

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Auris Apothecary – 2015/05/14

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

32) Boak – Boak

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Self-released – 2015/06/03

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

33) Hate Eternal – Infernus

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Season of Mist – 2015/08/21

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

34) Abstracter – Wound Empire

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Sentient Ruin Laboratories et al – 2015/02/10

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

35) Manhunt – Manhunt

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

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

36) Leucrota – Demo

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Sentient Ruin Laboratories – 2015/02/28

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

37) Unyielding Love – Demo 2015

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Self-released – 2015/09/29

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

38) Cloud Rat – Qliphoth

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Halo of Flies – 2015/05/29

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

39) Horrendous – Anareta

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Dark Descent Records – 2015/10/30

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

40) Carnero – Carnero

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Self-released – 2015/05/29

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

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

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Season of Mist – 2015/04/20

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

42) Serpents Lair – Circumambulating the Stillborn

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

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

43) Sunn O))) – Kannon

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Southern Lord – 2015/12/04

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

44) Krallice – Ygg Huur

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Gilead Media/Avantgarde Music – 2015/07/30

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

45) Lamb of God – VII: Sturm und Drang

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Nuclear Blast – 2015/07/24

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

46) Melechesh – Enki

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Nuclear Blast – 2015/02/27

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

47) Iron Maiden – Book of Souls

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Parlophone – 2015/09/04

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

48) Ironic Reversal – Dysgenic

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Self-released – 2015/10/15

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

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

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Prophecy Productions – 2015/02/27

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

50) Enforcer – From Beyond

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Nuclear Blast – 2015/02/27

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

October 2015 Review Round Up

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

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

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

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

Hit me up on Facebook.

Until next month.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 2015 Review Round Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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