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)

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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)