September 2015 Review Round Up

[insert editorial content]

That’s how it feels this month. Maybe if I had a broader focus than reviews, I’d have more to wax editorial about. But I like reviews. It keeps a hermit like myself engaged with the community.

The picks of the month, Motörhead’s Bad Magic and Goolagoon’s Patrickviolence Demo forced me to re-evaluate some core beliefs.

Motörhead will always be Motörhead. You know what you’re going to get. But Bad Magic proves that albums that stick to a well worn oeuvre can still demolish expectations, so long as the delivery is up to scratch.

I ordinarily have a not unjustified suspicion of gimmicks and a Spongebob themed anything that’s not actually Spongebob has no right to work. Again, the delivery is what matters. Goolagoon exemplify this. They could sell any idea with delivery that sharp.

Feel free to Facebook me. If you share my beloved vanity blog, tag me too. I like to keep up with publicity.

See everyone next month.

Album of the Month
Motörhead – Bad Magic
(Rock and Roll – United Kingdom)
UDR Music – 2015/08/28

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Bad Magic is a friendly reminder that Airheads, despite its flaws, got it right: Lemmy is God. Forty years of performance and Motörhead are still capable of releasing an album that blows you away. All bands long for this sort of longevity. Phil Campbell’s guitar work is nothing short of spectacular. And Mickey Dee owns the drum kit like a kid half his age. They rock and they roll and they bring the energy and they do it damn well.
Try before you buy: Fire Storm Hotel (YouTube)

Honourable Mention
Goolagoon – Patrickviolence Demo
(Powerviolence – United States of America)
Dickcrush – 2015/03/30

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If you’re going to a band with a gimmick, you better not be tiresome. If you’re a gimmick band in the grind/crust/pv family, you had best be fucking awesome. If your pv gimmick is based on Spongebob fucking Squarepants, you better be blowing my skin off with awesomeness. Boy howdy, do Goolagoon deliver on that. I sit here, flayed, wondering how a concept so stupid can pay off with such overwhelming satisfaction.
Try before you buy: Walking Small (Bandcamp)

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Blutbad – Abandonment
(Harsh noise – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/09/19

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So. That’s a harsh noise wall. Kind of unnerved that I don’t hate it. The unrelenting cascade of static is alienating and unnerving. It’s also oddly soothing. It creates the effect of listening to a comforting, repetitive noise, like a waterfall crashing. It’s relaxing, but after a while it sounds like someone is drowning in the endless stream of water. It gets discomforting once you start to hear it. Unsettling. Very much so.
Try before you buy: Ritual (Bandcamp)

Cavernlight – Corporeal
(Droning sludge – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/04/07

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Each listen draws you in more and more. 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. The first three tracks of droning sludge pave the way for the final, crushing track of true drone. Subsequent listens allow the listener to truly appreciate sophistication of this release. It’s intricate in its slowness.
Try before you buy: Upon the Threshold of Reason, Embracing Our Corporeal Forms (Bandcamp)

Concilium – Demo
(Occult doom – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/09/08

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I’m a huge fan of occult-flavoured doom, especially the sort that features a strong female vocal lead. Blood Ceremony and Jex Thoth are huge in my book. But even I have to admit that the field has been a little saturated of late. Concilium is a fine example of this. They have a damn fine singer; her vocals are as silky as Jex’s. But the music, while atmospheric, lacks the necessary power to hold interest. It’s regrettably dull.
Try before you buy: Tempest (Bandcamp)

Devoid – II
(Droning sludge – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/06/09

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The second low and slow release for the month, and it too is a damn fine example of drone metal. The sustains have Sunn O)))-esque malevolence and the distortion can easily ruin your equipment. It’s not afraid to up the tempo either, which makes for well-considered stylistic changes. There’s no doubt that II is at its finest at its slowest though. It manifests a palpable sense of dread and aguish with every tortured note.
Try before you buy: Excavation (Bandcamp)

Iron Maiden – Book of Souls
(Heavy metal – United Kingdom)
Parlophone – 2015/09/04

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It’s a testament to Iron Maiden’s obvious love for their craft that so shortly after Bruce’s run in with cancer, they put out their best album since Matter of Life and Death. Admittedly, the vocals do sound a little chemo affected still, but not in a way that’s an overall detriment. The decision to make a double album paid big dividends too. Never have Maiden songs had this much room to soar. Another classic.
Try before you buy: Speed of Light (YouTube)

Monolith – Legacy of the Opium Eater
(Death metal – South Africa)
Self-released – 2015/09/12

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Rumbling along, this ep is about as slow as death can get without being death doom. Ordinarily, this sort of deathly barage comes across like a plague of zombies; a slow, steady, relentless crush leading to an inevitability bloody end. Monolith tweak this a bit. It’s far from a mindless barrage; there are some evil smarts at work here. Instead of zombies, it’s more like wights. Possibly bodaks. Slow, but intelligent death at work.
Try before you buy: Seemingly False Fantasies (Bandcamp)

Mouth Breather – Mouth Breather
(Grindviolence – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/09/14

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Mouth Breather is one of those tough releases that definitely not mediocre, but it is still hard to get enthusiastic about. They do grindcore with an endearingly lunkheaded charm. And, despite the racket, it’s not a sloppy release. Every bark, every blast well considered. But it’s lacking something. It feels like they have held something back; as though the option to go to eleven was there, but ten suited them fine.
Try before you buy: Death Metal Hell (Bandcamp)

Nile – What Should Not Be Unearthed
(Brutal techdeath – United States of America)
Nuclear Blast – 2015/08/28

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Memory is a funny thing. Every time a new Nile album rolls around, I’ve done the mental gymnastics to convince myself I don’t like them. I waste a lot of time; time that could be better spent listening to Nile. I broke the cycle this time and jumped straight in. Even by their already high standards, Unearthed is monstrous. It strikes a perfect balance between technicality and brutality that every band in the genre should strive for.
Try before you buy: Call to Destruction (YouTube)

Sermos – (husk)
(Death metal – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/07/04

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Some death metal exists to wallow in misery. Some exists to ruthlessly molest frets. And some simply exists to be enjoyed. Sermos is definitely in the latter category. (husk) has a loose, faux-sloppy sound that is just a joy to listen to. It’s the sort of release that begs to be drunkenly headbanged to. It has some forays into guttural territory, which don’t work as well, but overall it’s a fine release that every death buff should get into.
Try before you buy: The End of Flesh (Bandcamp)

Slayer – Repentless
(Thrash – United States of America)
Nuclear Blast – 2015/09/11

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Definitely sounds like Slayer. Any concerns about the transition from Hanneman to Holt have been assuaged. I think the transition has had a positive effect. The songs have a depth that has been lacking from recent releases. It no longer sounds like a collection of solos loosely stitched together with melody. It’s a welcome reminder of why Slayer is one of metal’s most important acts.
Try before you buy: Repentless (YouTube)

Steel Chains – Demo 2015
(Post-punk – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/02/14

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I spent way too much time trying to fit this demo into a convenient genre. It’s post-punk. But it’s really upbeat. But it’s gloomy as hell. But. But. But. I eventually settled on the moniker, Tsunami Punk. It’s got the upbeat slacker sound of surf punk but it’s infused with a pervasive sense of imminent doom. I love having my expectations messed with. And I’m happy to find another post-punk band that is a joy to listen to.
Try before you buy: Hard to Follow (Bandcamp)

Verheerer – Archar
(Black metal – Germany)
Self-released – 2015/09/12

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This is a release for fans of Dissection, Watain, and Necrophobic. It’s firmly in the mould of melodic yet aggressive black metal made great by the aforementioned. Importantly, Verheerer’s take on majestic darkness is a hell of a racket. It allows a minor lack of originality to be completely forgiven and forgotten. It’s proof positive that operating in genre boundaries can work.
Try before you buy: Archar (Bandcamp)

Woundvac – Disgraced Convert
(Grindcore – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/09/08

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There’s nothing quite as satisfying as grindcore done well. The intrinsic violence played out in short, sharp bursts isn’t so much a thoughtful musical exercise as it is a raw emotional outburst. Woundvac is one of the bands that best exemplify this. Their songs see anger and disaffection collide in explosive blasts of discontent. It’s like they put the barest minimum of effort into control, allowing for an unhinged sound.
Try before you buy: Disgraced Convert (Bandcamp)

Zombie X Incest – The First Violent Step
(Powerviolence – Nepal)
Self-released – 2015/09/12

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This is raw. I’m left wondering whether it’s a limitation of the recording environment or a stylistic choice. Whatever the answer, the coarse grain sandpaperiness of their sound works to their advantage. It comes across like the band are right there next to you instead of in a studio/basement thousands of kilometres away. The in your face aggression is complemented by damn entertaining melodies too.
Try before you buy: How is punk dead when powerviolence is still alive? (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)

July 2015 Review Round Up

It’s happened. It’s finally happened. A demo has taken out “album” of the month. I can’t think of a more deserving band than Lxs Jugadxs. They are the band that reinvigorated my love of grind. No more hanging out for the occasional Napalm Death or Pig Destroyer album. Now I want it. I crave it. Thank you for the obsession. Muchas gracias por la obsesión.

I also need to give due respect to Abyssal. Antikatastaseis is a monster. To be fair, they’re not straight up death metal; there’s definitely black and doom in there too. But death metal needs to claim this. Stick a goddamn flag in it. It’s some of the evilest death metal to come out in years.

Enjoy and I’ll be back next month.

Album of the Month
Lxs Jugadxs – Demo 2015
(Grindcore – Argentina)
Self-released – 2015/07/21

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I’ve been a huge fan since I heard their 2013 demo, but everything they’ve done before pales in comparison to this. While remaining undeniably grind, there are strong influences from techdeath, melodeath, and thrash all the way through the four tracks. Wild and raucous, yet possessed of a controlled fury, Lxs Jugadxs make the contradictions work for them. No hyperbole – they are the best grind band in the world right now.
Try before you buy: La Nube Negra (Bandcamp)

Honourable Mention
Abyssal – Antikatastaseis
(Death metal – United Kingdom)
Profound Lore Records – 2015/06/23

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There are times when you find yourself reminded that black metal doesn’t have the monopoly on evil. Abyssal sound like nothing less than a worse version of Dante’s depiction of limbo. 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. It’s nightmarish beyond belief.
Try before you buy: A Casual Landscape (Bandcamp)

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Abominor – Opus: Decay
(Black metal – Iceland)
Invictus Productions/Vánagandr – 2015/03/26

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Two tracks of deep, involved black metal. Abominor are another band that take stylistic cues from Deathspell Omega and I was getting real close to dismissing them as derivative. But there are important differences that become evident as the release progresses. They embrace melody far more readily than their French compatriots. It’s still a challenging listen, but it feels slightly less like sandpaper on the soul.
Try before you buy: 474 (Bandcamp)

Anopheli – The Ache of Want
(Post-crust – United States of America)
Alerta Antifascista/Halo of Flies – 2015/07/02

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Anopheli continue to be the premier proponents of cello in punk. They also continue to insist on describing themselves as emo crust. But the label fits; the music on The Ache of Want is hard edged and gritty, but is born of an overwhelming sadness. The ineffable grief that permeates every note bleeds over into barely controlled anger. It’s a softer album than A Hunger Rarely Sated, but is no worse for it.
Try before you buy: Squanderer (Bandcamp)

Barghest – Into Weeping Firmament
(Black metal – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/07/03

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Barghest continue to make furious, hateful music for furious, hateful people. The three tracks are involved meditations on the bestial nature of man. Intensely violent and yet surprisingly contemplative, it’s insightful in a way that truly highlights the often dualistic nature of black metal. If you want some food for thought, this will sate your hunger; if you want to feed your beast, it will throw gamey carcasses.
Try before you buy: Neo-Promethean (Bandcamp)

Battle Hag – Battle Hag
(Doom metal – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/03/05

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This is a public service announcement, brought to you by Metalshopped. Tired drivers die. Thank you. I’m doing my civic duty because Battle Hag could have killed me, as it is some of the most soporific doom I have heard in a while. Doom requires more than just down-tuning, reverb, and low growls to be worthwhile. It’s lazy doom that only aims to check boxes. Bass lines can only carry a band so far.
Try before you buy: Never Turn Your Back on the Sea (Bandcamp)

Choking – Choking
(Blackened sludge metal – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/05/15

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True misanthropy takes total dedication. Any idiot can hate, but to take that primal, animalistic emotion and extend it to the entirety of humanity and the self requires a level of commitment few can sustain. Choking sustain it though. Seething contempt suffuses every note, every growl, every sustain. Choking is an apt name for the band, as every stanza tries to crush the life out of you.
Try before you buy: Labyrinthine (Bandcamp)

Epäihminen – Epäihminen IV
(Ambient black metal – Finland)
Self-released – 2015/07/17

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I almost dismissed this; the flat production values and the borderline stereotypical introduction lowered my expectations. But I’m glad I pushed through, as there is a depth to this release that left me aching. It’s like standing on a sunlit fen on a winter day, feeling almost uncomfortably cold, and contemplating mortality and the futility of existence. It serene in the bleakest way possible.
Try before you buy: Op. 24 (Bandcamp)

Haldol – Haldol
(Post-punk – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/05/22

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An interesting take on post-punk. It’s not without its faults, but overall it’s definitely worth your time. The vocalist doesn’t have the strongest of deliveries, but that doesn’t detract heavily from the experience. The release saves itself with its guitar work. There is an unsettling disorientation to the music that turns familiar gothic riffs into distorted refrains of discomfort. There’s a lot to like.
Try before you buy: Law of Indifference (Bandcamp)

Indesinence – III
(Doom metal – United Kingdom)
Profound Lore Records – 2015/07/21

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It’s an odd thing to say given that the majority of tracks come in around the ten minute mark, but this album doesn’t truly shine until it hits the even lengthier tracks near the end of the album. Indesinence’s take on doom, while undeniably oppressive, allows flickers of lights through. It’s like moonlight filtered through broken glass in a bombed out hellhole. This panorama is in sharpest relief in III’s longest form.
Try before you buy: Mountains Of Mind / Five Years Ahead (Of My Time) (Bandcamp)

Jesus Wept – Pit of Blasphemy
(Blackened Brutal Death – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/07/09

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Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde all over this release. At it’s best, it cherry-picked appropriate elements of black metal and used them to invigorate slamming brutality. At it’s worst it’s like the thing was recorded with djent sticks and clockwork toy drums. Even the vocals are on an extreme spectrum. Annunciation is key. Done properly, they’re articulate and sinister. Done badly, it’s a guttural recitation of vowels.
Try before you buy: A Pit of Blasphemy (Bandcamp)

Krvshr – Church Burner
(Sludge metal – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/05/25

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There must be something wrong with me. Hateful noise shouldn’t make me smile so much. It helps that it lands squarely between the good drugs for hard times vibe of High on Fire and the darkness of deep space blackness of Lord Mantis. It opens slow as pitch, but builds steadily to a mid-paced riff-fest and not in the stodgy, bland way. Each riff has the space to ooze. Nasty in a really satisfying way.
Try before you buy: Highlander (Bandcamp)

Kult of the Wizard – The White Wizard
(Doom metal – United States of America)
Reflections Records – 2015/03/13

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Bonged out doom firmly in the mould of Blood Ceremony. According to the band themselves, this is their first release with vocals. I’m glad they took their time, because she’s amazing. She has that sultry white soul quality; it makes you wonder why she isn’t singing about not going to rehab because of the son of a preacher man. She gives the otherwise standard doom the necessary lift to separate it from the masses.
Try before you buy: Black Moon (Bandcamp)

Lamb of God – VII: Sturm und Drang
(Groove metal – United States of America)
Nuclear Blast – 2015/07/24

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Lamb of God: the Garth Brooks of metal. Sure, they’re popular, but why? Didn’t understand the appeal for years. But their seventh album¹ makes me eat my words and my doubts. 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 that has made them Pantera’s spiritual successors.
Try before you buy: Overlord (YouTube)

Melechesh – Enki
(Blackened death metal – Israel)
Nuclear Blast – 2015/02/27

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How have I not listened to Melechesh before? It should have been a no-brainer given that to my ear they sound like an amalgamation of Absu and Rotting Christ. I love Enki. It wields fury and malice like a fanatic wielding a censer brimming with balefire. But it’s done with a level of nuance that turns a relentless assault into a cinematic portrayal of devotional violence. I can listen to it over and over.
Try before you buy: Multiple Truths (YouTube)

Padre Lobo – Padre Lobo
(Stoner sludge metal – Spain)
Self-released – 2015/07/17

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The first thing that stood out to me was just how much the vocalist, Lore, sounds like Jessicka from Jack Off Jill. I actually double checked to be completely sure she wasn’t. It’s uncanny and, more importantly, very appropriate. The riot grrrl by way of goth vocals belted out over the top of Orange Goblin proximate stoner jams works in a satisfying way. They could probably benefit from a whisper more variety, but damn this is fun.
Try before you buy: Lilith (Bandcamp)

Rebel Wizard – Negative Wizard Metal
(Blackened heavy metal – Australia)
Self-released – 2015/07/17

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First Peasant, and now Rebel Wizard. I’m coming across a few blackened heavy types at the moment. Rebel Wizard are pretty good too. They do lack the knock out punch that Peasant has, but that’s a slightly unfair criticism. The important thing is the riffs the rock are high energy and on the thrashy end of NWOBHM worship. They still retain the sinisterness that black metal requires. Blast it a kvlt gatherings.
Try before you buy: Heavy Negative Wizard Metal (Bandcamp)

A Secret Death – Epilogue
(Hardcore – Australia)
Monolith – 2015/06/25

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Good hardcore is a bit like religion; you hope and you pray for it, but a lot of the time it feels like nothing’s there. But then an album like Epilogue descends like an ecstatic vision. Nuanced aggression is interwoven with deft touches of gentle melody and passages of Dillinger-esque intensity. There is a level of sophistication here that is so very rare in the broader genre. It’s a bright light in an often dark place.
Try before you buy: Strong, Silent Type (Bandcamp)

Sigh – Graveward
(A little bit of everything – Japan)
Candlelight Records – 2015/05/04

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This may seem like a strange thing to say in a metal review, but this is a noisy album. Obviously it’s loud. I mean noisy in the sense that there is a lot going on. It’s confrontational in its creative scope. I still have a fondness for the album, but there’s no doubt I had to open myself up to it. Mirai is one of metal’s great composers; I don’t think anyone else could get this to work. Chaos is a tough thing to reign in.
Try before you buy: Out of the Grave (Bandcamp)

Symphony X – Underworld
(Progressive neoclassical metal – United States of America)
Nuclear Blast – 2015/07/24

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I get the feeling their time on Nuclear Blast hasn’t been the happiest, but Underworld gets it right. It maintains the heavier tone of their recent output, but is reinvigorated with the complicated fret work that made their earlier work so good. It’s lyrically sophisticated too; successfully synthesising classical mythology and mediaeval poetry into a cohesive whole. A long awaited and much appreciated return to form.
Try before you buy: Nevermore (YouTube)

Vanum – Realm of Sacrifice
(Black metal – United States of America)
Profound Lore Records – 2015/06/23

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Vanum have a real sense of organic flow on display with Realm of Sacrifice. And by organic flow, I mean every note is driven by what comes before and in turn pushes the rest of the album forward. It’s like blood coursing through your veins or synapses firing across the cerebellum. Experiencing an album like this is like having another key system in your body. It becomes a part of you and you need to let it do its thing.
Try before you buy: Convergence (Bandcamp)

Vishwanath – Portals to the Inanimate
(Progressive metal – India)
Self-released – 2015/02/18

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I really like this. So much could have gone wrong with a one man, self-released, progressive title. Especially since he openly discussed production problems on his Bandcamp page. But any negatives are quickly brushed aside by his excellent sense of melody. Effortlessly transitioning between heavy grooves and delicate movements is not a skill usually seen in prog part-timers. Thoroughly enjoyable.
Try before you buy: Perception (Bandcamp)

¹Burn the Priest never counts.

April 2015 Review Round Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 2015 Review Round Up

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

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

Feel free to Facebook me with comments or feedback.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 2015 Review Round Up

Happy March, everyone.

2015 is shaping up nicely already. Napalm Death’s new album is an absolute wrecking ball of an album. It has that effortless quality to it, as though the band were so confident in what they were doing that the album was always going to come out perfect.

There was a fair bit of competition for the honourable mention too, but I eventually settled on KharmA. Incendiary grind at its best, SubReal is sonic arson.

I have finally got around to setting up a Facebook page too. Drop by and give me a like. If you like.

Until April, enjoy.

Album of the Month
Napalm Death – Apex Predator – Easy Meat
(Grindcore – United Kingdom)
Century Media Records – 2015/01/27

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The Godfathers of grind are back with their fifteenth album. They’re not struggling for material either. Greenway’s vocals, sublimely harsh and expertly spat, are an intelligent examination of the relationship between consumerism and slavery. The music itself is a way more catchy than grindcore has any right being. 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.
Try before you buy: Metaphorically Screw You (YouTube)

Honourable Mention
KharmA – SubReal
(Death grind – Venezuela)
Self-released – 2015/02/06

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I’m a pretty chilled out sort of guy on a day to day basis. I don’t have great insight into revolutionary zeal. KharmA, on the other hand, are made of fiery conviction. Their uncompromising blend of grind and death angries up the blood like few releases I’ve heard recently. The brutal vocals and severe guitars assault the ear drums, with the blasting drums beating a death march for the speed addled. I’m impressed by how well they use music as a medium for rage.
Try before you buy: Obliterados (Bandcamp)

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Addaura – …And the Lamps Expire
(Black metal – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/01/19

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I probably shouldn’t have listened to this while feeling a bit bummed, as it turned a mild funk into a spiralling depression. Then again, every band should be seeking to make a genuine emotional impact on the listener, so in this regard, Addaura is a raging success. The two long-ish tracks (separated by a short interlude) hit the right combination of guitars, keyboards, and vocals to make a poignant listening experience. Stunningly harrowing.
Try before you buy: Amid the Tumult and Clamor (I Look for the Light Through the Pouring Rain.) (Bandcamp)

Annúlond – The Baker of Aljubarrota
(Blackened folk metal – Australia)
Self-released – 2015/02/17

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An Australian band who self-describe as viking metal doing an album about a figure from Portuguese folklore. Good to see another female folk figure getting some attention. A seven foot tall woman with six fingers on each hand and innate knack for killing is pretty metal. Surprised the good baker doesn’t get more attention to be honest. The music itself is on the dour end of folk, like someone sucked all the joy and energy out of Finntroll. An interesting diversion.
Try before you buy: Rise of Penthesilea (Bandcamp)

Antareth – The Mask of Truth
(Doom metal – Canada)
Self-released – 2015/02/12

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Didn’t have high hopes for Antareth. That cover art set off all sorts of alarms. Being described as avant-garde didn’t sit well either. Pointless weirdness played slow didn’t sound appealing. Happily, the Mask of Truth exceeded my expectations. It’s a little bit dull, but not nearly as excruciating as it could have been. The clean vocals need to be scrubbed from future recordings too. Yes, it’s dull, but it does at least manage to sound original. A small victory.
Try before you buy: The Pearly Road (Bandcamp)

Archgoat – The Apocalyptic Triumphator
(Black metal – Finland)
Debemur Morti Productions – 2015/01/27

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If you want a blueprint for straight to the point, straight for your throat black metal, you could do worse than following Archgoat’s lead. The Apocalyptic Triumphator is an anti-cosmic high mass, leading the profane in worship most blasphemous. It does this through one of the finest combinations of guitars, drums, and vocals in black metal today. They’re not particularly strong on innovation, but given the performance, they don’t need to be.
Try before you buy: Grand Luciferian Theophany (Bandcamp)

Cowards – Rise to Infamy
(Blackened sludge – France)
Throatruiner Records – 2015/02/09

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I feel slightly uneasy about the thought of hearing this live. The malice broadcast through these ten songs should whip a live audience into a dervish of hatred that would tear apart the venue. They strike a fine balance between the heft of sludge’s mighty riffs and black metal’s coruscating fury. Balancing these elements creates an atmosphere of primal anger that the band only just contained long enough to successfully put to wax. Scary stuff.
Try before you buy: Beyond My Hands (Bandcamp)

Death Engine – Mud
(Sludgey hardcore – France)
Throatruiner Records – 2015/03/02

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I love Throatruiner. The label make all their releases available for free download. Rest assured, I went back and purchased a copy of Mud. Death Engine’s speciality is harsh and unrelenting music. Sludgey hardcore doesn’t seem entirely appropriate as a descriptor, but it’s as close to a specific genre as I can get. The raw barks of the vocalist collide with the pitiless melodies in a jagged rhythmic battleground. It’s an exhilarating experience.
Try before you buy: Organs (Bandcamp)

Eall – Scents of a Wandering Ghost
(Atmospheric black metal – France)
Self-released – 2015/02/07

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I detect the fear of failure in this demo. There are some movements that have the potential to be truly spectacular, but they always pull up too short, leaving the listener feeling short-changed. It’s like the band doesn’t fully trust their skills, which would explain why they so readily slide back into the murk of generic Burzum worship. This intermingling of the awe-inspiring and the insipid leaves the demo sounding disjointed. It’s disappointing rather than bad.
Try before you buy: That Brought Shining Visions In A Cold Water Stream (Bandcamp)

Ethereal Shroud – They Became the Falling Ash
(Blackened doom metal – United Kingdom)
Grimoire Cassette Cvlture – 2015/02/21

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This is more grandiose than I expected. In many ways it is a union of miserable metal’s soul mates, dsbm and funeral doom. There’s not an once of doubt that the three long tracks are bleak, but there’s definitely something else to it. There’s a grandeur to it that would be equally appropriate for an epic doom act, were it not so depressing. It’s the guitar movements. There’s a sweep to them that allows the band to generate a dark energy to hammer home the misery.
Try before you buy: Look Upon the Light (Bandcamp)

Gomgoma – Medicine Apophthegms
(Doom metal – Greece)
Self-released – 2015/02/07

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It’s a bit of a dog’s breakfast. The vocalist would be better served in a funeral doom act, rather than this somewhat sludgey affair. The drummer is wasted here; easily an A+ performer in a C band. Lays down a triumphant beat that gives the songs at least some semblance of energy. The guitar work is a buzzkill; there’s not a lot to enjoy here. They either need to be slower to pack some wallop or faster to build some energy. Tempo limbo is a killer.
Try before you buy: Asstray (Bandcamp)

Karmageddon – Preborn
(Southern metal – Hungary)
Self-released – 2015/02/08

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Southern metal: typically a term used by bands who owe so much to Dimebag and Vinnie Paul, they might as well drop a sack of royalties off directly at the House of Abbott. Karmageddon don’t exactly distance themselves from this assessment. They’re pretty hard to hate though. The vocals aren’t brilliant, but the rest of the music has an infectious energy to it that you can’t help but enjoy. They’ll never be critical darlings, but they are good, solid fun.
Try before you buy: Faith in Me (Bandcamp)

Marduk – Frontschwein
(Black metal – Sweden)
Century Media Records – 2015/01/19

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This is a punch in the face with black metal. The military theme is well executed, turning the album into a mighty blitzkrieg. I think what appeals to me more is that Frontschwein manages to arrest the Funeral Mist-ification that Marduk was undergoing. I love Mortuus’ other band, but I got into Marduk with Panzer Division Marduk. I’m all about the war themes and the militaristic rhythms, which this album delivers on in a big way. Brutal and hellish.
Try before you buy: Afrika (YouTube)

Misþyrming – Söngvar elds og óreiðu
(Black metal – Iceland)
Fallen Empire Records – 2015/02/07

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This is a fine addition to world of intellectual black metal. It sounds like it belongs to the wonderfully fruitful French scene that spawned Deathspell Omega and Arkhon Infaustus. Rhythm and melody are tortured into twisted abominations. The vocals, while mostly harshly intoned venom, have a range not commonly seen in this particular neck of the blackened woods. It’s an album that revels in bleak inhumanity. As monstrous and unforgiving as hell.
Try before you buy: Friðþæging blýþungra hjartna (Bandcamp)

Mortum – Ascending Calamity
(Black metal – United States of America)
Vanguard Productions – 2015/02/14

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Mortum, we need to talk. It’s about your intentions. Do you plan on remaining an underground act, only heard by the trve and the occasional falsey (such as myself) who stumbles upon you? Or do you want to be bigger and have wider exposure? I hope it’s the later, because your talent is wasted on basement recordings. I’m very grateful to Vanguard. They did put this out for you and I heard it as a result. But you have talent that deserves to be heard above tape hiss.
Try before you buy: Scourge of Suffering (Bandcamp)

Rusco – Demo 2015
(Grindcore – Italy)
Self-released – 2015/02/22

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As relentless and destructive as an archetypal slasher film villain, Rusco’s demo doesn’t mess about. There isn’t even the illusion of respite during the ten tracks on offer. Bass heavy and jammed to overflowing with blastbeats, they still manage to make each song stand out on its own; they have succeeded in cultivating relentlessness without falling into the trap of monotony. It’s also good to hear organ-gargling vocals outside of goregrind.
Try before you buy: Cloaca (Bandcamp

Seventh Dimension – Recognition
(Progressive metal – Sweden)
Self-released – 2015/02/13

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An entertaining effort from Seventh Dimension. They’re out on the power metal end of prog’s spectrum, so expect something closer to Symphony X, albeit without their panache, than Dream Theater. It maintains an upbeat pace and avoids self-indulgence. It’s crowd pleasing. The cynic in me thinks they have a specific label they’re trying to woo, but that shouldn’t take away from the fact that they have produced an album geared up for broad appeal.
Try before you buy: Third Eye (Bandcamp)

Sumac – The Deal
(Post-metal – United States of America)
Profound Lore Records – 2015/02/17

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Aaron Turner’s latest musical venture, in collaboration with Nick Yacyshyn and Brian Cook, sees him once again venturing into the realms of post-metal. It’s an impressive release. The Deal comes across like Jovian gossamer; delicately crafted but astronomically heavy. It’s so heavy it forms its own gravitational pull, keeping the listener drawn in until the final note fades. But it’s effortless in its heavyness, allowing the listener to bear the full brunt of its atmosphere.
Try before you buy: Hollow King (Bandcamp)

January 2015 Review Round Up

A new year and some changes with it. Looking over my Best Of for 2014, I realised that there weren’t many surprises because of how I structured my monthly reviews. Too many Honourable Mentions gave the game away. So from here on, one Album of the Month and one Honourable Mention.

I’ve also changed my tag cloud. Thought it would be a good idea to add some extra details. Probably still not perfect, but I like it.

On to the music, I was originally planning to give the Album of the Month to a January release, but Primordial killed that notion. Spectacular is an understatement. Had I followed through with my original intention, Marilyn Manson’s new album would have got the nod. He’s been in the wilderness quality-wise for a while, but he finally pulled himself together.

Enjoy.

Album of the Month
Primordial – Where Greater Men Have Fallen
(Blackened Celtic metal – Ireland)
Metal Blade Records – 2014/11/25

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Are Nemtheanga’s vocals some of the most powerful in metal? In terms of emotional content and raw volume, absolutely. He serves up a real tour de force on Where Greater Men Have Fallen. Fortunately, the rest of the band don’t just back him up; they shine brighter than the vast bulk of their contemporaries. Few bands can do what Primordial do; fewer still could match this effort. Frankly, I’m surprised they pulled it off do spectacularly too.
Try before you buy: Ghosts of the Charnel House (YouTube)

Honourable Mentions
Marilyn Manson – The Pale Emperor
(Gothic electric blues – United States of America)
Hell, etc – 2014/01/19

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I was hoping Manson had one last fantastic album in him. Born Villain gave me hope, even if it didn’t quite deliver. The Pale Emperor justifies my hope. It’s a very different album for him, which isn’t a bad thing. It’s the work of a man looking back at his legacy and taking stock of all his missed opportunities and regrets. Bitterness and isolation are recurring themes and are delivered with an achingly soulful approach. It’s a welcome return to form.
Try before you buy: Mephistopheles of Los Angeles (YouTube)

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Anaal Nathrakh – Desideratum
(Grinding industrial blackness – United Kingdom)
Metal Blade Records – 2014/10/24

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I was worried that Anaal Nathrakh had hit peak misanthropy with Hell is Empty. Black Widow had its moments and Passion was lucklustre. Vanitas was an improvement, but that’s like saying Death Magnetic is better than St Anger; it’s true, but it’s a low bar. Desideratum is a welcome return to form. It’s the sound of trying to wash flaming acid off your face with frozen lye. It burns in ways unimaginable. It’s pure sonic masochism done properly.
Try before you buy: The One Needful Thing (YouTube)

Ancient VVisdom – Sacrificial
(Occult rock – United States of America)
Magic Bullet Records – 2014/10/28

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I was hoping for a return to form from these occult crooners. Their previous album sounded like a compilation of shitty b-sides. But this is a roaring comeback. I mean that literally too, as this is a much heavier release. It’s almost a metal album. Almost. It works though. It enables the band to set a suitably dark tone to compliment the anti-cosmic lyrics. It sounds fantastic and feels like you are having your own damnation broadcast directly to you.
Try before you buy: I Am Your Sacrifice (Bandcamp)

Blut Aus Nord – Memoria Vetusta III: Saturnian Poetry
(Atmospheric black metal – France)
Debemur Morti Productions – 2014/10/10

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Blut Aus Nord have that special knack for taking archetypal black metal and tweaking it into something unique. Feels weird about saying that about the third album in a series, but it’s true. And of the Memoria Vetusta series, Saturnian Poetry is the one I’m most likely to return to. It’s an album that, knowing it already speaks to the other, seeks to engage rather than alienate. This gives the album an appropriately poetic touch and an air of sophistication.
Try before you buy: Forhist (Bandcamp)

Caïna – Setter of Unseen Snares
(Black metal – United Kingdom)
Broken Limbs Recordings – 2015/01/20

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Thank you, internecine scene politics; I had forgotten about Caïna. Frankly, I’m not entirely sure if they’re worth the fuss, as regardless of where they sit on the ideological spectrum, they sound like just another black metal act. The punk-esque drumming is a nice touch, and the closer, Orphan, is monstrous, so there are some things that separate Setter of Unseen Snares from the pack. It doesn’t change the fact that it doesn’t push far enough to distinguish itself.
Try before you buy: I am the Flail of the Lord (Bandcamp)

The Datsuns – Deep Sleep
(Garage rock – New Zealand)
Hellsquad Records – 2014/10/03

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The Datsuns are a rock band that keep me engaged with the genre and it’s criminal that my collection doesn’t have more of them. Deep Sleep helps redress that. Glad to get it too. It’s less frenetic than their, frankly, fantastic self-titled album, but it’s much more finely balanced; the sort of album that when it slows down, it doesn’t fall off the rails. Truth be told, the slower tracks are where it’s at. The fast tracks jab away, but the slow ones lay you out like a haymaker.
Try before you buy: Bad Taste (YouTube)

DawnRazor – Deus Ex Machina
(Death metal – United Kingdom)
Self-released – 2015/01/05

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Deus Ex Machina has smatterings of promise, but it’s a pretty dull effort overall. There are some catchy melodies and some memorable vocal work, but the pickings are slim. As the album rolls on, it becomes more and more of a chore as the songs all merge into one slightly chuggy snorefest. Oddly enough, I don’t thoroughly hate it. The opening few tracks do hold my attention. I can see why some folk would like it. But it wears out its charm.
Try before you buy: Ego Echo (Bandcamp)

The Grudge – Fortress Sessions
(Sludge metal – United Kingdom)
Self-released – 2015/01/05

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Okay, I get it, you guys really like Down. That infatuation creates a big problem, as Down really like Black Sabbath, so we’re way down the recycled riff rabbit hole here. Familiarity breeds contempt is an old saying for a reason. It also doesn’t help that the vocalist sounds like a Muppet Show version of Phil Anselmo. ‘Felt Anselmo’ may be appropriate for The Electric Mayhem, but it’s a distraction here. It’s a shame because there’s some potential buried in there.
Try before you buy: Rise of the Death Rates (Bandcamp)

Old Man Gloom – The Ape of God
(Sludge metal – United States of America)
Profound Lore Records – 2014/11/11

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I had to get in the right frame of mind for this. Listening to it while lying on the couch watching sport left me thinking, “It’s good, but so what?” Change of scenery and energy levels. Started doing yard work. Got the blood pumping. Then I got it. This is a visceral album. It’s not blood and guts like death metal, nor is fire and fury like black metal. It’s deeper than that. There’s a primalness to it that can’t be enjoyed passively. Turn it on and work up a sweat.
Try before you buy: Shoulder Meat (Bandcamp)

Old Man Gloom – The Ape of God
(Sludge metal – United States of America)
Profound Lore Records – 2014/11/11

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This is the superior of the Apes of God. The four long tracks hammer home with expertly delivered sludginess, but what really sets it apart is the incorporation of finely nuanced ambient noise. They’re not mere interludes; they are critical elements to each song, deftly crafting mood that wouldn’t otherwise be possible. There is a certain dark majesty at work here. Much like a mad emperor, it effortlessly commands you, but you cannot be at ease.
Try before you buy: Arrows to Our Hearts (Bandcamp)

Voices – London
(Blackened death metal – United Kingdom)
Candlelight Records – 2014/11/17

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I miss Akercocke. Seriously, Voices does nothing for me. In their effort to distinguish themselves from their predecessor, they seem to have stripped out all the passion and replaced it with faintly gothic melodrama. It’s a shame, as opening track, Suicide Note, demonstrated some genuine sophistication. But it quickly descends into a half-hearted display of disjointed rhythms and inconsistent vocals. It’s not for me at all.
Try before you buy: Vicarious Lover (Bandcamp)