August 2018 Review Round Up

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

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

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

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

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

Album of the Month

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

image

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

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

image

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

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

image

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

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

image

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

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

image

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

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

image

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

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

image

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

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

image

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

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

image

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

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

image

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

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

image

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

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

image

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

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

image

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

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

image

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

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

image

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

Advertisements

July 2018 Review Round Up

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

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

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

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

As always, you can reach me on Facebook.

Enjoy August

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

image

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

The Rest in Alphabetical Order

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

image

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

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

image

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

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

image

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

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

image

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

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

image

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

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

image

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

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

image

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

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

image

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

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

image

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

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

image

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

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

image

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

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

image

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

May 2018 Review Round Up

Hoo boy, June kind of just appeared, didn’t it? Was still hammering out a review or two in the wee hours of publishing day morn. It was a pretty easy month to get distracted by though.

I started the month by travelling to see Ihsahn. As far as I’m concerned he’s one of the great icons of metal and it showed in his live performance. Credit too goes to Direct Touring for matching him up with some great support. Mar Mortuum were frosty and aggressive like black metal should be. The ludicrously good Ylva gave me vertigo through sheer heaviness. And Hybrid Nightmares were so over the top it was pretty well impossible to not enjoy them. But the man himself put them all to shame. Cracking night out.

On that topic of Ihsahn, Àmr is my album of the month. I expect high quality from him. We all should by now. But this is a step beyond. It’s probably the finest album in his catalogue. I’m sure some Emperor purists will disagree, but they should know they’re wrong.

Shout outs go to Altarage and Woundvac for some kick ass merch. Always appreciated when bands do merch in big guy sizes.

I’ll be back next month. As usual, if you have comments or critique, you can hit me up on Facebook.

Enjoy

Album of the Month
Ihsahn – Àmr
(Progressive Metal – Norway)
Candlelight – 2018/05/04

image

If you only have one Ihsahn album in your collection, make sure it’s Àmr. It takes all the good things from his previous solo works and distils them down to nine tracks of perfection. It’s technically superb, emotionally vivid, and memorable in a way that defies expectation. From its opening moments I haven’t wanted to listen to anything else. It has completely dominated this month.

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Amorphis – Queen of Time
(Progressive Metal – Finland)
Nuclear Blast – 2018/05/18

image

This is all over the place. I can’t remember another album quite like it to be honest. It has some songs that are contenders for track of the year. It also has a couple of appalling tracks that you just can’t listen to. The production values are universally top notch, so this is all about stylistic choices. And I just can’t fathom how it all came together.

Blood Tsunami – Grave Condition
(Thrash – Norway)
Soulseller Records – 2018/04/27

image

Kudos to these mad thrashers. This started life as a four track ep, which they then bulked out with some unreleased material. But for Dungeon of the Rats (originally from For Faen!), I wouldn’t have noticed. It’s real impressive that it sounds so cohesive. Better than cohesive, it’s high quality and entertaining as hell. Quality musicianship from all involved.

Depravity – Evil Upheaval
(Death Metal – Australia)
Transcending Obscurity Records – 2018/04/30

image

The toughest albums to review aren’t the great nor the grating. They’re the merely good. And that’s what Evil Upheaval is. Heavy without being crushing. Fast without being blistering. Entertaining without being memorable. And that’s the key point; if you like death metal, you will definitely like this, but don’t expect it to linger in your consciousness.

Drudkh – Їм часто сниться капіж (They Often See Dreams About the Spring)
(Black Metal – Ukraine)
Season of Mist – 2018/03/09

image

Following up the terrific A Furrow Cut Short was going to be a tall order, but They Often See Dreams is a resounding success. Invigorated and pissed off, Drudkh’s signature invocation of misery has never sounded so vital. A dark undercurrent of furious energy drives this, never allowing it to settle. The Drudkh renaissance continues.

Ekranoplan – Hypnopædia
(Sludge Metal with a dash of Grind – Germany)
Narshardaa Records – 2018/01/30

image

I remember Ekranoplan’s demo being much more of an Entombedcore affair, so this progression was a surprise. While there is still a mighty fistful of HM2 going on, the sound has been built on and enriched by adding aggressive, pounding, High on Fire-esque sludge. It’s not straight up mean; it’s complex layers of mean.

Mesarthim – The Density Parameter
(Black Metal – Australia)
Avantgarde Music – 2018/04/03

image

Mesarthim want you to know that if you stare into the void, the void will never stare back. The void does not care that you exist. There is nothing out there but a vast frozen emptiness, occasionally lit by beautiful clouds of radiation capable of flaying flesh from bone and burning bone to ash. Existence is a perilous, bleak, and futile endeavour.

夢遊病者 (Muyūbyō-sha – Sleepwalker) – 一期一会 (Ichi-go ichi-e – For this time only, never again)
(Avantgarde Black Metal – Japan)
Sentient Ruin Laboratories – 2018/05/25

image

I have quietly anticipated this album since it was announced. It just seemed so intriguing. It delivered on that promise. It mesmerises as it slowly unveils its many secrets. Such esoteric bleakness really shouldn’t sound this welcoming and warm. And, yet, it’s distant and almost unknowable. This is deliberate, challenging, masterful.

Petrification – Hollow of the Void
(Death Metal – United States of America)
Sentient Ruin Laboratories – 2018/04/23

image

I could have been harsh and just written “See review of Depraved – Evil Upheaval”, but that would have doing them an unkindness. What we have here is an album that gives the listener the most tantalising hint of what a live experience would be. It’s evocative of headbanging front rows, circle pits, and windmilling hair. Definitely would see this live.

Serum Dreg – Lustful Vengeance
(Black metal – United States of America)
Vrasubatlat – 2018/04/20

image

There’s something about this merciless slab of blackened nastiness that really makes me think of Nachtmystium at their finest. Aside from that being high praise, it comes with the added benefit of being Blake free. It’s more than just aggressive; it has a pervasive, creeping dread that gives it a febrile touch of madness. Sinister at all levels.

Thou – The House Primordial
(Drone Doom – United States of America)
Robotic Empire – 2018/05/01

image

Ethereal and beguiling. Bleak and distressing. Horrific and vile. The House Primordial is all these things at once. It creates a maliciously pressurised sonic landscape so catastrophically heavy that light (joy, hope…) struggle to escape it. Thou specialise in these nightmares, but everything on display here still sounds as novel as the freshest hell.

Turbonegro – RockNRoll Machine
(Deathpunk – Norway)
Mercury Records – 2018/02/02

image

Something got under the skin of the band in the years between Sexual Harassment and this. Deliberate throwbacks and obvious homages to other rock greats are delivered with their characteristic shit eating grin. It’s like their saying “Didn’t like what we did last time? Want us to only do things how you like it? Fine. RockNRoll Machine beep boop.” And yet, it’s still pretty damn good.

Woundvac – Terrorizing the Swarm
(Grindcore – United States of America)
Self-Released – 2018/05/04

image

Listening to this, you might be tricked into thinking that Phoenix, Arizona is some sort of frozen wasteland. Why else would Woundvac need to bring this level of blistering heat? Believe me; this is an absolute scorcher and it rendered me slightly insensible for a bit. So much so that I temporarily forgot the US has other grind acts. It’s that good.

April 2018 Review Round Up

Happy May! Here’s what I listened to in April. And, as a heads up, it was a pretty fantastic month.

To start of with, you have Panopticon’s latest album. It’s hard to imagine a blackened folk album being this good. And, as much as I like Panopticon, I didn’t expect it from them.

But the real winner this month was death metal. Every release is a highlight, but each in a different way. Couldn’t believe my luck.

I saw Revocation again last month too. Holy crap. Just holy crap. I’ve seen them three times and each time they have blown the stage away. See them if you get the chance.

Aa usual, you can hit me up on Facebook. If you share the blog, do me favour and tag the page. I love to know this sort of stuff.

Album of the Month

Panopticon – The Scars of Man on the Once Nameless Wilderness (I and II)
(Blackened Folk Metal – United States of America)
Bindrune/Nordvis – 2018/04/08

image

This double album, half their signature blackgrass sound; half true folk, is hands down the best thing Panopticon have ever produced. The blend of oddly uplifting, empowering black metal and bleak, soulful folk allows the band to truly explore the full breadth of their talent. It goes places I didn’t think they could reach. Absolutely astounding.

The Rest on Alphabetical Order
Alucinari – Alucinari
(Deathviolence – United States of America)
Night Animal Records – 2018/04/05

image

Whew, this is some aggressive stuff. The combination of death metal’s pummelling relentlessness with the bombastic hyperactivity of powerviolence creates one hell of an assault on the ears. It blasts through at an energy level that makes you worry about them burning up. This complete disregard for sonic welfare is a pretty glorious thing to behold.

Deadly Carnage – Through the Void, Above the Suns
(Blackened Doom Metal – Italy)
Aeternitas Tenebrarum Musicae Fundamentum – 2018/03/30

image

Track 1 is a pretty stock intro. Track 2 is painfully beige. It beiges to the point of turning off. Track 3 onwards is solid gold. I ordinarily wouldn’t break an album down so crassly, but it’s necessary this time. The bulk of the album juggles and blends black metal, doom, and shoegaze in such a beautiful way that it would be criminal to write it off prematurely because of the initial blandness.

Hide – Castration Anxiety
(Industrial – United States of America)
Dais Records – 2018/03/23

image

I may not be hugely knowledgeable when it comes to industrial, but Castration Anxiety really speaks to me. It seethes in a way that builds tension but rarely releases it. It’s one of those rare albums that is at its best when taken as a cohesive whole. Individual tracks are fantastic in their own right, but the tension dynamics make the entirety the goal.

Impure – Satan’s Eclipse Demo MMXVII
(Death Metal – United States of America)
Self-Released – 2018/01/12

image

The lack of polish that is the almost inevitable result of demo production can definitely be turned to an advantage, if used properly. Impure certainly have. They’ve taken recording conditions that might make other bands sound muddy, and have turned out this fantastically cavernous, cadaverous sound. It’s a murky, ominous gem.

Indica – Disparity of a Day
(Stoner Doom Metal – Australia)
Self-Released – 2018/04/20

image

Hands up who can guess what an album, released by Indica on 4/20, might sound like? If you said “fuzzed out, heavy as hell stoner doom”, you’d get a C+. To get the A, you’d have to talk about how in amongst the heaviness, there is a carefully woven thread of psychedelic light, which ensures a compositional sophistication. It’s much more than bong rips and fat riffs.

Of Feather and Bone – Beastial Hymns of Perversion
(Bestial Death Metal – United States of America)
Profound Lore – 2018/03/23

image

If bestial death metal isn’t a subgenre, it bloody well should be. Bestial Hymns of Perversion can’t truly be called brutal death, but it’s way too aggressive and abrasive to be considered old school. The genre musings are important here because Of Feather of Bone have produced a truly standout album and it deserves to have its place in history immortalised properly.

Ripped to Shreds – 埋葬 (Máizàng – “Bury”)
(Death Metal – United States of America)
Craneo Negro Records – 2018/03/27

image

Solo projects provide an artist the opportunity for singularity of vision; in Andrew Lee’s case, this vision is a thundering beast of an old school death metal album. Listening to it made me think of what would have happened Bolt Thrower got together with Scream Bloody Gore era-Death, except with a background in East Asian history. Unbelievably impressive.

Skeletal Remains – Devouring Mortality
(Death Metal – United States of America)
Dark Descent/Century Media – 2018/04/13

image

This is an irresistibly fine album. It does more than just tick all of death metal’s boxes; it attacks them in such a way that makes all that was old new again. I haven’t heard anything in this genre sound so fresh in a long time. It makes me feel like I’m windmilling with luxurious waist length hair, even if I’m just gently headbanging while driving.

Vile Creature – Cast of Static and Smoke
(Doom Metal – Canada)
Self-Released – 2018/03/07

image

Deeply atmospheric, this album is as entertaining as it is flawed. It’s lyrical themes are a tad mawkish, the guitar work leans simplistic, and there are some awkward momentum killers. But it’s engaging in spite of these factors. I can go from start to finish without wanting to skip bits. There’s no hate listening here. It’s not great but it’s far from terrible.

January 2018 Review Round Up

A quietish start to the new year, but a strong one nonetheless. Feels good to have a month where every release feels like it will hold its own in the coming months.

I’m still tinkering with my formats now that I’m back. I’m doing away with the honourable mentions. I think just having the Album of the Month is sufficient.

Speaking of the Album of the Month, Shining’s new album is amazing. It was the first album I listened to this year and it’s already a firm contender for Album of the Year. Kvarforth is still the high priest of self-destruction as a form of worship, but Varg Utan Flock is an album apart.

Album of the Month
Shining – X: Varg Utan Flock
(Progressive Black Metal – Sweden)
Season of Mist – 2018/01/05

image

I thought I knew what to expect from a Shining album. Invitingly bleak black metal is typically what’s on offer. And that might describe this, if you were willing to thoroughly undersell this album. The level of sophistication in the songwriting feels like a quantum leap from what came before. It’s still a Shining album, but it’s the absolute pinnacle of their self-destructive craft.

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Afgrund – The Dystopian
(Grindcore – Sweden/Finland)
Self-Released – 2018/01/05

image

As a grindcore act, a sure way to my heart is to evoke Rotten Sound. Afgrund do that in spades on The Dystopian. They absolutely nail that heaviest possible grind without being deathgrind cacophony and pair it roiling fury vocals. It wants for a truly great track to stand out; a very good album could be great that way. Grindcore gets a belter to kick off 2018.

Agrimonia – Awaken
(Post-Sludge – Sweden)
Southern Lord Recordings – 2018/01/26

image

The successful juxtaposition of post-metal’s contemplative tendencies with sludge’s swampy punkishness is something Agrimonia achieve with aplomb. The outcome is something probably best described as soothing anger. I found myself relaxing totally, which is an odd thing to say about an album that fires me up like a jet lighter.

HFMFM – Trapped
(HM2 Powerviolence – Australia)
Self-Released – 2018/01/08

image

Few things are as satisfying as a demo that makes serious statement of intent. HFMFM’s intent seems to be landing as many blows as they can in the shortest amount of time. Trapped is thuggish, hostile, and otherwise straight up mean. It’s bruising flurry that puts the violence front and centre in the powerviolence. Puts the heart rate up just thinking about it.

Krvshr – Night Terrors
(Sludge Metal – United States of America)
Self-Released – 2018/01/05

image

Bass heavy, aggressive sludge firmly in the mould of High On Fire or early Mastodon, but with a distinctly punk edge to it. And, like those other aforementioned bands, Krvshr brings a hell of a lot of good times to the table. Not necessarily happy music, but you will have a great time listening to it. It delivers catchy tunes with a snarl and clenched fist.

Sulphur Seas – Suzanne
(Black Metal – Spain)
Self-Released – 2018/01/09

image

In a month with some big name black metal releases, I found myself consistently drawn back to Suzanne. Modelled exclusively in mould of French black metal, there is stylistic esotericism that adds long shadows to the fires lit by their fury. It remains a consistently engaging album; the sort of album that reveals something new with each listen.

Albums of the Year 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

image

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

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

image

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

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

image

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

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

image

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

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

image

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

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

image

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

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

image

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

image

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

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

image

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

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

image

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

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

image

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

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

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

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

image

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

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

image

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

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

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

image

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

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

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

August 2016 Review Round Up

August has been one of those months that make me question whether or not I should keep going. So much top quality music passed through my ears that I found it difficult to say a bad thing. Even the album I’m most critical of is, in all honesty, pretty good.

Am I too soft? Possibly.

Or it could just be that August was one of those lucky months that came without a dud.

Altarage shone the brightest over all the other gems this month. Bit of an ironic description; they are a bleak experience. But within their withering contempt lies a brilliant stroke of death metal genius.

Grave Miasma gets the nod for honourable mention. Any other month would see them at the top of the tree. Their latest ep is a death metal masterclass.

I’m still active on Facebook, so feel free to get in touch.

Until September, enjoy.

Album of the Month
Altarage – Nihl
(Blackened death metal – Spain)
Sentient Ruin Laboratories/Doomentia Records/Iron Bonehead Productions – 2016/02/26

Dear GOD, that’s an aggressive album. Damn. But more than that, it’s an invigorating album. It’s an album that makes the genre sound vital and new in every way. It’s horrifying. It’s malevolent. Its every note and growl are invocations to indulge in all of humanity’s worst. Captivating in its darkness, Nihl doesn’t let up. Not for one second.
Try before you buy: Vortex Pyramid (Bandcamp)

Honourable Mention
Grave Miasma – Endless Pilgrimage
(Death metal – United Kingdom)
Profound Lore Records/Sepulchral Voice Records – 2016/05/06

I missed Grave Miasma on their last spin through critical country. I’m guessing that was a mistake, as this EP is exactly what death metal should sound like. It is a paragon of death metal, if you will. It absolutely, and perfectly, nails the balance between blistering fury and sinister malice that the genre was built upon.
Try before you buy: Utterance of the Foulest Spirit (Bandcamp)

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Atrament – Eternal Downfall
(Blackened death crust – United States of America)
Sentient Ruin Laboratories – 2016/03/04

A swirling cacophony of bleakness, Eternal Downfall puts it all out there and all it is is horror. The raw spit and venom of crust turns the blackened death metal into a nightmarish amalgamation of cult and gangland initiations. A flurry of fists and feet pummelling you while thick, noisome incense chokes you.
Try before you buy: Rotting Twilight (Bandcamp)

Karcavul – Intersaone
(Blackened sludge – France)
Sentient Ruin Laboratories – 2016/07/01

Sometimes muddy production aids an album. That is definitely the case here. Karcavul’s take on sludge is venomous in the extreme and the ‘recorded in a sewer’ vibe they have going on here only serves to highlight this. Torrid, toxic, and downright sinister, Intersaone is a reminder that metal often hates you.
Try before you buy: Mangepierres (Bandcamp)

Katatonia – The Fall of Hearts
(Depressive rock – Sweden)
Peaceville Records – 2016/05/20

This is what a band embracing their maturity sounds like. The music is always finely balanced between melancholic and bleak. This is further complemented by vocals that are somehow achingly delicate and powerfully desperate. It certainly has its tonally heavy moments, but it is the thematic heaviness that leaves the biggest mark.
Try before you buy: Old Heart Falls (YouTube)

Leather Glove – Skin on Glass
(Crusty death metal – United States of America)
Sentient Ruin Laboratories – 2016/05/05

Always good to listen to death metal that doesn’t sacrifice entertainment in the name of brutality or technicality. Make no mistake, this is aggressive, but the crust influence gives it a degree of punk swagger. Over the course of the three tracks, this demo brings death metal down to the gutter and lets the dirty rock rhythms reign.
Try before you buy: Skin on Glass (Bandcamp)

Mesarthim – .- -… … . -. -.-. .
(Atmospheric black metal – Australia)
Self-released – 2016/08/28

Points awarded straight away for being an atmospheric black metal act that looks beyond the sylvan and verdant. Looking to the broader cosmos is a theme I feel is surprisingly underused in black metal. This album takes mankind’s insignificance in the universe and twists it into knots of futility and rage.
Try before you buy: …– (Bandcamp)

מזמור — Yodh
(Blackened doom metal – United States of America)
Gilead Media – 2016/08/12

Did you ever get the feeling something was going to be brilliant before experiencing it? You try to manage your expectations and keep your hopes in check. Most of the time you will be let down. Not the case with מזמור, aka Mizmor. Harrowing and mournful, Yodh is a death rattle amplified and distorted
Try before you buy: iii. The Serpent Eats Its Tail (Bandcamp)

Psalm Zero – Stranger to Violence
(Metallic post-punk – United States of America)
Profound Lore Records – 2016/06/15

Some solid love for Killing Joke is on display here. I don’t mean to make them sound derivative, as they’re not. It’s more that they push the limits of post-punk far out into the murky waters of metal. It’s a hypnotic affair; swirling synths and meticulous guitar work produce an album furious in its deliberation.
Try before you buy: White Psyche (Bandcamp)

Revocation – Great is Our Sin
(Death thrash – United States of America)
Metal Blade Records – 2016/07/22

I first got into Revocation with their titanic release, Chaos of Forms. It’s a beast of an album. Great is Our Sin is easily its equal. Probably its superior, once I excise the nostalgia. Its speed and heaviness are rounded out by flourishes of technicality. It’s instantly accessible and deeply complicated.
Try before you buy: Only the Spineless Survive (Bandcamp)

Ritual Chamber – Obscurations (To Feast On The Seraphim)
(Death metal – United States of America)
Profound Lore Records – 2016/02/26

The curse of being merely good made manifest. Everything about Obscurations is on point. The riffs sound like Satan blowing off steam. The rhythms are relentless. The growls are low and guttural invocations of damnation. And, yet, for all this positivity, it’s not memorable. Definitely for genre fans, but it’s charm is ephemeral.
Try before you buy: Beings of Entropy (Bandcamp)