Albums of the Decade 2010-2019, Part 2 (70-41)

Welcome to part 2 of 4 of the Best Albums of the Decade. Part 1 may have been a bit eclectic, but part 2 veers gleefully into the false at times. Every albums belongs here though.

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70) Leviathan – Scar Sighted
Profound Lore – 2015

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Leviathan doesn’t make easily accessible music and Scar Sighted is particularly dense. Meaning is obfuscated under layers of distortion and discomfort. Then, once you peel everything back and get to the core of it, all that’s there is an inky, impenetrable heart of blackest misanthropy. To search for meaning in this lucid nightmare is akin to pinning down a shadow; it’s there, you know it’s there, but it’s so intangible that it can never be grasped. It takes an already intense album and twists the knife in your mind.

69) Gojira – L’Enfant Sauvage
Roadrunner Records – 2012

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If, like me, you think Magma was a hard reset for Gojira, it’s because they hit the wall with L’Enfant Sauvage. They took everything they had built upon over the preceding albums; all the progressive elements; all the technical nuance; all the interplay between light and dark, and threw it at this album. The end result was their most intense album. It could easily have spiralled into a noisy, disjointed mess, so it’s genuinely impressive they managed to keep the reins on it. When going all or nothing, it’s a damn good thing to land on all.

68) Deafheaven – New Bermuda
Anti- – 2015

New Bermuda is Deafheaven making an adamant statement that, yes, they are a black metal act. They still lean into the emo and shoegaze elements that have made them (in)famous, but they’ve made a subtle course correct back to the genre fundamentals. It’s a deeper experience than the Black Metal with Feelings (New from Pixar!) that came before. It’s murkier. It’s more chaotic. And, somewhat ironically, it’s a more human experience for it. It pays raw emotional dividends without feeling forced.

67) Devourment – Conceived in Sewage
Relapse – 2013

Here it is, folks: the only brutal slam album I have returned to over and over. I keep coming back because it delivers far more than it promises. I’m not afraid to say that while slam has its moments, ordinarily I find it a bit repetitive for my own taste. Conceived in Sewage is anything but that. It definitely brings the mosh-amping violence, but its headbanging-friendly chug is complemented with memorable melody. What’s on offer here is a complete album, not just a collection of mosh bait.

66) Dälek – Asphalt For Eden
Profound Lore – 2016

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I don’t know a lot about hip-hop, from a critical perspective, but ambient, drone, and noise are right in my wheelhouse. Dälek’s return album is massively successful in building hypnotic and haunting music that sits squarely at the intersection of the aforementioned genres. Soothing, yet discomforting, it’s the sort of music that cuts straight to the soul without you noticing the incision. On top of that are some of the most insightful, impassioned lyrics to be recorded this decade. It’s a beautiful flash of genius.

65) Wovenhand – Refractory Obdurate
Deathwish Inc – 2014

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You’re not going to find another band like Wovenhand. Main man, David Edwards, writes intense, almost apocalyptic Christian lyrics and performs them over a blend of country, punk, and a fistful of different folk influences. And Refractory Obdurate is the album that best brings these disparate elements together. Majestic, yet oddly intimate, it’s a clear window into the mindset of its creator. Don’t let the God bothering put you off; musically, it’s a stunning album built around a wholly unique worldview.

64) Windhand – Grief’s Infernal Flower
Relapse – 2015

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“When I sleep I dream of death.” Prior to this gut punch in the masterfully depressing Sparrow, you might suspect that Windhand are approaching some difficult subject matter, but then all doubt gets ripped out. The stoner doom fuzz immediately takes on a whole new, unfathomably dark tone. It ceases to be fun, if a whisper troubling. It immediately becomes a deliberate attempt to obfuscate something very real and absolutely awful. I say attempt, because the darkness permeates it totally and cannot be hidden.

63) Slipknot – We Are Not Your Kind
Roadrunner Records – 2019

I had to force myself to remove my metal elitist hat and acknowledge that Iowan nontet have actually produced a fantastic piece of contemporary metal. A massive part of that success is a laser-like focus on how they want their finished product to sound. Gone is the flailing, uncontrollable angst of their first albums. Gone (hopefully forever) is the creative malaise that followed until now. This album’s ebbs and flows have a maturity that harnesses anger and repurposes it to drive home a massive sound.

62) Ghost – Opus Eponymous
Rise Above – 2010

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Hard to believe that from this humble little album, Ghost would go on to become the satan pop behemoths they are today. I say hard to believe, as who would have thought that the combination of black metal themes with psychedelic doom composition and Broadway theatrics would lodge so well in the psyche? But as much as they have gone on to bigger things (and will only get bigger), they still haven’t topped their debut. It works on every level it wants to work on. A haunted house inhabited with actual Satanists.

61) Obituary – Obituary
Relapse – 2017

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Obituary have been around for a seemingly forever and, if you have heard much of their post-millennium material, you’d believe it. I was still a fan, but you could hear the tiredness in their approach. But then they dropped their self-titled and all of a sudden their legendary status was on full display again. It’s not just that they play heavy. They always nail the heaviness. It’s that they fully unleashed their swampy swagger, melding the chug of Florida death with a ripping rock and roll nasty.

60) Gold – No Image
Profound Lore – 2015

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To grossly oversimplify thing, goth music is basically post-punk that skews heavily pessimistically romantic. Deathrock takes goth and performs it in a way that not-miserable people might enjoy. Gold lives up to those gross oversimplifications and exceeds all expectations in doing so. It’s an album that routinely gets me right in the heart, but encourages me to feel good about feeling sad. That to live an experience that leaves a genuine emotion is far better than to live safely in a bubble of emotional numbness.

59) american – Violate and Control
Sentient Ruin Laboratories – 2017

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When I first reviewed this I settled on “The Intersection Between Black Metal and Noise Without Truly Being Either” as the genre tag. On re-review, I don’t think I could have described it any better. They hammer home a distinctly post-human sound by combining the most aggressive elements of the two genres. But there’s a sophistication that takes much unpacking to really appreciate. It pushes its extremes to prog or post- proximity, but never at the expense of its savage atmosphere.

58) Deicide – Overtures of Blasphemy
Century Media – 2018

As someone who came very late to the Deicide party, you may not be surprised to learn that I hold the band to a tougher standard than I probably should. They left me cold for a long time and I’ll rake them over the coals for far more minor infractions than I would bother with ordinarily. So that I unabashedly enjoy Overtures speaks volumes about how good an album it is. Their particular focus on melody pays off spectacularly. There is no chug here; every track speaks to the greatness of a death metal original.

57) Mgła – Age of Excuse
Northern Heritage – 2019

As paragons of Satanism at its most objectivist, Mgła often makes me uncomfortable. I’m not afraid to say that, because out of this discomfort is born a fascination. They take me to places I wouldn’t ordinarily travel and force me to justify my own existence. Age of Excuse perfectly encapsulates this forbidden fascination. Its will is totalitarian, its confidence is unwavering, and it wields a massive axe to winnow the herds too weak to stand with it. Selfish desires have never sounded so virtuous.

56) Baroness – Yellow & Green
Relapse – 2012

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There’s an awful lot to like about this double album, but what sticks with me the ability to sound so huge, so absolutely stadium shaking, while at the same time sounding so intimate that they could be playing just for you. It helps that they strike the perfect balance between barnstormers and contemplators, but even taking that into account, there’s something extraordinary about their performance. They went out of their way to be everything at once, and with genuine compositional skill, they are.

55) Ludicra – The Tenant
Profound Lore – 2010

Ludicra’s swansong album is a remarkable example of deft songwriting. It’s powerfully evocative of urban alienation, ably channelling the feeling of insignificance when surrounded by towering, grey, brutalist edifices. But The Tenant is also redolent of a hostile, fae otherness. That underneath the all too human theme of isolation is an unseele court waiting to prey upon the unsuspecting. This is an album that loses the listener in a world that feeds on uncertainty and discontent.

54) Moss Upon the Skull – In Vengeful Reverence
I, Voidhanger – 2018

When I listen to these Belgian progressive death dealers, they get me thinking about progressive titans like Opeth, Gojira, and Enslaved. But, if you’ve been paying attention, you’ll notice In Vengeful Reverence ranks above all their offerings. It all comes down to approach. This album makes me think about the other bands because it forges its own path. It delivers its sinister sound with a striking freshness. Wild yet crisp, like a conifer forest in the dead of winter, it’s what the genre needs.

53) Rotting Christ – Aealo
Season of Mist – 2010

This is Rotting Christ getting their ultra-melodic, slightly folky take on black metal just right. Later albums taught me that it’s a far more delicate balancing act than you would think. I think the thing that truly makes Aealo work is it’s relentless. It keeps coming at you and coming at you; it might deviate and try different strategies, but it never stops. It relies upon that aggressiveness of purpose to keep your attention rapt. There’s no rough edges or abrasiveness; there is only melodic triumph.

52) Bastard Priest – Under the Hammer of Destruction
Blood Harvest – 2010

I had been using the term bastard metal for a few years prior to this album for describing bands that were an amalgamation of black, death, and thrash metals, but Bastard Priest really take that term and make it their own. They’ve got the surging immediacy of thrash, the blood and guts of death metal, and the stench of the void of black metal. It’s an album packed from start to finish with sonic evil, made all the more nasty by how memorably entertaining they are. They’re the raging kings of the bastards.

51) Death Angel – The Dream Calls For Blood
Nuclear Blast – 2013

Sharp as a surgical scalpel and whipcord taut, The Dream Calls For Blood is the highlight in Death Angel’s reformation. The band were already the hallmark of consistency amongst Bay Area bands; they haven’t dropped a clunker this millennium. But this album stands even further apart from the rest. It’s the little things. Simple, yet incisive lyrics draw the listener in. The tracks are timed for maximum impact with minimum filler. It’s all about the point: getting there, staying there, and delivering.

50) YOB – Atma
Profound Lore – 2013

Setting a lofty standard for heaviness, Atma is exactly the sort of album that should convert doom non-believers into wide-eyed zealots. The low, rumbling riffs move with tectonic force and when they are matched with the pained, screeching vocals, the end result is seismic sonic upheaval. YOB genuinely sound like they could move mountains or shift our planetary axis on this release. But it’s more than heavy. There’s a subtly too it that belies its heft. It’s delicately crafted art wrapped in riffs.

49) The Haunted – Exit Wounds
Century Media – 2014

That intro track doesn’t really brace you for the onslaught to follow, as The Haunted storm the ramparts with everything in their not-inconsiderable arsenal. I really can’t undersell how hard and how fast this album comes at you. It even has what I would call a false closer or two; you might get sucked into thinking the gas is about to ease off only to get whiplash from the damn thing suddenly red-lining again. It’s a non-stop roller-coaster of high-octane, performance-tuned metal.

48) At the Gates – At War With Reality
Century Media – 2014

You can’t really say it’s a spiritual successor to Slaughter of the Soul. It’s a different beast. Gone is the white-hot angst and in its place is a black-hearted desolation. To say this album is bleak is to undersell it. The band haven’t tried to be what they were then and it shows. They’ve matured as people and this is passed on to the music. Its thematic maturity is mirrored in the music; the full-frontal assault of their youth is replaced with a sinister display of calculated, pernicious aggression.

47) Shining – Blackjazz
Indie – 2010

It was very tempting to review this with just a meme; this one in fact. Straight up, this reinterpretation of jazz through a black metal lens never settles enough to be normal. It just keeps escalating and distorting and intensifying. It doesn’t have an off switch; even when it winds down to a lower tempo, that’s no relief because the mood shifts as well to keep the overall effect challenging. But for all the madness, the relentlessness is memorable in the extreme. It carves itself into your goodwill.

46) Oranssi Pazuzu – Valonielu
Svart – 2013

It helps to remember that Oranssi Pazuzu started life as a psychedelic rock act that came to black metal later because Valonielu sounds like the band took a bad trip and experienced apocalyptic visions. You can tell that they weren’t born of the dark; that the dark came for them and they embraced it. There are moments that sound genuinely revelatory; that the band knows how to open the doors to perception. The end result is an album that is equal parts enlightenment and absolute terror.

45) Kreator – Gods of Violence
Nuclear Blast – 2017

Multiple songs that I sing along loudly and badly to. Several songs that legitimately choke me up. Suffice to say, this album really speaks to me. It helps that the Teutonic thrash titans upped their game and produced their best album this millennium. It’s clockwork precise, but it cranks along at a blistering pace. But the inescapable fact is what makes this so good is that it is ridiculous fun. Thrash is supposed to be the music of beers and good times. And, holy crap, this brings a raucous party.

44) Nails – You Will Never Be One Of Us
Nuclear Blast – 2016

I’ve seen and participated in debates about whether these bruisers are grind, pv, or hardcore. On reflection, they were wastes of time. What matters is how infectious their animosity is. YWNBOOU is hostility fed steroids and then unleashed with a fervent mania. It goes straight for the lizard brain and plays upon its instinctive need to luxuriate and wallow in negativity and aggression. It draws you in deep, which goes to show just how seductive those primal feelings can be.

43) Hail of Bullets – On Divine Winds
Metal Blade – 2010

Hail of Bullets, in their three album existence, were death metal’s foremost world war two historians and On Divine Winds was their most engaging lesson. The war in the Pacific certainly provides a wealth of subject matter (Pearl Harbor, kamikaze, nukes, etc), but that they could translate it into such engaging and memorable lyrics makes it so much better. And then to lay those lyrics down over gunfire drums and heavy machinery guitars to perfectly marry military theme to cataclysmic sound? It’s masterful.

42) Converge – All We Love We Leave Behind
Epitaph – 2012

Are Converge the most emotionally mature band in metalcore? I’m struggling to think of anyone more so. They have always taken intensely, challengingly poignant themes and refracted them into blustering howls of catharsis. All We Love is a standout in this regard. It’s affectingly heavy. Draining would be my preferred term, but for their convulsive mathcore driving the energy levels up into the extremes. Its ebbs and flows chart moments of beauty and pain and the deltas where they intersect.

41) Grand Magus – Triumph and Power
Nuclear Blast – 2014

There is a wonderful, almost guilty satisfaction to this album. It’s like being curled up in bed on a wet day when you should be at work. The rhythms are so catchy and they swell so majestically through the choruses. And then there’s the lyrics, which are fist-pumping, rabble-rousing, sing-along good times. But underneath it all is determined seriousness. Grand Magus care deeply about how they present their heavy metal and have tied everything up with an eye to both history and fate. Triumph and power says it all.

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

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

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100) True Widow – Circumambulation
Relapse – 2013

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

99) Vallenfyre – A Fragile King
Century Media – 2011

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

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

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

97) Hate Eternal – Infernus
Season of Mist – 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

93) Cephalic Carnage – Misled by Certainty
Relapse – 2010

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

92) Heresiarch – Death Ordinance
Dark Descent – 2017

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

91) Power Trip – Nightmare Logic
Southern Lord – 2017

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

90) Corpsessed – Impetus of Death
Dark Descent – 2018

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

89) Monolithe – Monolithe IV
Debemur Morti – 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

84) Friendship – Hatred
Southern Lord – 2017

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

83) Fleshgod Apocalypse – King
Nuclear Blast – 2016

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

82) Absu – Abzu
Candlelight – 2011

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

81) Winterfylleth – The Threnody of Triumph
Candlelight – 2012

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

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

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

79) Carcass – Surgical Steel
Nuclear Blast – 2013

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

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

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

77) Opeth – Pale Communion
Roadrunner Records – 2014

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

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

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

75) Enslaved – E
Nuclear Blast – 2017

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

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

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

73) Dragged Into Sunlight – WidowMaker
Prosthetic – 2012

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

72) Darkthrone – Circle the Wagons
Peaceville – 2010

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

71) Mastodon – The Hunter
Reprise – 2011

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

Albums of the Year 2019

And so we round off another year. 2019 was good to us metalheads. That being said, it’s surprising how easily this top 11 coalesced.

Despite having a bumper year, full of great albums, I am but one man, so I’m going to miss things. Of the albums I definitely know I missed, these are probably my biggest laments:

Children of Bodom – Hexed
Fleshgod Apocalypse – Valeno
Insomnium – Heart Like a Grave
Leprous – Pitfalls
Mayhem – Daemon
Nile – Vile Nilotic Rites
Queensryche – The Verdict
Tool – Fear Inoculum
Torche – Admission
Chelsea Wolfe – Birth of Violence

And so, without further adieu, here’s the best damn eleven albums from 2019.

11) Nocturnus AD – Paradox

Profound Lore – 2019/05/24

What I said then: The band has lost absolutely nothing over the years; absolutely killer, high-octane death metal.
What I say now: I love the sci-fi vibe on Paradox. It doesn’t just sound technical; it sounds weird. That healthy dose of the bizarre gives the familiar Florida sound a vibrancy it sorely needs.

10) Pseudcommando – A Home Beneath the Floorboards

Sentient Ruin Laboratories – 2019/08/23

What I said then: It fills your reality with noise to the point that even the air starts to feel heavy.
What I say now: Alienating and discomforting, this remains one of the year’s toughest listens. But in the hidden depths of noise are secret whispers of melody. Of songs so bleak they must remain obscured for our sanity.

The Prurient Award for Best Album that Doesn’t Lend Itself to Easy Reviewing
Miscarriage – Imminent Horror
(Atmospheric Sludge – United States of America/Sweden)
Sentient Ruin Laboratories – 2019/02/22

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Bit of a cheat as it was self-released in late 2018, but Sentient Ruin brought this nightmare to the surface. Hateful and misanthropic, this is a masterpiece of sonic horror.

9) Slipknot – We Are Not Your Kind

Roadrunner Records – 2019/08/09

What I said then: The band’s sound has matured, maintaining a familiar level of vitriol but has become more expansive, as befits their status as one of metal’s most bankable acts.
What I say now: The depth of talent that Slipknot have dared to incorporate is remarkable. They’ve given a sophistication to their sound without sacrificing the venom their performances are best known for.

8) Mgła – Age of Excuse

Northern Heritage – 2019/09/02

What I said then: Age of Excuse sounds as fresh and intimidating as Groza did ten years ago.
What I say now: In a year that saw merely acceptable releases from multiple black metal icons, it took these Poles to show how venomous and furious the genre can still be. They are a mighty tempest of darkness.

7) Alcest – Spiritual Instinct

Nuclear Blast -2019/10/25

What I said then: This isn’t some fae trickster or changeling; this is the wild hunt, riding high in saddle, their doomed quarry hounded by spirit and mist alike.
What I say now: There’s a fine balancing act on display here. It is undoubtedly more aggressive, but it still retains the warming dreamlike quality that makes Alcest so charming. It’s a malicious beauty.

Mariusz Lewandowski Award for Best Art
John Dyer Baizley for Gold & Grey by Baroness

I’ve always had a deep and abiding affection for Baizley’s art, but the work he put into Gold & Grey is absolutely stunning. I could look at it for hours and still find something new.

6) Death Angel – Humanicide

Nuclear Blast – 2019/05/31

What I said then: They have penned an album of thrash anthems that will absolutely stay fresh and loud in your mind.
What I say now: It’s mind-boggling how consistently fantastic Death Angel have been. You absolutely cannot complain about more of the same when everything they do is so damn good.

5) Esoteric – A Pyrrhic Existence

Season of Mist – 2019/11/08

What I said then: They’ve created a swirling void of utter despair that threatens to suck all life into its infinite depths.
What I say now: Esoteric have that wonderful ability to make funeral doom so much more than low, slow, and miserable. There is a richness of tone and a warmth to their delivery, which gives it soul.

4) Pissgrave – Posthumous Humiliation

Profound Lore – 2019/03/04

What I said then: The vocals are akin to someone drowning in acid, the guitars are like a frenzied ice-pick attack, the drums might as well be hammers swung at your joints, and the solos are like the gears of a horrifying trap grinding into action.
What I say now: These depraved degenerates can seriously play. As straight up hostile as this is, it’s only as effective as it is because they’ve honed their monstrous craft to a razor’s edge.

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

In a year with ample competition, Behemoth stood taller than all the others. They have a flair for the dramatic, blast harder than they do on wax, and and curate a fantastic live set. It’s metal maximised to the limit.

3) Cloud Rat – Pollinator

Gilead Media – 2019/09/13

What I said then: It’s the vast vista of humanity with all its foibles and tumults, but sped up to the bpm of a stressed hummingbird’s heartbeat and viewed through an obscuring heat shimmer of pure ferocity.
What I say now: Cloud Rat have always been building to something. All that energy. All that drive. All that passion. It all led to this: a humanity affirmation wrapped in a blistering assault.

2) Spirit Adrift – Divided by Darkness

20 Buck Spin – 2019/05/10

What I said then: They’ve forged a path to greatness and paved it with talent.
What I say now: Spirit Adrift tap into the same heavy metal wellspring that made Sabbath essential. Heavy and melodic with bone-shaking rhythms, but done in a way that’s 100% fresh. Old school remade anew.

1) Devin Townsend – Empath

InsideOut – 2019/03/29

What I said then: Proving that any emotion delivered stridently enough can provide an intense experience, Empath is a manic blast of over-the-top positivity.
What I say now: I reckon it’s impossible to not love this. It radiates an aura of chaos that in no way diminishes the pulsating good vibes. To be so unabashedly in your face but with all smiles is unique.

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So that was 2019. Stay tuned for my Top 100 of the past decade.

November 2019 Review Round Up

It’s almost the end of the year and I figured, as a treat to myself, I’d break the mold a little bit and do a label spotlight.

It didn’t really take a lot of mulling over for me to settle on Sentient Ruin Laboratories. They were the first label to ever reach out to me and request I look at their material, so I really do consider them friends of Metalshopped (despite never having met anyone at the label and living on opposite sides of the planet). It also helps that they maintain an excellent standard for their releases. Abstracter, Altarage, Atrament, Friendship, and 夢遊病者 are all amazing bands that I only know about because of Sentient Ruin. And they keep finding bands of similar calibre. It’s uncanny.

So read on and discover some of the best releases from one of metal’s foremost vanguard labels.

As always, I can be contacted via Facebook.

See everyone next month. It’ll be the new year, so it will be best of season.

Buy me a coffee

Album of the Month
Pseudocommando – A Home Beneath the Floorboards
(Harsh Noise – United States of America)
Sentient Ruin Laboratories – 2019/08/23

I’m normally able to use harsh noise as a way to meditate, to scrub the mind of consciousness and simply be. Pseudcommando don’t allow me that luxury. Their take on noise is so aggressive that you can’t escape it. It fills your reality with noise to the point that even the air starts to feel heavy. Embrace your masochism and listen.

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Black Earth – Gnarled Ritual of Self Annihilation
(Black Ambient – Spain)
Sentient Ruin Laboratories – 2019/09/27

It took me a long time to wrap my head around this. It initially sounds like an impenetrable wall of cold metal. But it clicked. I got it. This is ritual. The album unfolds in movements, but it is all one hadal ritual. The sorcery at its core is dark and this is reflected in its horrific ambience. Brilliant, but not for the faint of heart.

Cthonica – Typhomanteia: Sacred Triarchy of Spiritual Putrefaction
(Blackened Death Doom – Venezuela)
Sentient Ruin Laboratories – 2019/10/25

Blackened death doom should sound like a band is bringing hell with them, as it combines three distinct shades of evil. Cthonica absolutely live up to this, while adding a certain earthiness that all too appropriately goes with their name. This is an album of suffocating weight and lightless depths. It’s music for the damned and rotting.

Hold Me Down – Hold Me Down
(Industrial Metal – United States of America)
Sentient Ruin Laboratories – 2019/04/05

Don’t for one second think this is KMFDM, Ministry, or Rammstein. Hold Me Down do oppressive, anti-human noise and they do it so well. Evocative is what I look for in an album, and this does it in spades. Sure, the image is an infernal, planet-wide factory where humans sweat, toil, and die at the hands of malevolent ai, but it’s very well done.

Imperial Cult – Spasm of Light
(Black Metal – Netherlands)
Sentient Ruin Laboratories – 2019/08/23

I love bands that experiment with form and Imperial Cult is no exception. Spasm of Light is one track of blasting raw black metal stretched out over thirty-odd minutes. The warping effect the persistent assault has on the senses is something worth experiencing. It sucks you in and traps you. Time distorts and leaves you gasping.

Nightfucker – Nightfucker
(Sludge – Canada)
Sentient Ruin Laboratories – 2019/07/12

This is a miserable dirge, suitable for playing at an open casket funeral for someone who died alone and had mostly liquified before being found. It’s real noisome, fetid stuff. Slow and tortuous too. It really puts the sludge back into sludge. Each note is mired in viscous, enervating grime that constantly threatens to envelop you.

Suspiral – Chasm
(Black Metal – Spain)
Sentient Ruin Laboratories – 2019/05/10

Symbolism is one of black metal’s best friends. Why beat the listener over the head, when you can let them beat themselves. Suspiral gets this. Chasm is a yawning lightless abyss of an album; you can plumb its depths, searching but never finding meaning. But that futility is meaningful in and of itself. Purpose and hope are the enemy here.

Sutekh Hexen – Sutekh Hexen
(Black Ambient – United States of America)
Sentient Ruin Laboratories – 2019/03/29

Ominous and unsettling, Sutekh Hexen have put their name to an album that uses ambience as a weapon. It conjures images of howling winds, cutting sleet, sheer crags, and unrelenting bleakness. Otherworldly and esoteric, but still terrifyingly coherent, it’s a madman’s vision of hell put to music. Sends shivers down the spine.

Sutekh Hexen/夢遊病者 – Split

I don’t cover a lot of splits, but when they’re done as well as this, they’re worth a mention. Sutekh Hexen sounds like they’ve taken field recordings from Venus then incorporated them into black metal.夢遊病者 are malevolent and creeping, like they plan violence and it might come soon. Combined, the two tracks come together as one cohesive nightmare.

Previously Reviewed But Worth A Revisit Since It’s A Label Spotlight
Miscarriage – Imminent Horror
(Atmospheric Sludge – United States of America/Sweden)
Sentient Ruin Laboratories – 2019/02/22

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I know what they were attempting. I know they succeeded. But it’s way outside my comfort levels. It’s the fetishisation of suffering. It’s a perverse, transgressive ritual that starts with erotic vivisection and culminates in a noisome, necrophillic hatefuck. It’s definitely not my sonic kink, but if it’s yours listen to it, watch some Salo, and leave me alone.

夢遊病者 – Ѫ
(Avantgarde Black Metal – Japan)
Sentient Ruin Laboratories – 2019/04/26

Discordant and dissonant, 夢遊病者 have produced an ep that is overwhelming in its auditory assault. It’s a serenade and a lullaby and howl of rage and scream of madness all at once. Schizophrenic in its delivery of a spectrum of emotions, the end result are two tracks of harrowing, terrifying, captivating grandeur.

May 2019 Review Round Up

I hope everyone had a good May. Looking back, I think I’ve had a slightly more productive month than I expected. Not the worst thing.

We’re edging ever closer to the end of the decade and I’m getting itchy with anticipation. Looking forward to my Top 100 coming out, even though it’s months off still. Hard choices are having to be made.

Speaking of hard choices, May’s album of the month was a tough one. Mesarthim won out in the end. It’s captivating, different, and brilliant.

Not much else in editorial news. Send me links to your demos. You know I prefer Bandcamp. Hit me up on Facebook.

See everyone next month,
Enjoy.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Album of the Month
Mesarthim – Ghost Condensate
(Trance-infused Black Metal – Australia)
Self-released – 2019/04/17

Mesarthim are fast becoming one of my favourite black metal acts. And it’s primarily because they keep evolving towards something that shouldn’t be. The incorporation of trance into their cosmic black metal is seemless. More to the point, it remains distinctly black metal. Nothing is sacrificed to their sound and their talent expands like the galaxy.

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Daredevil – Youth in Revolt Demo
(Heavy Metal – Russia)
Self-released – 2019/05/01

With equal parts heavy metal, speed metal, and thrash, Daredevil are a band heavy of exuberance. Heavy on talent too. The three tracks on this demo whip by in a flurry of good times that sets its own standard. This isn’t a cheap nostalgia hit; Youth in Revolt pushes itself to be a distinct, powerful voice amongst metals oldest genres.

Deathspell Omega – The Furnaces of Palingenesia
(Avant-garde Black Metal – France)
Norma Evangelium Diaboli – 2019/05/24

It’s been a while since Deathspell has got to me like this, but Furnaces went straight to that inky dark spot on the soul where selfish desire meets feral instinct and stirred it all up. Subversive yet bombastic, it warps what you understand black metal to be then delivers it back to you with a leering disdain for your existence.

Electric B.C. – Demo 2019
(Stoner Sludge – Finland)
Self-released – 2019/05/08

I can forgive a small amount of stylistic inconsistency when the end product is still a satisfying racket. It starts out metal, but has shifted to sludge’s rock fringes by the close. But every riff is caked in bong resin; thick and heavy is name of the game. I also love that they haven’t sacrificed pace for tar. It moves as it fumes.

Horsehunter – Horsehunter
(Doom Metal – Australia)
Magnetic Eye – 2019/03/02

Is there a petition going for Horsehunter to reunite? Could we start one? This is some of the most invigorating doom in recent memory. The riff is king, but it’s also distorted in a way that asserts its dominance over the listener. Combine that with a furiously spat vocal delivery and you have an album as heavy on anger as it is talent.

Laster – Het Wassen Oog
(Progressive Black Metal – Netherlands)
Prophecy – 2019/04/05

Laster have found themselves a satisfying vein of metal to mine here. Het Wassen Oog is progressive in an initially similar way to recent Enslaved, but then goes in unexpected directions. There’s a touch of Vaudeville or a ’30s radio drama, as something sinister looms large, present, yet unknowable. It’s ethereal and heavy like a shadow given form.

Latitudes – Part Island
(Post-metal – England)
Debemur Morti – 2019/04/05

Sophisticated album construction doesn’t get enough praise. Part Island requires patience to get into and unravel. That’s not to say it’s dull. It’s not. But the true splendour of the composition builds itself deliberately and doesn’t let its secrets go cheaply. You know a pay-off is coming, but you have to give yourself over to the journey first.

Leather Glove – Perpetual Animation
(Sludgy Death Metal – United States of America)
Sentient Ruin Laboratories – 2019/03/08

I find how likely I am to revisit an album is one of my truest indicators of how good it truly is. And for all the good on display on Perpetual Animation, it falls down on that front. I’ve listened to it, I’ve taken in its well-composed savagery, I’ve nodded along to its carnivorous rhythms, and I’m going to inevitably forget its existence.

夢遊病者 – Ѫ
(Avantgarde Black Metal – Japan)
Sentient Ruin Laboratories – 2019/04/26

Discordant and dissonant, 夢遊病者 have produced an ep that is overwhelming in its auditory assault. It’s a serenade and a lullaby and howl of rage and scream of madness all at once. Schizophrenic in its delivery of a spectrum of emotions, the end result are two tracks of harrowing, terrifying, captivating grandeur.

Savage – No Escape
(Powerviolence – United States of America)
SPHC Records – 2019/02/19

I like my pv when it’s either weird or shouty. Savage is definitely shouty. And by shouty I mean it reminds me of classic hardcore, but with a greater sense of urgency. No Escape gets straight up in your face and stays there, blasting you with spit as it makes its point as clear and venomous as a box jellyfish. Puts the power and the violence into pv.

Solitarian – Contemplations… Where None Dwell
(Black Metal – Canada)
Self-released – 2019/05/01

In the realm of the black metal demo, any band who at least gets the basics right is worth more than outright scorn. Solitarian do black metal exactly as you’ve heard it before; they haven’t found their unique voice yet, so it quickly becomes an exercise in generic tropes. But they don’t fuck it up. Faint praise, but I’ve heard much worse than them.

Split Open – Demo 2019
(Powerviolence – Canada)
Self-released – 2019/05/06

If you asked me when I started listening to pv all those years ago what the defining characteristics of the genre are, I would have said bookending every track with feedback. It’s a more complex genre than that, but Split Open took me back. But I can’t really fault their approach though. Simplicity is a virtue when it’s done this well.

Waldgeflüster – Mondscheinsonaten
(Blackened Folk Metal – Germany)
Nordvis – 2019/04/12

As far as folk driven black metal goes, Mondscheinsonaten is folkier than most. It’s like someone murdered Korpiklaani or Turisas¹ and their shades have returned to tell their tale to those who would listen. Sadder and slower than true folk metal, Waldgeflüster is evocative of a world of shadow, dimly lit by the souls of the living.

¹ I’m aware that Waldgeflüster is German, while Korpiklaani and Turisas are both Finnish.

February 2019 Review Round Up

And so that was February. It was a thought provoking month for me too.

Starting off with the album of the month. Lots of competition for it this time round. I settled on Yerûšelem’s album, The Sublime. It’s put together by some of the madmen/geniuses in Blut Aus Nord, but it’s a substantially different beast. Trust me. It’s definitely of them, but not like them.

You will also read a review of another album that I can assure you is positive, despite my revulsion. You’ll know it when you read it. It’s the challenge of reviewing something critically significant, but abhorrent.

And then there’s Dream Theater. Certainly not album of the month, but it’s a mighty improvement. What I don’t understand from my perusal of reviews, is why people expect something out of the box from them? They’ve been around forever and firmly established their sound. It’s not necessarily formulaic to play to their strengths; they just want an album that sounds good. I think we learned a lesson about unnecessarily tampering with things last time, so I’m pretty glad they went back to the old well to drink the familiar water.

As I said, it’s been a thought-provoking month. It’s kept me busy.

I am still, as always, contactable via Facebook.

Send me your demos. More accurately, send me the links to your demos on Bandcamp. I need more of them in my life. Spread the word.

See everyone again in April, first Monday of the month.

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Album of the Month
Yerûšelem – The Sublime
(Industrial Post Punk – France)
Debemur Morti – 2019/02/08

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This is sublime. There. I said it. The problem is that the lazy wordplay is also the most accurate way to describe The Sublime. It’s like Swans and Killing Joke doing a joint set in a Buddhist temple that was still under construction. The combination of crushing industrial rhythms with meditative melodies and chanting vocals is utterly mesmerising.

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Blue Hummingbird on the Left – Atl Tlachinolli
(Black Metal – United States of America)
Iron Bonehead – 2019/02/08

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In a world full of posturing, antagonistic, “outsider” black metal, it’s nice to come across something that sounds like resistance. Blue Hummingbird perform furiously in the name of Huitzilopochtli, the primary god of war and human sacrifice in the Aztec pantheon. Their pride in their heritage is as clear cut as their overt, naked hostility.

Candlemass – The Door to Doom
(Epic Doom Metal – Sweden)
Napalm Records – 2019/02/22

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Candlemass is one of the great gateway bands to doom metal and The Door to Doom shows why. They hit that magical combination of sweeping grandeur and thrumming reverberation. The melodies announce their presence with vigour then linger in the low end long enough to rattle the bones. That album title is awfully apt in retrospect.

Charnel Altar – Demo
(Death Doom – Australia)
Self-Released – 2019/01/09

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They say they’re blackened death; I reckon they’re far too monolithic to be anything but death doom. Genre semantics aside, you should probably listen to these guys. When I said they were monolithic, I mean it. They sound like a graveyard made animate, dripping soil; long dead bones; and recently dead viscera. It’s ominous and putrescent.

Dream Theater – Distance Over Time
(Progressive Metal – United States of America)
InsideOut – 2019/02/22

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I hated The Astonishing so much I burnt it in a pit of fire; suffice to say, expectations were low here. Maybe they were chastened by the negative reaction, because this is stripped back, basic DT. Good God, it’s a change for the better. It’s actually fun to listen to. There’s nothing superfluous here, just rock-solid entertainment. I’m astonished.

Gets Worse – Snubbed
Powerviolence – United Kingdom
Self-Released – 2019/02/11

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This is powerviolence, so no surprises that it comes on like an assault. It’s good and shouty too; nice to listen to a pv act that sounds old school punk without being a drag. And as spasmodic as their time signatures may be (and believe me, they get pretty epileptic), the whole album is cohesive. A stream of consciousness put to blastbeats.

Miscarriage – Imminent Horror
(Atmospheric Sludge – United States of America/Sweden)
Sentient Ruin Laboratories – 2019/02/22

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I know what they were attempting. I know they succeeded. But it’s way outside my comfort levels. It’s the fetishisation of suffering. It’s a perverse, transgressive ritual that starts with erotic vivisection and culminates in a noisome, necrophillic hatefuck. It’s definitely not my sonic kink, but if it’s yours listen to it, watch some Salo, and leave me alone.

Ostro – Ostro
(Doom Metal – Australia)
Self-Released – 2019/01/08

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If you’re going to strive to put some epic into your doom, your singer needs some serious chops and the guitars need to pack a wallop. Ostro is almost there. So close. But that proximity to epicness serves to highlight the failure to attain it. They aimed for Candlemass, but had to settle for flashlight tag. I’ll buy their next release though. They could nail it.

Rotting Christ – The Heretics
(Melodic Black Metal – Greece)
Season of Mist – 2019/02/15

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BAM! That’s how you return to form. Rituals was a bit naval gazing for my taste, but The Heretics is right on point. Its sharp thematic focus allows the melodies to soar majestically while buffeting mercilessly, much like being caught in the path of a legendary roc. Conventional theology takes a beating here, but they’re points that need hearing.

Thetan – Abysmal
(Powerviolence – United States of America)
Self-Released – 2019/02/01

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Thetan strip their punk right back to drum, bass, and vocals. That means they’ve got less to work with, so what they do have has to go much further. But there’s only so far they can stretch their stock. So they land some killers, but there’s also quite a bit of filler. And by filler, I mean stretches of tracks that sort of mush together. Stick around for the good stuff though.

Vanum – Ageless Fire
(Black Metal – United States of America)
Profound Lore – 2019/02/15

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Ageless Fire was the perfect album for a terrible day. It’s an album that speaks to the transcendental power of furious rage. To achieve this, Vanum take a longer form approach. Rather than simply blasting away, they take the meditative focus that pure anger can afford you, and turn it into a blistering, ash-raining firestorm.

September 2018 Review Round Up

We’re reaching the crunch point for the critical year. August was impressive, but September really stepped it up as bands and labels try to maximise their visibility. I can’t wait for October.

The album of the month is from Florida death metal veterans, Deicide. You have no idea how surprised I am to have written that. But credit where credit is due, they absolutely nailed that super-hostile sound.

Not too much else to say. Starting to look towards my end of year list, which is always fun. And given that 2019 is just around the corner, I’m starting to look seriously at my best of the decade list too.

As always, for comments and critiquing, you can reach me via Facebook. And I’m still always in need of Red Bull, if you don’t mind the panhandling. I wish I could get the fancy widget to work, but alas, I’m not that competent.

Album of the Month
Deicide – Overtures of Blasphemy
(Death Metal – United States of America)
Century Media – 2018/09/14

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If you thought this was going to be another piece of stodgy filler in Deicide’s extensive catalogue, get to the back of the class! It’s easily their best since Stench of Redemption, and I’m going to have to realisten to that to make sure it’s still their best. I have my doubts to be honest. This is laser beam focussed and whip cord taut. Fuck it; it’s their best album ever.

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Archgoat – The Luciferian Crown
(Black Metal – Finland)
Debemur Morti – 2018/09/14

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Archgoat’s best album. Just going to put that straight out there. I buy Archgoat for their signature blend of Fimbulwinter cold and sulphurous balefire. This album more than delivers on those fronts, but is also unexpectedly loaded with sinister groove and infernal sexuality. It’s rare to find a black metal album that so ably encapsulates damnation.

Aura Noir – Aura Noire
(Blackened Thrash – Norway)
Indie Recordings – 2018/04/27

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Aura Noir’s intertwining of thrash and first wave black metal has always yielded razor sharp riffs. Aura Noire continues this trend. They haven’t exactly built extensively on what they’ve done before, but that’s not what this is about. This is, as it always has been, about cramming venomous thrash all the way down your throat.

Black Matter Device – Modern Frenetics
(Mathcore – United States of America)
Self-Released – 2018/04/06

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Fast music for the short tempered. Modern Frenetics is an album for people who don’t have the patience for soft things. It helps that Black Matter Device are (appropriately) mathematically precise. The relentless pummelling that ensues is one of the smartest arse-kickings you will experience. It’s like getting mugged by a mortarboard.

Clutch – Book of Bad Decisions
(Rock – United States of America)
Weathermaker – 2018/09/07

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It’s funny how after all these years Clutch still find a way to deliver just what you want while still surprising you. Book of Bad Decisions comes across as rawer and dirtier than the high octane output of their previous few albums. Real music for smokey dive bars and, by God, it’s beautiful. It gets you right in that part that knows a bit of grime is good for the soul.

Common Eider, King Eider – A Wound of Body
(Black Ambient – United States of America)
Sentient Ruin Laboratories – 2018/09/21

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Dealing only in the bleakest of black ambient, Common Eider, King Eider have turned loose an audio horror upon this world. It creeps and slithers and contorts its way around your psyche; never pushing all the way through, but never letting you get comfortable. Albums that do their work quietly are a challenge, but I recognise darkness when I hear it.

Drawn and Quartered – The One Who Lurks
(Death Metal – United States of America)
Krucyator Productions – 2018/07/27

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How on earth have I managed to get to 2018 without hearing about Drawn and Quartered? These guys have been pounding out old school death metal for ages now and it’s taken until this monster landed for me to know they existed. It’s an appalling oversight on my part. Guttural, almost brutal, The One Who Lurks is a visceral gut ripper.

Grave Dust – Pale Hand
(Death Metal – United States of America)
Self-Released – 2018/08/24

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What is up with 2018 and top notch death metal releases? I’m running out of superlatives; I’m either going to start repeating myself or start using nonsensical adjectives. But, dead set, Pale Hand is another death metal monster. It’s a rumbling, aggressive, menacing beast, but it comes with that vital element of catchiness that lodges the songs in your brain.

Hyperdontia – Nexus of Teeth
(Death Metal – Denmark)
Dark Descent – 2018/09/06

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Nexus of Teeth is a fine death metal record that may not set the world on fire but is definitely enjoyable. It suffers a little from repetitiveness, but in Hyperdontia’s defence, they do a couple of things really well, so it makes total sense that they play to their strengths. You can put this on in a room of genre buffs and they will be headbanging all over the place.

Imperial Triumphant – Vile Luxury
(Technical Black Metal – United States of America)
Gilead Media – 2018/07/13

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This is different. Cacophonous black metal played with a level of technicality that should require an engineering degree all wrapped up with Fritz Lang-esque noir. This is what a smokey jazz dive sounds like in hell. I like this a lot, but I’m not going to lie; it’s a tough album to get into and even once you’re in, it can be overwhelming. Extremity done differently.

Kaerulean – The Orwellian Dream
(Blackened Death Metal – Australia)
Truth Inc – 2018/08/10

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It makes a hell of an entertaining racket. But, more than that, it impresses on multiple levels and you will get more out of it with each subsequent listen. For starters, I genuinely didn’t expect the clean vocals to be as good as they are. And the rhythm section is just a fucking beast underneath. This band deserves much broader exposure.

Mantar – The Moden Art of Setting Ablaze
(Sludge Metal – Germany)
Nuclear Blast – 2018/08/24

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Finally getting around to Mantar and I totally get why they are, and rightly should be, considered sludge’s premier arsonists. Their incendiary songs roll along with a pyroclastic flow that ensures that everything in their path is obliterated. I know I’m not the first to say it, but it’s amazing that this sonic firestorm is made by just two people. Incredible stuff.

Nadja – Sonnborner
(Ambient Doom Metal – Canada)
Broken Spine Productions – 2018/09/14

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Open your ears and marvel; Nadja have produced a masterpiece of dreamy, inspired doom. The 30 minute opener is an album in and of itself. It’s awe-inspiring too. It weaves, lilts, and flows beautifully. The following four tracks include dramatic and jarring tonal shifts, giving the ambience some unexpected, but welcome exhilaration.

Primordial – Exile Amongst the Ruins
(Blackened Folk Metal – Ireland)
Metal Blade – 2018/03/30

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I can only assume that Primordial are sick of Metal Blade, as this sound like nothing more than a contractual obligation album. All the hallmarks of a Primordial album are there, but they’re so listless and seemingly dialed in. It’s tough to listen to something that sounds like nobody cared. It’s especially tough when it’s a band as hugely talented as Primordial.

Thou – Magus
(Doom Metal – United States of America)
EVP Recordings – 2018/08/31

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Other bands must wish they could match Thou’s ability to be both prolific and talented. Magus is their fourth release this year, the second to get a review by me, and easily the best thing they’ve done recently. Which is impressive, because they are consistently excellent. The raspy growls, the subtle melodies, the monstrous low end; it is amazing.

The Vintage Caravan – Gateways
(Rock – Iceland)
Nuclear Blast – 2018/08/31

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I love what The Vintage Caravan have done previously, so it really pains me to say this: Gateways is boring. At best it’s dull, at worst it’s tedious, and it all balances out as boring. There’s nothing on display here to get the listener actively involved in the music. It just kinda plods along without doing anything noteworthy. At least it’s easy to forget.

June 2018 Review Round Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

Albums of the Year 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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