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.

November 2018 Review Round Up

Welcome to a slightly abridged version of Metalshopped. Given the employment circumstances, I’m actually pretty happy with how much got done. There was a period during the month when I worried there would only be two reviews.

One of those reviews was always going to be the Album of the Month, You Won’t Get What You Want. Daughters nailed their comeback album. Nailed it right to the wall. I loved what they had done before, but this is an altogether different beast.

Preparations for the best of 2018 list will begin in earnest in December. It still won’t actually get published until February. Always like to give the postie a reasonable timeframe for delivering December purchases.

As always, if you have critique or commentary, you can reach me at Facebook.

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Album of the Month
Daughters – You Won’t Get What You Want
(Noise Rock – United States of America)
Ipecac – 2018/10/26

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I would have sworn blind that Daughters had broken up, but here we are; they’re back and they’re brilliant. With guitars that sound like a musical air raid siren, drumming that consistently surprises in the best way, and one of the most evocative vocal deliveries I’ve heard they have delivered one of the most welcoming forays into discomfort ever.

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Fucked Up – Dose Your Dreams
(Hardcore. Mostly… – Canada)
Merge Records – 2018/10/05

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Fucked Up have returned with their second turn at scoring a hardcore opera. And in using music to tell a story, it has allowed them to delve into sounds far removed from their core origins. Dandy Warhols-esque alternative, saxophone driven jazz, and thumping electronica all add a very distinct, truly unique sound. Its sophistication transcends punk.

Gaerea – Unsettling Whispers
(Black Metal – Portugal)
Transcending Obscurity – 2018/06/22

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It’s uncommon to find black metal that operates at this level of sophistication. Unsettling Whispers achieves a level of emotional depth that most of their genre mates can only dream of. Not just from song to song, but within songs there is range of dark feeling. They grieve and rage and hate and explore all the dark recesses of humanity.

Hank Von Hell – Egomania
(Glam Punk – Norway)
Headbanger – 2018/11/02

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Welcome back, Hank. Egomania is great example of what happens when someone takes their negative life experiences and turns it into creative gold. It’s got the riffs and the rock that you would expect, but what really impresses is the pathos. Hank clearly understands where he’s been and where he is now, and he uses it to sell deathpunk that touches you.

Hate Eternal – Upon Desolate Sands
(Death Metal – United States of America)
Season of Mist – 2018/10/26

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Hate Eternal come out swinging on this one. And in a death metal environment where every band seems to bring the fight like an MMA ground and pounder, it’s nice to see an approach more like Wladimir Klitschko: landing super-heavy blows with punishing cleanliness and devastating precision. They’re not here to fight; they’re here to win.

Outer Heaven – Realms of Eternal Decay
(Death Metal – United States of America)
Relapse – 2018/10/12

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Gristly and fetid death metal is what’s on display here, but in this year’s spirit of keeping the old school flame alive, Outer Heaven have produced an album more nuanced than your average gore-fed zombie blaster. Flourishes of technicality rub up against doomy chug in ways that allow distortion of the true death sound without diminishing it.

Psycroptic – As the Kingdom Drowns
(Technical Death Metal – Australia)
EVP Recordings – 2018/11/09

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More technical than their self-titled album, less technical than Sceptre of the Ancients, Psycroptic are trying to balance the old and the new on this album. It mostly works too. It’s definitely nice to hear an album that sets out to challenge from them, especially since it doesn’t try to alienate either. Not flawless, but it will certainly entertain.

Shining – Animal
(Hard Rock – Norway)
Spinefarm – 2018/10/19

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The blackjazz merchants are back with something definitely not blackened, nor jazzy. This is straight up “we owe royalties to Bon Jovi and Adrenaline Mob” hard rock. Nary a saxophone in sight. Not what anyone should expect, but it’s damn entertaining nonetheless. It’s delightfully boisterous, doubly so given how unexpected it was.

January 2018 Review Round Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 2015 Review Round Up

The good people over at Faster Louder made a good point when evaluating their own 50 Best Albums of 2015; it has been one of the best years for music in a long time. Now, obviously, their focus is on the pop/rnb/electronic spectrum, whereas I’m definitely more metal and punk, but the overall statement holds true. The year 2015 has been outstanding for metal and it still hasn’t quite finished. There’s still albums by Sunn O))) and Baroness to come, not to mention a few things I’ve missed up until now, so there’s a lot to look forward to even at this late stage.

As far as November goes, you can’t go past No Image by Gold and Malaise by The Rodeo Idiot Engine. Both are masterpieces of emotional depth. As much as it was tough to pick one over the other, ultimately I settled on No Image’s beautiful nihilism over Malaise’s harrowing intensity.

Next month sees the release of my Best Self-Released Titles for 2015. It may not run to fifty this year. I’ve been a lot more diligent in crediting labels and distros, so the number of acts I considered wholy self-released has dropped somewhat. I also think I haven’t reviewed as many titles overall this year compared to last, so that would also account for a drop. I just want to publish a list that’s representative of what I have listened to this year.

See you next month. As always, you can contact me on Facebook. Enjoy.

Album of the Month
Gold – No Image
(Death rock – The Netherlands)
Profound Lore Records/VÁN Records – 2015/11/06

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No Image is a truly remarkable album. The songs are often coruscating with distortion, creating bristling laments to the fall of man. But all the effects in the world wouldn’t take away from the power contained in the music; they could be performed with acoustics only and they would be in no way diminished. The bleakness goes right to the core. Complimented with haunting vocals, this is apocalyptically beautiful.
Try before you buy: Don’t (Bandcamp)

Honourable Mention
The Rodeo Idiot Engine – Malaise
(Avantcore – France)
Throatruiner Records – 2015/11/23

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This is the first time I’ve been exposed to TRIE, but I’m already more than content to rank them alongside Converge and The Dillinger Escape Plan as one of the smartest bands in heaviness. They play an off the wall variety of metallic hardcore that is just as raw as it is furious. And by raw, I mean devastating. Rusty cheese greaters scrubbing the soul to a bloody mess. Intensity turned cataclysmic.
Try before you buy: Syngue Sabour (Bandcamp)

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Beyond All Deception – Beyond All Deception
(Melodic death thrash – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/10/31

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You could just as easily classify these guys as deathly speed metal. They hammer down hard. They spend so much time red lining that they start to bend the needle. It’s intense. They do tend trade a bit of precision to maintain this intensity, but it’s a good deal. You just have to appreciate such a ballsy display of raw power. The wildness may make it a bit rough from time to time, but it’s a cracking ride nonetheless.
Try before you buy: Malevolence (Bandcamp)

Boak – Boak
(Powerviolence – United Kingdom)
Self-released – 2015/06/03

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There is a fantastically cinematic feel to these half-dozen tracks. It sounds like a frenzied melee, with breaks in tempo acting to add emphasis. It’s the audio equivalent of slowing down a fight scene to highlight a particularly spectacular or brutal blow, only to have the fracas return to full speed to maintain structural flow. Ultimately, it’s as uncompromising as their cover art, but done with style.
Try before you buy: Who is the Animal Here? (Bandcamp)

Brain Famine – Exploding Paranoid Universe
(Deathgrind – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/10/19

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This isn’t just aggressive; this is dirty and downright nasty. As I listen all I see is two jacked up meatheads on pcp punching on in the mud in a backwater park somewhere. Nothing is held back and no amount of blood, sweat, or teeth is going to stop the relentless hostility until the deed is done. That the songs aren’t stereotypically short grinders is a bonus. Ten rounds of bare knuckle violence.
Try before you buy: Hallucinating Contagion (Bandcamp)

Dakhma – Passageways To Daena (The Concomitant Blessings Of Putrescing Impurity)
(Blackened death metal – Switzerland)
Self-released – 2015/02/25

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This isn’t the Dakhma who released Raze earlier this year; it’s a different horde of blackened death mongers. I get where these guys are coming from. Aiming for maximum cacophony and disorientation to achieve total sonic dissonance. It’s in much the same vein as Portal. The problem is the production is so muddy all the impact has been drained. All that’s left is a repetitive husk of aggression. Infuriating rather than maddening.
Try before you buy: Where Shattered Minds Collide (The Immortal March)

Horrendous – Anareta
(Death metal – United States of America)
Dark Descent Records – 2015/10/30

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This is deliciously old school. How old school? Slowly We Rot atop the Altars of Madness while we Scream Bloody Gore until Fuckin’ Death seems to sum it up. Horrendous really get the nuances right; Anareta is gritty and primal, but never succumbs to its own hostility. There’s control amidst the madness. And, to top things off, it’s a unique sound. They may be old school, but they’re not derivative. Outstanding stuff.
Try before you buy: Sum of All Failures (Bandcamp)

Intronaut – The Direction of Last Things
(Progressive metal – United States of America)
Century Media Records – 2015/11/13

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Energetic and engaging, The Direction of Last Things sees Intronaut continuing to confirm their status as one of metal’s smartest bands. The composition of these seven tracks allows the listener to fully experience the scope of their intellect without being bogged down in wearisome theory. It’s the Bill Nye of prog; it’s smart and makes you feel smarter for experiencing it, but never at the expense of entertainment.
Try before you buy: Digital Gerrymandering (YouTube)

Leash – Demo 2015
(Crust – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/10/19

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According to my learned colleagues over at Pledge Allegiance to Grindcore, Leash has links to Backstabbers Inc. That piqued my interest, especially since Trap Them was born out of them too. Colour me impressed. This is clattering, crashing, d-beat heavy crust. It’s energetic as hell. Mad as hell too. No comparisons necessary; this demo stands on its own as testament to hard as nails aggression.
Try before you buy: Revelation (Bandcamp)

Manhunt – Manhunt
(Hardcore – Australia)
625 Thrash/Lethal Dose Records/RSR – 2015/01/16

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Disappointed that I’ve missed this for the majority of the year. It’s hardcore, but it’s been booting up powerviolence in the men’s room of the [insert local punk venue]. Wickedly aggressive, this self-titled outing pulls no punches and gives zero fucks. Make no mistake, lots of punk is destructive as a cyclone; Manhunt tear shit up like they’re the red spot on Jupiter, whipping around at 600 kilometres per hour.
Try before you buy: No Tolerance (Bandcamp)

Psionic Plasma – Kaos Typhonian Dimensions
(Black metal – Spain)
Self-released – 2015/11/06

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Blaze era Darkthrone in space. That’s what we’ve got going on here. The first thing that struck me was the production. Raw, of course, but it came across as hearing the band from outside a club venue rather than a recording taken in a spooky forest with terrible equipment. Secondly, the music is excellent. It holds up better than most raw sounding black metal. Finally, the concept they use works. Kvlt in the void of space.
Try before you buy: Phosphorus (Bandcamp)

Savage Blind God – Demo
(Punk – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/09/11

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This demo is six tracks of feisty, raw punk with a beating black heart of Killing Joke-esque post-punk. Waves of anger batter unfeeling cliffs of dissonance like a hurricane off Dover. Forgive the unlikely metaphor, but that’s how it plays out. It has that absolute immediacy of raw punk and hardcore; it’s very in your face. But it’s loaded to the gunwales with intelligent instrumental technique. Engaging stuff.
Try before you buy: Sickening Sanity (Bandcamp)

Sergeant Thunderhoof – Ride the Hoof
(Stoner doom metal – United Kingdom)
Self-released – 2015/11/05

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Got your order of beer and pretzels metal, right here. This is exactly the sort of riff-pounding, bong-rocking metal you need blasting at any party. You honestly won’t care that it’s not the deepest of records; when you have a case of beers to get through, you don’t exactly want a case of the feels. It’s pretty well impossible to hate an album when its biggest fault is that it’s not a thought-provoking chin-scratcher.
Try before you buy: Reptilian Woman (Bandcamp)

Serpents Lair – Circumambulating the Stillborn
(Black metal – Denmark)
Fallen Empire Records/Duplicate Records/Hellthrasher Productions – 2015/11/03

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Serpents Lair’s demo from last year brimmed with malign promise, even if it didn’t quite deliver. Their first full length, however, is a baleful delivery on all promises made. And then some. It’s nothing less than pure, uncut evil. Sometimes icy in its hate, sonetimes scorching in its wrath, Circumambulating the Stillborn is always venomous. This is an affirmation of how awe-inspiringly terrifying black metal can be in its purest form.
Try before you buy: Epistemology of Death (Bandcamp)

Shining – International Blackjazz Society
(Avant-garde metal – Norway)
Spinefarm Records – 2015/10/16

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Increasingly difficult to categorise, International Blackjazz Society sees Shining become something not jazz and, yet, not truly metal. They have finally reached that point of transcendence they’ve been building to. Such experimental drive had the potential to end in an album more challenging than enjoyable, but the risk paid off. It’s an intelligent album that entertains rather than alienates.
Try before you buy: Last Day (YouTube)

Tuer – Ivresse & Enfer
(Grindcore – Switzerland)
Self-released – 2015/09/25

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At the risk of offending by comparison, I’m going to compare this intense slab of hostile grind to pop punk. Living dangerously, I know. I went there because the nine tracks are catchy as hell. Every track is an earworm. They get right into your head and stay there. The big difference is that, unlike pop punk, the album doesn’t make you want to commit suicide. Get stuck into it. It’s meaty good violence.
Try before you buy: Odyssée Ethylique (Bandcamp)

Vhöl – Deeper Than Sky
(Crusty blackened power metal – United States of America)
Profound Lore Records – 2015/10/23

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Vhöl is giving Sigh a run for their money in the competition for “Most Over The Top Release”. The key difference is coherence. Sigh threw notes at the score like they’re Jackson Pollock and hoped for the best, whereas Vhöl clearly had a plan they were executing. It’s still a mighty overwhelming combination of punk, power metal and black metal. It’s like a stoned berserker; charging ever forward, but in an upbeat manner.
Try before you buy: Red Chaos (Bandcamp)

August 2015 Review Round Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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