August Review Round Up

It’s been a good month. I’m a huge fan of the new Wolves in the Throne Room album. I’m sure the shift to pure instrumental ambience will disappoint genre purists, but narrow-mindedness is not a virtue.

There was lots to like this month on top of Celestite too. Obviously, the honourable mentions deserve attention, but there’s even more on top of that. Read, listen, enjoy.

Album of Month
Wolves in the Throne Room – Celestite
(Ambient – United States of America)
Artemisia Records – 2014/07/08

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Some people are going to automatically dismiss this because it’s not metal, but that’s their loss. Listening to Celestite made me feel like I was in the presence of greatness. The emotional impact this album has is transformative. I was listening to it while driving and what was an ordinary trip through suburbia, soon became a haunting sojourn through an alien wilderness. It takes alienation and isolation, and makes them beautiful.
Try before you buy: Celestite Mirror (Bandcamp)

Honourable Mentions
Alder Glade – Demo I
(Black metal – Australia)
Self-released – 2014/08/28

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The black and white cover photo of a mangrove is representative of this fantastic demo’s entire direction: traditionally blackened with an Australian bent. It’s not so much grim and frostbitten, as it is oppressive and hailstruck. That’s what I love about Alder Glade; it takes all the traditional elements of second wave black metal, does them well, and makes it sound as though the genre was always an Aussie invention. An impressive new band.
Try before you buy: Imprisoned in the Stars (Bandcamp)

Gnaw Their Tongues & Alkerdeel – Dyodyo Asema
(Blackened sludge – The Netherlands/Belgium)
ConSouling Sounds – 2014/01/01

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Be transported to a scene of abject horror. A man is chained to the ground and is being eaten from the inside out by insects. As his suffering reaches a peak, a rabid death cult bursts forth to cavort and writhe through a ceremony most blasphemous. But, as an unintended consequence of their evil, at the crescendo of their mad rite, the sacrifice bursts forth and cultists are swarmed by ravenous insects. Spoiler alert: the insects win. Impressive for a single.
Try before you buy: All of it. Every second of it. (Bandcamp)

Ofghost – Eeva
(Neue Deutsche Schwärze – Finland)
Self-released – 2014/08/01

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Okay, so the play on Neue Deutsche Härte is a bit off, what with them being Finns. Suomen Uusi Musta (according to Google Translate) would be more accurate. The comparison is accurate enough though, as Ofghost’s incorporation of industrial into black metal, or vice-versa, is seemless. The driving rhythms speak to a post-humanity environment; mankind is dead and this is the music of the machines. Merciless, inhuman hatred.
Try before you buy: Dust (Bandcamp)

Opeth – Pale Communion
(Progressive rock – Sweden)
Roadrunner Records – 2014/08/24

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Opeth exists in a creative sphere that only a select few inhabit. They have the ability to create wondrously engaging soundscapes and to make it seem absolutely effortless. The decision to further explore the depths of progessive rock pays rich dividends. Rich, evocative rhythms are woven through with striking string passages and delicate accoustic movements, creating sumptuously dark listening experience. Sublime from start to finish.
Try before you buy: Moon Above, Sun Below (YouTube)

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Al Goregrind – Asses
(Grinding brutal death- Germany)
Self-released – 2014/08/01

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This is a thoroughly delightful romp. The sheer ridiculousness of the puerile subject matter meshes perfectly the over the top blend of brutal death and grindcore. I’ve often been suspicious of humorous death metal, but Al Goregrind proves that there is a home for bum and fart jokes amidst the brutal. This success lies in the band’s ability to play high quality music. It blasts; it slams; it even deviates into a brutal form of space opera. Fantastic.
Try before you buy: Psychedelic Fart Symphony (Bandcamp)

Alcoholicaust/Arduous Task – Mutilation of the Holy
(Blackened death metal/death metal – United States of America)
Self-released – 2014/08/16

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As far as things go, this isn’t bad. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s good though. Alcoholicaust’s five tracks come across as being more bare bones than no frills. And I was left with the nagging suspicion that it could have been produced in Mario Paint’s music suite. Arduous Task’s four tracks are better. They’re a fine example of knuckle-dragging brutal death. It’s far from subtle and has all the variation of a metronome, but not without its charms.
Try before you buy: Across the Northern Atlantic (Bandcamp)

Apocryphal – Ritual Entombment
(Death metal – United States of America)
Self-released – 2014/08/23

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I call it orc metal. It’s ugly as an open wound, evil as hell, and dumb as dog shit. I’m perfectly happy to concede that, while this certainly isn’t my cup of tea, there is definitely a market for this Neanderthal-like smashing of instruments. And I’ve got to further concede that once I got my inner monobrow aligned, I could see the appeal. The doomy slow riffs combine with the latent violence to make a hell of a deathly, but dumb, monstrosity.
Try before you buy: Calcified Death (Bandcamp)

Coffin Birth – Necrotic Liquefaction
(Deathgrind – Australia)
Self-released – 2014/07/31

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If Necrotic Liquefaction were a person, it would be a spree killer armed with claw hammers, mindlessly smashing everything and everyone until being gunned down mid-strike. Bloody-minded and ruthlessly punishing guitars are paired with unrelenting drums to create a soundtrack for violence. It’s good to find a deathgrind band that actually succeeds in embodying the visceral nature of grindcore and the raw evil of death.
Try before you buy: The Ripping and Tearing (Bandcamp)

Downfall of Nur – Umbras e Forestas
(Ambient black metal – Argentina)
Self-released – 2014/08/10

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This feels like black metal made under laboratory conditions; it sounds as though adherence to the scientific method was of forefront concern. I say this because track one is black metal, track two is ambient, track three is an incomplete blend of the two, and track four is the complete synthesis. It’s an interesting experiment with solid performances, but it’s not perfect. It can be a bit overwrought and the overuse of thunder effects gets a bit much.
Try before you buy: Umbras e Forestas (Bandcamp)

Failgiver – Failgiver
(Hardcore – Canada)
Self-released – 2014/08/01

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On the first spin, I hated it. On the second, I loved it. By the third time, I had settled in somewhere in between and I’ve stayed there. This is some very promising hardcore with some moments of brilliance, but you’ve got to be in a punk frame of mind to enjoy it. The production has led to the instruments all being mashed together, to create some sort of unwholesome core stew, with the vocals barked out on top. It works well because it’s punk.
Try before you buy: Animals Like Us (Bandcamp)

Funerary – Starless Aeon
(Funeral doom – United States of America)
Midnight Collective – 2014/08/12

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If you like your doom slow, then Starless Aeon is perfect. Sure, all funeral doom is slow, but Funerary is absolutely glacial. The riffs play out over geological time. And bleak? You betcha. The whole tone speaks to that time when the universe is so old, the lights in the sky are all extinct, all life but dust. The most important thing is that the band is capable of creating this bottomless pit of despair without becoming repetitive. A new vision of hell.
Try before you buy: Beneath the Black Veil (Bandcamp)

Judas Priest – Redeemer of Souls
(Heavy metal – United Kingdom)
Sony Music Entertainment – 2014/07/11

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Judas Priest have been around for-Goddamn-ever, so it’s reassuring to see that they are still capable of releasing an album that sounds fresh. I love Redeemer of Souls. It’s catchy. I often catch myself whistling Dragonaut or Metalizer long after I’ve turned the music off. It’s engaging. My critical brain switches off and I let the enjoyment wash over me. For a band that really has nothing to prove, it’s fantastic to see them still going hard.
Try before you buy: Dragonaut (YouTube)

The Mark of Man – Exeunt
(Melodic death metal – New Zealand)
Self-released – 2014/08/21

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Good to see melodeath done properly. The Mark of Man have successfully adopted the Gothenburg sound to such a degree that you would swear they were locals like At The Gates or In Flames. They get the energy right by absolutely nailing the rhythms and the guitar tone. The vocals, while core leaning, are spot on too. It’s almost hard to believe they’re Aucklanders sometimes. There’s nothing novel here, just non-stop, top-notch melodeath.
Try before you buy: The Craven (Bandcamp)

Misery Index – The Killing Gods
(Death metal – United States of America)
Season of Mist – 2014/05/23

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Misery Index are not world leaders at what they do, but I will cheerily throw money at them every time they release an album. Why? Because they are one of the most consistent purveyors of death metal violence out there. The Killing Gods continues this record, blasting out twelve tracks of brutality tweaked with just enough grindcore to make the songs especially unforgiving. It’s the sort of album that absolutely begs to played louder than all the rest.
Try before you buy: Gallows Humor (YouTube)

Origin – Omnipresent
(Technical death metal – United States of America)
Agonia Records/Nuclear Blast – 2014/07/04

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Origin are the most skilled acrobats in techdeath today. Throughout their career they have walked the finest of high wires, pushing the limits of technicality while striving to always preserve listenability. And on first listen, I thought they might have reigned that in, gone for a safer, more strictly brutal approach. But with each additional listen, I picked out more and more technical flourishes. That they pulled that trick off, truly sets them apart.
Try before you buy: The Absurdity of What I Am (YouTube)

Practically Extinct – Again
(Cybergrind – Finland)
Self-released – 2014/07/03

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This one man grinder has made himself quite an interesting sound. It sounds like it was recorded underground or in a tunnel somewhere, with the mic at one end and the man himself down the other. But even though it sounds eerily far off, it doesn’t resound with echo. The music itself wends from the shortest blasts to long oddly accoustic passages. The end result sounds like the aggressive thrashing of a mad sewer dweller, and that’s a result that works.
Try before you buy: WxFxFxFx (Bandcamp)

Predatory Light – MMXIV
(Blackened doom metal – United States of America)
Self-released – 2014/02/20

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Holy crap, these guys need to stick to the doom. It’s not like the blackened part of their music is bad. It’s not, but it’s not fantastic either. Shrugworthy is my best description. But when they stick to the low and slow, it’s devastating. It’s heavy like galaxies collapsing in on themselves and equally awe-inspiring. But just as it’s about to reach a singularity, the blackened creeps back in and kills the atmosphere. It’s worth the highlights though.
Try before you buy: Spiritual Flesh (Bandcamp)

Strife Machine – Radiant Guilt and Agony
(Black metal – New Zealand)
Self-released – 2014/08/17

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I’ve got to admit that I’m getting quite sick of bands opening with a promising intro, only to dash my misplaced hopes upon the rocks of mediocrity. Strife Machine did this quite spectacularly, diving from a high point of promised grim introspection to a nadir of crappy drum machines, elementary level guitars, and inconsistent vocals. It regularly transitions through passable, poor, and terrible, leaving the listener with a sense of jarring dissatisfaction.
Try before you buy: Dawnflock (Bandcamp)

Tenchu – Demo
(Powerviolence – Canada)
Self-released – 2014/08/08

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I’m going to just call this powerviolence. I may be wrong, but this is short, fast, loud, and weird. I have often seen pv described as mutant hardcore; if Tenchu were an animal, it would have been stillborn it’s so damn mutated. It opens with a four minute sludge-grind mishmash and proceeds to delve into further sonic oddness. I’m perfectly willing to dismiss the dodgy demo quality. The roughness adds an appropriate murkiness.
Try before you buy: Nisei (Bandcamp)

The Terrordactyls – Terminally Chill
(Blackened crossover- United States of America)
Self-released – 2014/08/23

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This really comes across bro metal for satanists. WOOOOOO SATAN! *chest bumps* CHUG CHUG CHUG! Honestly, I spent much of this album wishing they would simply stick to the crossover; the blackened grimness doesn’t add a whole lot to it. I’m not saying their attempts at kvltosity are bad; it’s just not a natural fit with the stoner, party vibe of crossover, so it ends up sounding a bit odd. Definitely worth a crack for curiosity’s sake though.
Try before you buy: Whirling Dervish (Bandcamp)

Vaiya – Remnant Light
(Ambient black metal – Australia)
Natural World Records – 2014/08/08

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This is an absolutely gut-wrenching experience. A lot of ambient black metal tends towards the melancholy, but this pushes way past that. This is distressing. The utter relentlessness of the sonic barrage combined with subtle tonal shifts, appropriate segues into true ambience, and some of the best blackened vocals I’ve heard this year make for an album that packs a truly devastating punch. And it’s all crammed into three thirteen minute tracks.
Try before you buy: Confrontation (Bandcamp)

Verstecktengång – Matters of the Ineffable
(Ambient black metal – Canada)
Self-released – 2014/08/01

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Matters of the Ineffable has some flaws that mar an otherwise excellent album. Using two introductions is odd, especially when they clash stylistically. And the production value fluctuates song to song, with some tracks sounding like they had major label backing, while others sound like they were recorded in a forest with cardboard gear. But once you get past the issues, you discover a surprisingly engaging slab of blackened ambience.
Try before you buy: Kammer der Engel (Bandcamp)

Vertigo Index – Posthuman v1.1
(Grindcore – United States of America)
Self-released – 2014/08/07

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Starting off well is something every band should aim to do with every release. And Vertigo Index do that. Very powerful, high intensity grind is clearly top of their agenda. The problem is they don’t build on this strong foundation and it quickly subsides into monotony. There just isn’t enough about Posthuman v1.1 to hold the listener’s attention for the duration. The songs don’t sound alike, thankfully, but that’s the best thing that can be said.
Try before you buy: Mother Boxx (Bandcamp)

Water Torture – Pillbox
(Powerviolence – United States of America)
Nerve Altar – 2014/08/05

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If you like your music aggressive in an odd way, Pillbox is the release for you. Vocals, bass, drums, and noise are Water Torture’s weapons of choice. These weapons are used to make a fearsome and alienating brand of punk, designed as much to discomfort the listener as whip them into a fury. The bass throbs through the body, while the diversions into feedback set the soul on edge. Pillbox is a release designed to show pv at its destructive best.
Try before you buy: Field of View (Bandcamp)

Xothist – Simulacrum
(Harsh black metal – United States of America)
Fallen Empire Records – 2014/08/09

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This is the sound of being trapped in a burning building with no exits. Of almost drowning in a raging river, barely clinging to a rescue rope. The death of the soul by a thousand cuts. Cacophonous, unrelenting, and horrifying, Simulacrum is an undeniably tough listen, but that very toughness is the mark of twisted genius. The screeching wall of noise forces the listener to grab hold of the melody or risk their sanity. Pure sonic evil.
Try before you buy: Side A (Bandcamp)

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April Review Round Up

It took an almighty amount of time for my album of the month to turn up. The hazards of international ordering and shipping. Shelter is totally worth it though. It had some serious competition to contend with, in the form of Akab, III: Beneath Trident’s Tomb, and Sweven. Any one of those releases could have made the cut in any other month.

There’s also been a lot of crap this month. I’ve needed the awesome releases to clean my mind after such disappointment.

Album of the Month
Alcest – Shelter
(Shoegaze – France)
Prophecy Productions – 2014/01/17

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Alcest has dropped any pretence of metal on their fourth full length and have fully embraced the gentler nature of shoegaze. In doing so, Neige and his collaborators have created an album of light and space, which gives this sonic dreamscape room to soar. Neige’s vocals have a joyous melancholy, which is a wondrous oxymoron. The guitars and synths add a concentrated etherealness. The end result is a sun-drenched journey through the ether.
Try before you buy: Voix Sereines (YouTube)

Honourable Mentions
Black Khox – Akab
(Stoner sludge – Canada)
Self-released – 2014/04/20

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Instantly likeable, high intensity, super fuzzed, stoner sludge. The riffs have that High on Fire-approved heft, but aren’t loaded with the inherent negativity. The other band I feel compelled to name drop is Church of Misery, as Black Khox share that party rock vibe I get from the Japanese rifflords. But with substantially less serial killer obsession. Once the sample fanfare ended and the rock started, I was left with an ear to ear grin.
Try before you buy: Kong (Bandcamp)

Morbus Chron – Sweven
(Death metal – Sweden)
Century Media Records – 2014/02/24

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I have to admit, I’m impressed by Sweven. Morbus Chron’s first album was part of spate of ‘old school above all else’ releases out of Sweden and, while they were promising, they were just another zombie obsessed death metal act. Sweven breaks them from this mould. Their music has an otherworldly quality to it now, which allows them to expand their songwriting into progressive territory, while still indulging in the supernatural.
Try before you buy: The Perennial Link (YouTube)

Twilight – III: Beneath Trident’s Tomb
(Black Metal – United States of America)
Century Media – 2014/03/17

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The black metal supergroup is back with slightly less Nachtmystium and slightly more Sonic Youth. Not entirely sure what prompted Thurston Moore to join up with this assortment of USBM’s finest, but his contribution works. I want to call it psychedelic, but it’s no greyscale rainbow. It’s more like the iridescent sheen on an oil slick; grimey and obviously unpleasant. Twilight is black metal that embodies the death of light of their namesake phenomena.
Try before you buy: Lungs (YouTube)

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Aronious – Truth in Perception
(Technical death metal – United States of America)
Self-released – 2014/04/04

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I like over the top fret masturbation as much as the next techdeath aficionado, but I have to admit that, sometimes, awe inspiring technicality comes at the expense of listenability. Which is probably why I enjoyed Truth in Perception as much as I did, as they incorporate progressive elements in order to mitigate technical excess. This in turn allows space for the technical elements to truly shine. Aronious have crafted quite the sophisticated album.
Try before you buy: Truth in Perception (Bandcamp)

Ego Depths – Oligoria Blodd
(Funeral doom metal – Ukraine)
Self-released – 2014/04/16

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The second piece of Ukrainian funeral doom I’ve listened to this month, and in terms of album construction, they’re similar. First track sets the tone, second track defines the theme, and tracks three through five flesh it out. The similarities end there though. Ego Depths’ brand of mournful dirge is heavy on the futility of existence, from the depths of space to the tiniest spaces between cells, and light on hope, even false hope. Bleak stuff.
Try before you buy: Endosphere (Bandcamp)

Ephemeral Ocean – Honour in the Mask
(Progressive death doom – Russia)
Self-released – 2014/04/05

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Ephemeral Ocean sounds very much like a lower, slower Opeth. They may not have the full range of technical flourishes that Åkerfeldt and co put into their music, but they compensate by bringing the doom. What really puts them in the same ballpark is the feeling of space in their melodies and the organic flow of their song structures. Of course, this is just a three song e.p., so such flattering comparisons may be premature, but they are certainly worth a listen.
Try before you buy: Wrong Dismemberment (Bandcamp)

Execució – Demo
(Thrash – Spain)
Trabuc Records – 2014/02/23

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A big band of the future, right here. Assuming the metal gods will shine down kindly. This is five tracks of old school, no frills thrash. And I mean this in the best possible way. As someone who got into metal via thrash, this is a reminder of everything that’s good. The vocals are on the death metal growl spectrum, but the rest of the music is 100% eighties goodness. And, as much as its old school, it sounds unique. And it’s free. Go get it. Now.
Try before you buy: SSS (Bandcamp)

Firecult – The Essence of the Fallen
(Melodic black metal – Canada)
Self-released – 2014/04/04

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I’m sure when Firecult formed with the intent of playing melodic black metal, they hoped it would come across as a cross between Watain and In Flames. Regrettably, it ended up sounding like Dimmu or Cradle, but without all the pretty keyboard bits. And not their reasonably solid early work either. It’s a shame, as Firecult aren’t bad musicians; what they play, they play well. The problem lies in their compositional skills. Dull music played well.
Try before you buy: Revelations of the New Aeon (Bandcamp)

Forest of Tygers – Bruises
(Sludge metal – United States of America)
Acteon – 2014/04/29

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Ever so slightly singed sludge metal performed by a Nashville couple. It’s technically proficient, but also insubstantial. It’s the sort of release that you can listen to and have completely forgotten about the second it ends. It’s as ephemeral as a puff of smoke. This makes it a problematic release, because it’s enjoyable enough, but without the staying power, what’s the point? It’s a shame, as there is potential for greatness, but it’s wasted.
Try before you buy: Tigerstripe (Bandcamp)

Giza – I Am the Ocean, I Am the Sea
(Instrumental sludge metal – United States of America)
Self-released – 2014/04/29

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For an album that calls itself ‘I Am the Ocean, I Am the Sea’, it sure does lack the raw, surging power of its elemental namesakes. Its heaviness is technical or scientific in nature; much less of the power of the tidal surge and much more of water being pressurised under lab conditions. This ensures that the e.p. comes across as an oddity. Neither truly good or bad, Giza has crafted a soundscape in homage to a great natural force in a way alien to it.
Try before you buy: Molecular Tsunami (Bandcamp)

Human Collapse – Darkness to Fall
(Death doom – Russia)
Self-released – 2014/04/05

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Another interesting take on death doom. It’s kind of like what Licrest were trying to do last month, but done with more tact. There is still a distinction between the death doom and the true doom, but where this distinction can seem hamfisted in other hands, Human Collapse gets it right. It allows the band to juxtapose anger and grief, highlighting their differences, while acknowledging their commonalities. An earthy and genuine approach to negativity.
Try before you buy: Novembersmile (Bandcamp)

Mashet – The Unconsciousness Acts
(Death metal – Chile)
Self-released – 2014/04/13

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What a waste of potential. When the album kicks off, it sounds like a discount store knock off of Obituary. Standard issue chuggy riffs and public domain death growls seemed to be where the album was headed. Then the first solo started, and I realised that the guitarists are much better than their band. This is a trend that continues throughout the album: completely interchangeable death metal interspersed with top notch solos.
Try before you buy: Kymatic Darkness (Bandcamp)

Neptune’s Inferno – Abyss
(Doom metal – United States of America)
Death Valley Records – 2014/04/25

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I’m often critical of black and death metal for being too by the numbers or, to be rude, lazy. But at least there’s an element of skill in tremolo picking or windmilling death slams. Lazy doom metal? Bah! It’s the fucking worst. When you’re playing at 60bpm or less, you had better make your output menorable. As it stands, Abyss doesn’t pass the test. Prime example: I couldn’t even tell the first two tracks apart. Completely lacking stylistic nuance.
Try before you buy: Night Fever (Bandcamp)

Reivers – State Effects//Trait Effects
(D-beat – United States of America)
Self-released – 2014/02/25

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I forgot how much I enjoy D-beat until these Oakland face-smashers reminded me. It’s a four track e.p. that starts off short and sharp, but builds intensity quickly, culminating in a brooding finale that simply crushes. Special mention goes out to the female vocalist, Kate. Her vox reminds me of H.R., of Bad Brains fame, and it just makes the e.p. sound complete. The rest of the band are no slouches either. An excellent example of modern punk.
Try before you buy: Save Face (Bandcamp)

Ringworm – Hammer of the Witch
(Thrashcore – United States of America)
Relapse Records – 2014/03/18

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Thrashcore. Not a term I like, and I’m probably not using it correctly. But when it’s too close to metalcore to be crossover and too close to crossover to be metalcore, I’m left in an awkward position. Nomenclature aside, these thugs throw down ugly, bruising music. And that is precisely what makes this album work. Ringworm have been around a long time; they’re not about to reinvent the wheel. But their genuine bile-fuelled anger is timeless.
Try before you buy: Psychic Vampires (Bandcamp)

Sagas – Traumwanderer
(Black metal – Germany)
Self-released – 2014/04/18

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The first time I’ve come across an Alcest clone. Probably being a bit harsh there, but the combination of black metal and shoegaze is very closely associated with Alcest in my mind. I do like this combination of sounds and I like some of the rhythms Sagas have put to wax. But it’s far from perfect. What’s really lacking is nuance. The insistence on using growls and snarls, where clean vocals would be appropriate is an unfortunate example. Not bad overall though.
Try before you buy: Einsamkeit (Bandcamp)

Sights of War – Annihilate to Survive
(Blackened punk – Canada)
HSP Productions – 2014/04/25

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The tempo and rhythm of dirty gutter punk are matched with the tuning and production values of first wave black metal. It’s a perfect match for those whose disaffection has given way to outright contempt. There’s nothing complicated or pretty about this album; it’s raw, visceral, and blunt. It operates within rigorous self-defined parameters, but does manage to avoid the pitfall of monotony though. It’s an album that lets its anger run riot.
Try before you buy: Terror Unfold (Bandcamp)

Slayer – Implode
(Thrash – United States of America)
Self-released – 2014/04/24

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I ummed and ahed over including this review. It is, after all, a self-released tester single. But (BUT) it is the first piece of recorded material to hit the air in the post-Hanneman era, so it’s a bit of a landmark. Gary Holt more than capably fills the role of axeman, but doesn’t merely imitate the dear departed. His contributions are vibrant. It’s no masterpiece though. It could’ve come from World Painted Blood. Most importantly, it still sounds like Slayer.
Try before you buy: Implode (duh…) (YouTube)

Slough Feg – Digital Resistance
(Heavy metal – United States of America)
Metal Blade Records – 2014/02/18

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The Lord Weird returns and, by God, I hate reviewing them. Don’t get me wrong; I love America’s answer to Iron Maiden, but much like their NWOBHM inspiration, they produce metal of such consistent quality that it’s barely worth reviewing. Does it sound like Slough Feg? Yes. Have they deviated from their traditional sound? Not at all. For the unitiated, Slough Feg play traditional heavy metal, in a slightly less expansive way than Iron Maiden. Always worth a listen.
Try before you buy: Digital Resistance (YouTube)

Slow – Unsleep
(Funeral doom metal – United States of America)
Black Plague Records – 2014/04/13

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Apologies if I completely missed the point, but this is how I interpreted Unsleep. It’s an album based on someone committing suicide by drowning, only to have their soul remain trapped within their corpse. It opens with trepidation and a sort of numb euphoria, but quickly turns horrific. Sickly, there are occasional lapses into false acceptance, but by the end there is only bleak resignation. Warning: the bass will ruin speakers.
Try before you buy: Drowned II: Unsleep (Bandcamp)

Стены Льда [Steny Lda] – Белое Безмолвие [White Silence]
(Sludgey Post-hardcore – Russia)
Slow Burn Records – 2014/04/07

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An interesting combination of progressive sludge and post-hardcore. For the most part, it’s quite contemplative. In many ways it sounds like a collaboration between Baroness and Sunny Day Real Estate. The songs are largely instrumental, with the sparse vocals being used just as much to affect a thematic change, as convey a message. It’s an album that is intelligently constructed, well played, and, above all else, a joy to listen to.
Try before you buy: Дрейфующие В Тумане Айсберги, Несущие Гибель И Разрушение [The Icebergs Drifting In A Fog And Bringing Loss And Destruction] (Bandcamp)

Stoic Violence – Chained
(Hardcore – United States of America)
Deranged Records – 2014/04/27

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I would slap the shit out of these guys while screaming, “It’s not the bloody eighties!”, but their output is just too good to get mad at. The songs are short bursts of manic anger, in keeping the truest spirit of early days of the genre. And they’re catchy too, but not because of cheap theatrics that ‘modern’ hardcore acts are prone to. These songs may lack a pro-arena sound, but they don’t lack for bombast. Turn it up, get drunk, and smash shit.
Try before you buy: No Escape (Bandcamp)

Teitanblood – Death
(Blackened death metal – Spain)
Norma Evangelium Diaboli – 2014/03/13

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Teitanblood are purveyors of the filthiest, nastiest, most putrescent death metal there is. Death is an album that strips away whatever few friperies they previously allowed themselves. What remains is a hellraising racket, ripe with mildew of the crypt and the sulphurous tang of damnation. Ferocious blackened riffs relentlessly batter the speakers, while drums blast an infernal, manic beat. These Spaniards are deeply invested in their evil.
Try before you buy: Cadaver Synod (YouTube)

Tetragrammaton – Descendere
(Black metal – United States of America)
Dying God Records – 2014/04/18

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I don’t know what these guys think they’re doing, but they’re doing it wrong. Black metal should not be this soporific. Seriously, this e.p. could easily double as a soothing white noise device. I’m not sure whether it’s the swampy tempos, the deadpan shrieks, or cliché guitar tone that knocks me out. It could just be that they’re taking what was done by second wave black metal and playing it back slower. A disappointing effort that wouldn’t engage die hard genre buffs.
Try before you buy: Filth Goddess (Bandcamp)

This Cold Night – We of Like Minds
(Post-punk – United States of America)
Self-released – 2014/03/06

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I found this album infuriating. A less subjective voice may say it’s not terrible, just dull. But I want to be subjective. The vocalist sounds as though he discovered that he can pass off being flat as singing in a minor key. His range isn’t great either. And the guitar work is sub-pop punk in ability. Judicious use of reverb can’t hide that for more than one song. But worst of all is the lack of variation. If I wanted monotonous riffs, I’d listen to drone.
Try before you buy: Eighties Goth Suicide Note (Bandcamp)

Throat Slitter – Demo 2014
(Fastcore – Canada)
Self-released – 2014/01/05

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Odd release date; I got my copy in late April and not because I’m an influential blogger. Meh. Anyhow, I’m a fan of how Throat Slitter approach grindcore. It takes a certain level of skill to release something with no tracks over a minute while ensuring that every track sounds fully developed. These songs sound so well fleshed out that they feel much longer. And not in the ‘oh God, why won’t they stop?’ way. Get this, enjoy it, hope they put out more soon.
Try before you buy: Misanthropic Lunatic (Bandcamp)

WTCHDR – Triumph and Despair
(Metalcore – Canada)
Self-released – 2014/04/02

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Always good to find a band that gives me hope for a genre I consider in decline. It does this by embracing metalcore’s hardcore roots. Rather than trying to wad in as many breakdowns as possible, WTCHDR keep their songs short and to the point, with the majority coming in under ninety seconds. Its fury is lean and precise. Revitalised hardcore with metal tuning, this reminds us what the portmanteau ‘metalcore’ actually means.
Try before you buy: The Sheep (Bandcamp)

Zombie X Incest – Live Demo
(Powerviolence – Nepal)
Self-released – 2014/03/11

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I was going to pass this over. The term ‘live demo’ doesn’t fill me with hope. But how often does Nepalese powerviolence crop up? Obscure much? To be 100% honest, I’m glad I gave in to the hipster urge, as this is an excellent introduction to a really talented band. The audio is admittedly terrible; the vocals and guitars tend to meld. But the genuine raw edge that the band has shines through. I hope a clean release happens. They deserve it.
Try before you buy: Why So Serious? (Bandcamp)