April 2015 Review Round Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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March 2015 Review Round Up

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

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

Feel free to Facebook me with comments or feedback.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October Review Round Up

Took some time off reviews in October. Still got a fair bit done, but I had some Dream Theater related distractions going on. Seriously, if you ever get a chance to see them live, do it. We all know Petrucci’s talent is as colossal as his ego, but I was mesmerised by Mangini, Myung, and Rudess all night. A fantastic live performance.

Back to the reviews and Decapitated delivered the goods this month. Blood Mantra is polished death metal perfection, delivering non-stop pummelling action. It had competion though. Panopticon especially came close to the crown with their novel approach to black metal.

Back to it. November’s going to be huge too. Enjoy October’s releases and I’ll be back next month.

Album of the Month
Decapitated – Blood Mantra
(Death metal – Poland)
Nuclear Blast – 2014/09/26

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Decapitated are back and they have landed with an absolute killer of an album. Underscoring the success of this album is the stellar performance of Młody on drums. What this man can do with the sticks is amazing. From this unshakeable bedrock the rest of the band build a spectacular monument to the grandeur of death metal. The bass lines are monstrous, the riffs huge and memorable, and the vocals pack a hell of a punch. Blood Mantra is a deathly masterclass.
Try before you buy: Veins (YouTube)

Honourable Mentions
Ironic Reversal – Clonus
(Death metal – India)
Self-released – 2014/10/15

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A fantastic debut release, Ironic Reversal neatly straddle progressive and technical death metal while also incorporating traditional Indian song structures. I imagine that had it been poorly executed, it would have been an overwrought exercise in tedium. But they execute it brilliantly. Guitars, drums, vocals, all brilliant. There are so many moving pieces in Clonus; that they keep it all in order is the mark of a band who are masters of their craft.
Try before you buy: Simulants (Bandcamp)

Electric Wizard – Time to Die
(Doom metal – United Kingdom)
Spinefarm Records – 2014/09/29

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The doyens of distortion are back with a new album loaded with bonged out riffs and crushing misanthropy. Moving away from the Hammer Horror of their recent releases and revisiting the raw hatred of the Dopethrone era definitely makes for a more mature sounding album. I love songs about Drugula as much as the next person, it can get a bit much. Thematic chages aside, Time to Die is still loaded with the infectious riffs that make the band brilliant.
Try before you buy: We Love the Dead (YouTube)

Fvck Mountain – Dead Dogs
(Hardcore – Australia)
Self-released – 2014/10/02

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As I listened to Dead Dogs it slowly dawned on me that I may be listening to the best hardcore release of the year. It’s certainly the best of the year so far. I’ve listened to plenty of hardcore that matches them for anger, but no one comes close to them it terms of compositional skill. Other bands are thuggish arse-kickers; Fvck Mountain are professional boxers. They turn violence into a display of utmost technicality. Hardcore at its finest.
Try before you buy: Violence (Bandcamp)

Horsehunter – Caged in Flesh
(Sludge metal – Australia)
Self-released – 2014/09/30

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These Melbourne sludge lords get everything right on Caged in Flesh. Huge fuzzed riffs ooze along like some sort of monstrous Down/Electric Wizard hybrid. You don’t need to be told to bang your head; you just will. You have no choice. The solos are some of the most spirited efforts you will hear this year. The occasional rough edges somehow add to the atmosphere. Even the weakest track on the album will kill the competition. It’s that good.
Try before you buy: Witchery (Bandcamp)

Iprit – Iprit
(Black metal – Russia)
Self-released – 2014/10/01

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More of this, please. These Russians know exactly how to write top tier black metal. It sounds like they’ve reverse engineered progressive black metal bands, such as Enslaved or later Emperor, in order to make a more primitive version of that sound. This ensures an ep that maintains a rich tone, but always goes for the throat. Refusing to give in to traditionally kvlt tropes only makes the ep stronger. Powerful and dominant from start to finish.
Try before you buy: Солнце не взойдет (Bandcamp)

Panopticon – Roads to the North
(Blackgrass – United States of America)
Bindrune Recordings – 2014/08/01

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Panopticon stands as testimony to black metal’s ability to infest any other genre it chooses; in this case, it’s bluegrass. More importantly, it’s not a gimmick. Roads to the North is absolutely coruscating black metal that incorporates Southern song structure and fiddles in a way that pays due homage to the band’s Kentucky heritage. The end result is an album that is both ferocious and soulful. Thoroughly engaging from start to finish.
Try before you buy: Where Mountains Pierce the Sky (Bandcamp)

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Advent – Touched
(Doom metal – Russia)
Existential Delirium Records – 2014/10/09

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This is a doom album, so I’m kind of concerned that I can use criticisms that I usually level at metalcore. Firstly, the clean vocals are not good. But, thankfully, they are sparse. Secondly, and more importantly, is the music is thoroughly inconsequential. It maintains a simple rhythm that can be headbanged along to, but there isn’t anything beyond that to recommend. That they manage to not sound terrible is not a selling point to boast about.
Try before you buy: Anthem of Regrets (Bandcamp)

Albura – Origen
(Hardcore – Argentina)
Self-released – 2014/10/05

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Fuck pretty. Fuck complicated. Fuck it all. Albura write stripped back hardcore: big on catchy riffs, bigger on outright violence. Each track is the equivalent to a punch in the face. Even slower tracks have an air of lingering malevolence, like your attacker isn’t quite sure where to hit you. Yet. This whole panoply of aggression would fall apart at the seems but for the fact that the songs are memorable in their simplicity. Classic hardcore menace.
Try before you buy: Hipotensión (Bandcamp)

ColumnIII – Forrotian
(Noise rock – United States of America)
Self-released – 2014/10/15

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Noise rock (and noise metal for that matter) is not the easiest sound to pull off. Bands like Today is the Day and Unsane do it well; ColumnIII not so much. It’s unfortunate too, as they produce a racket that could be entertaining. They even produce flashes of brilliance that, if maintained, could make them huge. But that doesn’t make up for the fact that most of their tracks are stodgy, monotonous, and dull. I still have hope for the future though.
Try before you buy: Custom to Bury (Bandcamp)

Defamer – Monolith of Filth
(Death metal – Australia)
Self-released – 2014/08/19

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Monolith of Filth is an excellent example of evil condensed into sonic form. The guitar tone is ripe with sulfur and brimstone, while the vocalist spits pure balefire. But unlike other death metal acts who incorporate this sound, Defamer actually manage to keep the listening experience enjoyable. When you press play you can be confident that you’re not descending into a pit of murky, indistinguishable riffs. Lots of bands do evil, few try to look beyond it.
Try before you buy: Conflagration of Divinity (Bandcamp)

Ellorsith – 1959
(Raw black metal – United Kingdom)
Caligari Records – 2014/07/26

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I’ve mentioned before that raw black metal is a commitment to a style of music with a very limited range; only the grimmest and kvltest need apply. Bearing this in mind, Ellorsith have done something remarkable: they have created an ep that truly stands out. There’s no listening for the subtle tonal or thematic differences, as 1959 is wholly unique. It remains firmly entrenched in the raw style, but still outside it. Brilliantly original murk.
Try before you buy: Lichryre (Bandcamp)

Haunt – Solar Forest
(Black metal – Canada)
Self-released – 2014/10/09

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Bizarro World self-released black metal, in that it started off by killing my expectations before recovering and actually delivering a good release. The opening track rigidly adheres to traditional black metal tropes, to its detriment. It starts dull and stays there. But the remaining tracks repair all the harm, producing sophisticated tracks that hold the listener’s attention in all the ways that track 1 fails to. Excellent value for money for ¾ of the tracks.
Try before you buy: Solar Forest (Bandcamp)

Memest – Bastards and Liars
(Stoner metal – Spain)
Discos Macarras – 2014/10/01

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Nothing slow or lazy about Bastards and Liars. It may sound lush and fuzzy like any self-respecting stoner album should, but it maintains an upbeat energy that is far more in keeping with Judas Priest or Motörhead than anything sludgey or doomy. I like to think of them as spiritual descendants of Karma to Burn, except capable of including lyrics. The most important thing to take away here is that Memest know how to bring the rock and the fun.
Try before you buy: We Love Rats (Bandcamp)

Pig Pride – Demo 2014
(Crust – Hungary)
Black Moon Tapes – 2014/07/01

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I hope to hear more from Pig Pride, as their brand of punk is flat out enjoyable from start to finish. There’s never a dull moment. Not that you get a lot of moments for anything across its six and half minute run time. After briefly opening with whst I assume is a Magyar news broadcast (apologies if it’s not), they launch into song after song of the catchy punk. The execution, while not innovative, is close to flawless. It’s impossible not to like.
Try before you buy: Szilánk (Bandcamp)

P.S. Fuck You – You Still Suck
(Powerviolence – United States of America)
Self-released – 2014/10/17

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I kind of wish this was a straight up grindcore release. The noisey and swampy interludes, while well executed, seriously detract and distract from the excellently frenetic grind passages. I know that powerviolence is supposed to be jarring and uncomfortable, but that’s not the problem with You Still Suck. The problem is that too often it smashes everything with awesome grind, then takes an energy killing breather. A pity.
Try before you buy: Pass the Knife (Bandcamp)

Ragnell – Consumed by the Eternal Darkness
(Blackened death metal – Mexico)
Frozen Archives – 2014/10/23

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I’m going to summarise by saying Consumed… is pretty good, but the band need to work on their diversity. There is great potential for Ragnell to become a Belphegor-esque blast machine. It’s all there: menacing vocals, intimidating guitars, intense drums. They get thst right. The problem is they are repetitive. It’s only a five track ep and I found myself wondering if I left my player on repeat halfway through track three. Not a good thing.
Try before you buy: Embrace My Soul (Bandcamp)

Ride With Death – Endless Victories
(Heavy metal – Netherlands)
Come to the End – 2014/09/14

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Why can’t I hate this? It’s as derivative as you can get without being plagiarism. And it’s really not very good technically. It’s hit and miss even with simple riffs. WHY CAN’T I HATE YOU, DAMN IT!? It’s probably because it’s cheesy enough for bottomless nachos night. And although I can’t tell whether they’re taking the piss or just give zero fucks, it’s played with such exuberance that critical concerns vanish temporarily. I’m ashamed of not being scathing.
Try before you buy: Heavy Metal Takes Its Toll (Bandcamp)

Schizocaria/Ulgard – Fögrum Dauðr
(Depressive/ambient black metal – United States of America)
Cvlminis – 2014/09/28

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Ulgard’s the winner on this split, but both bands need to work on their song structure. Schizocaria’s one track is a mournful dirge that sounds like they use the one staticy riff for the first six minutes before finishing off with two minutes of spooky keyboards. Ulgard at least make their effort listenable, but bulking out their tracks with bird song and recorder seems unnecessary. Also, the keyboards sound like samples from Bubble Bobble. Mundane stuff.
Try before you buy: Zohungaar Bandcamp)

Seth.ECT – DiMethylTriptamine
(Deathly electronica- Turkey)
Self-released – 2014/10/19

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Based on their bio I was expecting something very different to this. I went in expecting Obituary meets Rammstein; I got heavy electronica for people who like to headbang while wearing furry parachute pants and pinging off guts on ecstacy. Having never actually tried DMT, I can only assume they were trying to replicate the experience musically. It starts out angry but becomes increasingly spaced out and psychedelic. An interesting diversion.
Try before you buy: Orison III (Bandcamp)

Silent Wood – III – Autumn’s Light
(Black ambient – United Kingdom)
Self-released – 2014/10/01

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Let me preface this review by saying I enjoyed this album. It has its flaws, but it’s still more than worth a listen. It can be a bit meandering, even by ambient standards. And there are times when you feel like the band blundered into a chill out tent at a bush doof and rolled with it. These grumbles aside, Silent Wood still succeed in creating an evocative piece of grimness that never comes close wearisome. In a genre that has raised boredom to art, that’s high praise.
Try before you buy: XIII (Bandcamp)

Slipknot -.5: The Gray Chapter
(Nu-metal – United States of America)
Roadrunner Records – 2014/10/17

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Grief and catharsis fit Slipknot much better these days and has seen the band make up for the meandering effort that was All Hope is Gone. Naysayers will still point to supposed Stonesourness, but that’s unfair; every song is appropriate to the tone of the album. The band has a lot to process with the death of Paul Gray and the departure of Joey Jordison. To their credit, they have turned this negativity into an album of maturity and depth.
Try before you buy: Custer (YouTube)

Spawning Abhorence – The Cursed Earth
(Brutal death metal – United Kingdom)
Self-released – 2014/10/05

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Seriously enjoyable brutality from Leeds. Resisting the urge to just chug away with grunt and slam, Spawning Abhorrence flirts with techdeath. While they never truly embrace technicality, it does allow the band to explore a sound that is truly brutal but is never repetitive or dull. They achieve this through a distinct guitar tone and one of this year’s best brutal rhythm sections. It also helps that the vocalist trades gutturalness for clarity. Nasty stuff.
Try before you buy: Delaying the Inevitable (Bandcamp)

Scott Walker and Sunn O))) – Soused
(Drone – United States of America)
4AD – 2014/10/21

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Sunn O)))’s second collaboration for the year 2014 is a little challenging to get into. Scott Walker’s vocals are, unsurprisingly, starkly different to Attila Csihar’s and initially don’t seem like a natural fit. But as the album progresses it becomes apparent that his vocals are as vital to the album as Sunn O)))’s performances are. This isn’t just Walker contributing to a drone album; it’s also Sunn O))) contributing to an avant-country album. It works.
Try before you buy: Herod 2014

The Walls Concave – Void
(Deathcore – Germany)
Self-released – 2014/10/05

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A few years ago, Brian Posehn wrote a song called, ‘Metal by Numbers’. After listening to Void, it popped straight into my head, as The Walls Concave have put together a generic as hell ep. It’s not bad. It’s pretty catchy to be honest. And it successfully naviagates around all the tropes that can kill a deathcore album. But there is nothing here to differentiate this band from any of the other core bands out there. It’s mosh fodder; engaging, but hardly special.
Try before you buy: Guts (Bandcamp)

Witchface – Skrekk and Gru
(Hardcore – Norway)
Self-released – 2014/10/31

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A little bit too raw for its own good, Skrekk and Gru has some absolutely killer riffs and top quality vocals buried beneath far too much distortion. I get it; I assume it’s an attempt to recapture the energy of a high energy gig in a traditional, punk-friendly dive bar. And it does sound like you’re at the rail, being covered in the vocalist’s spit and getting annihilated by crowdsurfers. The problem, of course, is that it’s not live and cleaner production would be appreciated.
Try before you buy: Kunsten Å Glemme (Bandcamp)

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)

February Review Round Up

Lots to like this month, but nothing could quite top Grand Magus’ latest effort, although Amnesian’s No Atonement came soooooo very close. I strongly recommend getting them both.

I’m thinking about expanding my reviews, making them a bit longer. Can’t help but feel I’m restricting myself. No promises though, because as much as I can write forever about the top albums, getting those extra words out for the mediocre albums is going to be tough.

See you next month, first Monday as usual.

Album of the Month
Grand Magus – Triumph and Power
(Heavy metal – Sweden)
Nuclear Blast – 2014/31/01

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Gotta paraphrase Homer Simpson, because at first I was like, ‘Yes. YES! This rocks!’ and then I was, ‘No. NO! Don’t stop rocking!’ Triumph and Power has everything you could possibly want in a metal album: anthemic choruses, towering solos, fist-pumping rhythms. Even the quiet, folkish instrumental tracks work, because you just know they’re building to something. It’s a masterfully crafted piece of modern heavy metal.
Try before you buy: Triumph and Power

Honourable Mention
Amnesian – No Atonement
(Grindcore – Canada)
Self-released – 2014/02/08

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I love a surprise and this visceral slab of grind nastiness more than fit the bill for me. I simply didn’t expect such a well developed sound from a self-released album. More on the punk end of the grind spectrum, No Atonement allows each song to develop its own character. I could easily ramble about the quality of the performers, but I’d rather marvel in the creation of a sound that is distinctly, and uniquely, Amnesian.
Try before you buy: …Mania

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Aleph Null – Nocturnal
(Stoner doom metal – Germany)
Self-released – 2014/02/15

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A tough one. The critical me acknowledges this is a good album. It’s uptempo by doom standards, it’s well performed, it’s catchy, and it’s well produced. By rights, it has everything I look for in this sort of album. And, yet, I don’t like it. I know I should; it ticks all my critical boxes, but I still don’t like it. It sounds like it was recorded to earn a record deal. The end result is it sounds good, but lacks the soul of a great album.
Try before you buy: Muzzle of a Sleeping God

Behemoth – The Satanist
(Black metal – Poland)
Nuclear Blast – 2014/02/03

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The blackened titans have sailed through uncertain seas over the last few years with Nergal’s cancer diagnosis casting a pall over the band’s future. But he survived, the band have thrived, and this is a glorious reaffirmation of what Behemoth is. More blackened than their last couple of albums, The Satanist’s infernal sonic wrecking ball should annhilate any doubt about the band’s future. Revel in their balefire.
Try before you buy: Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer

Castration Rite/Nihilistic Holiday – Split
(Noisecore/Grindcore – United States of America/Pakistan)
Subsidence Recordings – 2014/01/12

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Castration Rite don’t really do music. It’s more like crescendos of anger expressed with instruments as well as shrieks. Disjointed and jarring, the songs don’t allow you to fall into any rhythm. Nihilistic Holiday’s take on grind is more coherent than their splitmate’s, but that doesn’t make it any less furious. Their four tracks compliment the previous fourteen by providing direction to the mindless fury.
Try before you buy: Too Sober

Corpsessed – Abysmal Thresholds
(Death metal – Finland)
Dark Descent Records – 2014/02/04

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The debut album by these twisted Finns harkens back to the early days of the Florida death metal scene. It’s willfully dirty production trades crispness for evil and the end result is a wall of Lovecraftian malevolence that crawls across your soul as well as hammers your ear drums. This is a reminder of what death metal in its purist form should be: an ugly noise that gives voice to the primal, raging darkness.
Try before you buy: Trepanation

Cynic – Kindly Bent to Free Us
(Progressive rock – United States of America)
Season of Mist – 2014/02/14

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If Focus is their metal album, and Traced in Air is their transitional album, that means Kindly Bent to Free Us is Cynic’s rock album. People may disagree with my assessment, but it’s hard to call this shining beacon of light and spiritual fulfilment, ‘metal’. There’s something fundamentally uplifting about this album; the lyrics, vocal style, and instrumental rhythms all come together to make this a joy to listen to.
Try before you buy: Moon Heart Sun Head

Decades/Failures – 002
(Darkwave – United States of America)
Dead Tank Records – 2014/02/06

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What I know about the goth approved subgenres could fit on a postage stamp, but I know what I like. And I like this. The sythns and drum machine are looped and fuzzed out to create an ethereal dreamscape, while the vocals are washed out and distant. To my mind, this is what a shadow would sound like. It’s an album that would feel appropriate being spun at a goth club around 3am, just as the pills are wearing off.
Try before you buy: City Streets

Dragons Bane – Harbingers of Glory
(Stoner metal – United States of America)
Self-released – 2014/02/08

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Not going to lie: the artwork for this E.P. didn’t get my hopes up. Seemed cheesy as hell to me. But the music well and truly exceeded expectations. What becomes clear very quickly is that these guys have spent a lot of time listening to High on Fire and Kyuss, because they’ve clearly learned that you don’t need to play low and slow while off guts. It’s not terribly original, but who cares? Good time chunky riffs all round.
Try before you buy: The Wolf Goddess

Gilla Bruja – Clubbed Hands and Fist Full of Snakes
(Sludgey death metal – United Kingdom)
Self-released – 2014/02/11

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It’s not a bad E.P., it’s just dull. There. I said it. It’s not that the band is unskilled or incompetent but there is little to nothing to distinguish these five tracks from the myriad of downtuned growlers. It doesn’t help that it also sounds like nu-metal played at half speed. I guess the best way to sum up is that it’s festival filler. It’d kill time before another band without irritation, but it’s not what you came for.
Try before you buy: One Pinch of Blackleaf and Three Across the Eyes

Jackals – No Solution
(Hardcore – United Kingdom)
Hardware Records – 2014/01/15

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With the alternative festival season passing at the time of review, you would be forgiven for having a sense of despair regarding the hardcore scene. Juvenile mindsets and psuedoactivism do seem to dominate. In this light, Jackals came as a warm hug of anarcho-punk fire. Ten blistering tracks, none of them over two minutes, all of them stuffed full of piss and vinegar. Good to see true punk lives on.
Try before you buy: Manipulation

Kindergarten Hazing Ritual/Cedric’s Lettuce – Kindergarten Hazing Ritual x Cedric’s Lettuce
(Grindcore/Harsh Noise – United States of America/United States of America)
37564 Recordings – 2014/02/09

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Kindergarten Hazing Ritual’s blend of 8-bit sound effects, samples, and a.d.d. grind is always entertaining. Thirteen blistering tracks, all with tongue planted firmly in cheek. Good time party grind. Not a description applicable to Cedric’s Lettuce. I truly worry about the sanity of those who listen to this for fun. It sounds like server noise and a car crash run twice through a moog. When I say harsh noise, I mean it.
Try before you buy: I Just Wanted to Show Her My Pokemanz

Lazarus Blackstar/Black Shape of Nexus – Black Shape of Nexus/Lazarus Blackstar
(Sludge metal/doom metal – United Kingdom/Germany)
Alerta Antifascista Records – 2014/02/20

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Going into this, I knew very little about Lazarus Blackstar and some about BSoN. Both bands surprised me. The former’s downtuned, swampy riffs really draw the listener in. Ordinarily, I like low and slow sludge, but I think it often lacks catchiness. Not a problem here. The later surprised me by not being a black hole of drone. Not that I’m complaining. This foray into doom is immensely satisfying. And, again, very catchy.
Try before you buy: Whispering Through Broken Teeth

Parfumerie – Transmundane and Unprofessional Delocation of Superfluous Extremities and Rare Tissues
(Goregrind – Canada)
Self-released – 2014/01/10
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A band I’ll continue to keep my eye on, because, as much as I feel this particular E.P. was merely average, they have the potential to be great. The blastbeats are pummelling, the guitars are dirty yet precise, and the vocalist is so guttural he sounds like he’s gargling organs. The technical elements are all there, but too many tracks sounded the same. They need to improve the sophistication of their songwriting.
Try before you buy: Irrational Phobia of an Untied Navel

Perfect Beauty – Obsidian
(Drone doom – Poland)
Self-released – 2014/01/16

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I have a soft spot for drone; I love how bands operate within such repetitive parameters. Perfect Beauty, in transforming from industrial electronica to drone doom, have produced an album that embraces the repetitive nature of the genre with open arms. One heavily distorted bottom end note feels like it is played continuously, while other notes rise up from it. Its intentional monotony is a thing of beauty.
Try before you buy: III

The Seaford Monster – Live at ‘303’
(Brutal death metal – Australia)
Self-released – 2014/02/25

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Ahhh, the interchangeable chug of mediocre brutal death combined with the terrible audio quality of what sounds like a straight to iPod live recording. Drums dominate the mix, with guitars and vox fighting for what little audibility is left. And there’s more bass in a castrato choir. Still, gotta give ’em props for the entertainingly puerile song titles and admitting that brutal death can be pretty funny.
Try before you buy: Backpack Full of Shit

Sun Worship – Elder Giants
(Black metal – Germany)
View from the Coffin – 2014/02/22

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These Teutonic misanthropes specialise in drawn out sonic barrages. In many ways they remind of the USBM band, Krallice. And I love Krallice. Minimalist lyrics and hypnotic guitars are meshed seamlessly with blasting drum rolls. It all comes together to create three tracks of malicious menace, which in turn are rounded out by a final track of droning alienation designed to leave the listener unsettled.
Try before you buy: The Absolute is Becoming

Sunn O))) & Ulver – Terrestrials
(Ambient drone – United States of America/Norway)
Southern Lord – 2014/02/03

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It’s amazing what can be done with a minimalist attitude; that so much can be conveyed with seemingly very little. Both bands’ styles are blended to create an album that simultaneously portrays a sense of great desperation and a feeling of total resignation. Sunn O)))’s rumbling bass and distortion combines with Ulver’s judicious use of synths and horns to ably foster this juxtaposition. It’s haunting in its simplicity.
Try before you buy: Western Horn

Thou – Ceremonies of Humiliation
(Doom metal – United States of America)
Dead Tank Records – 2014/01/29

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A compilation of these prolific doomster’s split releases, this is a solid introduction to the band and great warm up to their upcoming fourth LP. It shows the length and breadth of Thou’s talents, from the crushing downtuning to the bile-fuelled vocals and all the way through to the gentler movements that allow a brief respite from the negativity. This may be my first exposure to the band, but it won’t be my last.
Try before you buy: Fleurs de Mal

The Vintage Caravan – Voyage
(Rock – Iceland)
Nuclear Blast – 2014/01/10

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Possibly the best thing to happen to rock since Clutch, The Vintage Caravan is what happens when you take three lads from Iceland and feed them a steady diet of Hendrix and Led Zeppelin. Voyage is no mere nostalgia trip though; it’s packed solid with infectious grooves and memorable hooks. It’s the sort of album that instantly lodges in the brain. Air guitar; desk drumming; and bad singalongs are inevitable.
Try before you buy: M.A.R.S.W.A.T.T