September 2018 Review Round Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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June 2015 Review Round Up

June is gone. More than halfway done for the year 2015. It’s going quick.

It’s been a surprisingly big month for me. It’s still less than a release per day, but that 25 review count snuck up on me. Lots of competition for the top spot this month too.

I couldn’t pass on High on Fire for album of the month. Luminiferous is such a colossal sounding album that I needed to expand my scope for metaphors.

I’m also giving a nod to Folivore. A band still getting on with business via demos has no right releasing music so good.

Thanks to everyone who has shared Metalshopped over the last few months. I may not have a huge readership, but that only makes me appreciate the support I get more.

As usual, you can reach me on Facebook. If you give me a share, drop me a line too.

Now to get started on July. Good times.

Album of the Month
High on Fire – Luminiferous
(Sludge metal – United States of America)
eOne Music – 2015/06/23

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You should already know that High on Fire go large. Luminiferous is an album where they go HUUUUUGE. The riffs soar way higher than Everest; they proudly plant their flag atop Olympus Mons. Matt Pike’s vocals are so gravelly, it’s like someone turned the Himalayas into a quarry. The whole album sounds heavier than the Hercules–Corona Borealis Great Wall. You may think I’m overselling this, but trust me; it’s that big.
Try before you buy: Slave the Hive (YouTube)

Honourable Mention
Folivore – Eve of Conception
(Blackened stoner doom – United States of America)
Black Goat Records – 2015/04/20

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This blew me away. Even now, multiple listens in, I can’t quite get over how good this. And it’s a demo. A goddamn demo. It’s a particularly whacked out blend marijuana and Mephistopheles. Kind of like Mayhem after many cones of dank skunk. Or Electric Wizard peaking on mdma. I got high just listening to it’s fuzzed out tributes to evil. It’s a gateway drug that will result in the loss of your soul.
Try before you buy: Black Magic Baptism (Bandcamp)

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Abaton & Viscera/// – Diade(ms)
(Post-black metal – Italy & Italy)
Sentient Ruin Laboratories et al – 2015/06/23

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Definitely an interesting collaboration. I wasn’t familiar with either band beforehand, but my interest has been piqued in both. Abaton’s doom infused black metal blends with Viscera///’s post-metal to create a weighty, intellectual sound. The overwhelming theme is one of brooding malevolence. The darkness is almost tangible; it’s like a looming darkness always threatening to overtake you. Intriguing stuff.
Try before you buy: Special Needs (Bandcamp)

Before the Harvest – Wretched Existence
(Deathcore – Australia)
Vicious Instinct Records – 2015/06/15

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Always good to find some deathcore that I like. There’s a certain spiritual connection between these guys and Fleshgod Apocalypse, as they incorporate some symphonic-esque elements to great effect. There’s nothing delicate about them though. They bludgeon with a persistent aura of brutality. It creates a thoroughly entertaining sense of sophistication portrayed by early man.
Try before you buy: Filthy Breed (Bandcamp)

Carnero – Carnero
(Hardcore – Italy)
Self-released – 2015/05/29

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Maximum bang for your pay-what-you-want buck. It’s releases like this that keep me engaged with hardcore. It has enough metallic elements to give it some extra oomph, but it remains utterly true to its roots. There were more than a few times I found myself making favourable comparisons to Minor Threat. It has that perfect combination of energy, intensity, and message that all great hardcore has.
Try before you buy: La scelta del corpo (Bandcamp)

Casket Garden – In the Name of Nobody
(Crusty death metal – Italy)
Self-released – 2015/01/03

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The first time I listened to this, I wasn’t a fan. I didn’t hate it, but I did feel underwhelmed. That was my fault, not Casket Garden’s. You see, I was listening to it while actively relaxing and a chilled out frame of mind is totally inappropriate for this blend of death metal and agitated punk. Their Bolt Thrower meets Black Flag sound requires emotional investment on their level. Get mad, stay mad.
Try before you buy: Alpha, Beta, Gamma Rays (Bandcamp)

Church of Lies – No Gods… No Manners
(Stoner doom metal – United Kingdom)
Self-released – 2015/06/10

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Music can take you to strange places, but Church of Lies decides to go somewhere more familiar. It takes you to a raucous party with a beer in one hand, whiskey in the other. People are doing bucket bongs in the next room, but they’re giggling about pepper cones so you’ll give it a miss for a bit. Someone keeps yelling “FUCKING SLAYER”, regardless of what’s playing. It’s nothing new, but it sure is fun.
Try before you buy: Desperate Words (Bandcamp)

Cloud Rat – Qliphoth
(Grindcore – United States of America)
Halo of Flies – 2015/05/29

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Cloud Rat are a provocative grindcore act. I don’t mean in the lyrical sense. Every grind act should aim to be lyrically provocative. Cloud Rat are provocative in the sense that they dare to be melodic, something that is usually antithetical to grind as a whole. Qliphoth is an album that really drives this point home. It doesn’t hesitate to bring the blasting violence, but it also allows itself to plumb darker depths of humanity by slowing down and letting melody reign.
Try before you buy: Botched (Bandcamp)

Dakhma – Raze
(Black metal – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/03/06

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It’s a little bit repetitive and it’s hardly ground breaking, but I challenge you to not like this. The success they achieve here is the malevolent atmosphere they build and maintain throughout the course of the four tracks. It allows the listener to comfortably gloss over any misgivings they might have. I may have mentioned repetition above, but the music still keeps the listener engaged with their malice.
Try before you buy: Eulogy (Bandcamp)

Eigenlicht – Sacrel Regicide
(Blackened doom metal – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/05/05

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I say blackened doom metal above, but maybe that should read doomy black metal. It’s a very fine line separating the dominant genre on this release. Nomenclature aside, this is two tracks of atmospheric heaviness that could be spectacular, but for production problems. It sounds muffled. Not lo-fi. Not fuzzed out. Muffled. It needs to be levelled better because it’s loaded with stirring passages.
Try before you buy: Province of Immolated Kings (Bandcamp)

Exhaaust – Demo
(Hardcore – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/05/26

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This is muscular hardcore. And by muscular I mean veins bulging like a steroid boosted power lifter getting furious at someone mid lift muscular. It was a bit of a calculated risk. Other bands have taken a crack at the ultra-buff sound and it has turned into limp, dull affair. Exhaaust got it right though. It gets consistently in your face; you can almost feel the vocalist’s spit on your face.
Try before you buy: The Same Last Straw (Bandcamp)

Fermented Masturbation/Decomposition of Entrails/Morphogenetic Malformation/注射針混入豚¹ – Impregnated Through Pathogenic Agony
(Brutal death metal – Norway/Russia/Russia/Japan)
Rebirth the Metal Productions – 2015/06/06

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Brutal death metal is supposed to scratch a very specific itch: bloodthirsty depravity. The four bands on display here more than scratch it; they cut off the offending appendage and serve it to some poor sod trapped in their basement. The alpha brute is definitely 注射針混入豚. It’s bowel-loosening horror given a soundtrack. The others are no slouches either. Prepare for death by slam.
Try before you buy: Manipulate the Mangle Roller (Bandcamp)

A Forest of Stars – Beware the Sword You Cannot See
(Avant-garde black metal – United Kingdom)
Prophecy Productions – 2015/02/27

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I normally don’t go in for steampunk. The cogs and octopuses just aren’t my thing. I can’t deny A Forest of Stars make it work for them. I also can’t deny that I enjoyed the hell out this album a lot more than their previous work. They got the interplay between blackened intensity and Victorian aesthetic spot on. They finally sound like the arcane and esoteric society they portray.
Try before you buy: Proboscis Master Versus The Powdered Seraphs (Bandcamp)

Funeste – Demo MMXV
(Black metal – Canada)
Self-released – 2015/05/01

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Knowing your target demographic is an important thing. Funeste is not going to win any converts to black metal, but these sinister Quebecois make damn sure that if hellish cacophony is your thing then so are they. And that’s not a bad thing at all. They are another band that truly understands the necessity of atmosphere to the genre. It’s a cornucopia of negativity. Murderously depressing stuff.
Try before you buy: Diptera (Bandcamp)

Hadak Ura – Forever Dying//Forever Dead
(Death grind – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/05/06

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They may tag themselves as blackened, but I hear way more Trap Them in them than I do anything grim and frostbitten. Happy to be proven wrong, but ultimately it doesn’t make a whole lot of difference. Hadak Ura build atmosphere like pros. A few atmospheric interludes here and a truckload of chainsaw riffs there and all of a sudden you’re listening to an album that cons its way inside then brutalises you like a Kubrick film. An audio nasty.
Try before you buy: Cannabis Ex Mortis (Bandcamp)

Nel Ventre Della Bestia – Nel Ventre Della Bestia
(Drone – Italy)
UTU Conspiracy – 2015/04/10

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Drone fans rejoice; this is a band that gets it. It opens with with a maddening ten minute loop with only subtle variations providing relief. It is a fine example of monotony as a weapon. It finally gives way to crushing, bass-heavy, speaker destruction. It’s like a ten tonne weight on the brain. The crushing heaviness that follows the monotony perfectly encapsulates the soul-rendering bleakness of the genre.
Try before you buy: Bordoni e bordate (Bandcamp)

Occult 45 – Human Abhorrence
(D-beat – United States of America)
Broken Limbs Recordings – 2015/03/10

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It’s a release that opens with a lot of promise, but does tend to peter out by the end. The positives come in the form of ultra-aggressive d-beat. And they maintain the rage for the duration. They get that part of the equation spot on. The problem is that the rage ends up being the totality of the experience. It becomes a one-dimensional experience pretty quick and the tracks all roll into one big curbstomp.
Try before you buy: Tyranny Stomp (Bandcamp)

Okazaki Fragments – Abandoned
(Death grind – Canada)
Self-released – 2015/06/06

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It’s not for me, but it may well be for you. It takes grind’s discordance to the verge of avant-garde. It may well cross that line. But it still has the lumbering meathead violence of brutal death metal. It’s like a roided up pit fighter (it’s Brock Lesnar in my mind) hooked up with Yoko Ono, did a shit-tonne of pcp, and decided to go on a cross-country rampage, a la Starkweather and Fugate. If this is your thing, enjoy.
Try before you buy: The Earth Aflame (Bandcamp)

Pattern Breaker – Demo for Sagan
(Oddcore – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/06/11

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This started out as a short, sharp shock of hardcore, but by the end it’s like they blew a steaming money shot of weirdness into my ears. The samples and the riffs are designed to leave the listener completely bewildered. It makes for a demo that’s simultaneously highly entertaining yet very challenging. If you like simple, mosh-friendly core, Pattern Breaker may not be for you. Personally, I like having my head fucked with.
Try before you buy: For Sagan (Bandcamp)

Peasant – Go to Hell
(Blackened heavy metal – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/04/20

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I’ve always said that Venom started out as a nwobhm band that couldn’t play very well and decided to be evil instead. Peasant remind me of early Venom, with one very important distinction: they can actually play damn well. It’s unmistakably black metal, but it’s played like it’s classic heavy metal. It doesn’t worship at the altar of nostalgia either. This is an album that gushes evil from every rollicking note.
Try before you buy: Wretched Codex (Bandcamp)

Serial Apathy – Hate in the Name of Love
(Grindcore – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/06/07

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It’s a loud burst of rage. While I’m sure he was aiming for the primal rage of a great beast, unfortunately he only managed the rage of a boozehound so wasted you can’t tell what they’re mad about. Maybe his wife left him. Maybe he just spilled his beer. I understand that lo-fi has its place. I listen to way to much grind and black metal to deny that. But this is just an unfocused, undifferentiated mess.
Try before you buy: Null (Bandcamp)

Shaidar Logoth – Chapter II: The Ritualist
(Atmospheric black metal – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/03/01

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Hidden in the world there’s a long abandoned church. Amidst the rubble, there is an unhallowed space. The holy space has been profaned, the air is noisome with rot, and the walls tangibly hum with the susurrus of vermin. Sitting at the nadir of the ruin is a man in immaculate white clothing, telling parables of malice and self-gratification. His evil is undeniable, but is utterly compelling. I love the effect evocative music has on me.
Try before you buy: Drink Thine Wretched Wine (Bandcamp)

Strutter – Demo 2015
(Hardcore – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/04/04

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Walking a fine line between punk and hardcore, Strutter are certainly entertaining. They combine the three chord simplicity of the Ramones with the outright oddity of the Dead Kennedys and then play it with the rough and ready rawness of early hardcore. It may not be the greatest thing you’ll ever hear, but it does the heart good to see a band keeping the spirit of punk alive and well. Definitely worth a listen.
Try before you buy: Forced Entry (Bandcamp)

Sunset in the 12th House – Mozaic
(Post-rock – Romania)
Prophecy Productions – 2015/06/05

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I had an immediate and intensely positive reaction to this album. It’s one of those albums that creates an emotional bond with the listener from the first note. Mostly instrumental, melody ebbs and flows like the tides, building to a massive storm surge of blackened elemental fury on the final track. Stylistically, it’s a very complicated album; it’s a spectacular blend of traditional arrangements, metal, and post-rock.
Try before you buy: Paraphernalia of Sublimation (Bandcamp)

The Vintage Caravan – Arrival
(Rock – Iceland)
Nuclear Blast – 2015/05/15

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It opens with substantially less bombast than their previous release, but it develops into a far superior album. It takes their existing classic rock love of free-wheeling guitars and builds stronger, catchier tunes around them. This allows the listener to remain actively engaged for the duration of the songs, rather than killing time between awesome widdly guitar bits. They remain the future of rock.
Try before you buy: Crazy Horses (YouTube)

¹Needle Contaminated Pork