August 2018 Review Round Up

I entered August without a whole lot on the shopping list for the month, figured I’d clear out some of my bookmarks, and ended up with a surprisingly solid month. Believe me; it’s really good.

It was a crowded field for album of the month, but I eventually settled on Michael Romeo’s often batshit, but always engaging War of the Worlds. It’s pretty impressive what can be done by someone with his level of talent when it’s married to a singularity of purpose.

Never let it be said that I’m above digital panhandling, because judging by this awesome Ko-fi page I set up, I’m very much not. I’d set up a Patreon, but I have no idea what rewards to offer. Maybe in the future. Until then, any tips towards the Metalshopped Needs Red Bull To Live fund are muchly appreciated.

And, as always, you can hit me up on Facebook.

Until October, stay trve. Or false. Whatever works for you.

Album of the Month

Michael Romeo – War of the Worlds/Pt. 1
(Symphonic Neoclassical Metal with Experimental Bits – United States of America)
Music Theories Recordings – 2018/07/27

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Don’t think that this will be more Symphony X just with Michael’s name at the forefront; you’d be wrong. This album pulls into strange territory at times. And it’s all the stronger for it. It still has all the technical merit you’d expect from one of metal’s great guitarists and composers, but it comes without any of self-indulgent baggage of solo projects.

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Barren Altar – Entrenched in the Faults of the Earth
(Blackened Doom Metal – United States of America)
Self-Released – 2018/06/12

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Metal is at its strongest and most engaging when it has something to say. That the band has a message that can only be expressed through growls and blasts and riffs. Barren Altar exemplify this and them some. This album is venomous, filthy and aggressive, but is delivered with such diligence and vigour that nothing gets lost in the malign fury.

Crawl – Rituals
(Death Metal – Sweden)
Transcending Obscurity – 2018/08/20

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We live in a world where Swedish death metal doesn’t hold up to what came before. In Flames, Soilwork, DT; still good live, but that’s about it. Crawl is here to help put things right. Nine tracks, eight of them under three minutes, all of them honed for maximum aggression. It’s a searing beast of an album loaded with killer riffs and an undercurrent of punk sneer.

Divide and Dissolve – Abomination
(Drone – Australia)
Self-Released – 2018/02/16

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Describing the post-colonial experience and its ongoing negative impact on those dispossessed and enslaved through the medium of drone was a surprisingly engaging experience. The rumbling, almost subaudible bass and the machine precise drums create a unique atmosphere of palpable discomfort. Best drone release in a long, long time.

Facegrinder – Kugelblitz
(Grindcore – Australia)
Self-Released – 2018/08/01

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Fearsome, technically precise grind is a beautiful thing and Facegrinder deliver it like an impressionist master. It comes across as techdeath of the more ridiculous variety (think Origin or Necrophagist) that has been stripped right back to the barest essentials necessary to wreck shit in under a minute. Blastbeat nirvana.

Hadal Maw – Charlatan
(Technical Death Metal – Australia)
Self-Released – 2018/08/03

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The more I listen to them, the more I’m convinced Hadal Maw are the best sinister techdeath band out there right now. The way they craft their songs ably marries their undeniable technical skill with pall of tenebrous bleakness. Charlatan continues from this and progresses it further. It’s an album that plays with primal fears like a monstrous 8 string.

Hell to Pay – bliss.
(Grindcore – United States of America)
Self-Released – 2018/03/16

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First impressions were Hell to Pay were going to fill the hole Trap Them left with their split. It was aggressive, abrasive, and fun to listen to. But then shit started getting weird. The tone got darker, song structures got more cryptic, and the whole affair took on a far more menacing demeanour. This is no substitute; this is a new obsession.

Innumerable Forms – Punishment in Flesh
(Death Metal – United States of America)
Profound Lore – 2018/08/17

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About as slow and ominous as old school death metal can get, Innumerable Forms understand what it takes to turn a joyless existence into quality listening. Miserable dirges are juxtaposed against pulverising aggression to create an album that is as bleak as it is satisfying. It’s an album that wants you to embrace your inner darkness.

ION – A Path Unknown
(Ambient Black Metal – United States of America)
Self-Released – 2018/01/28

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It always amazes me how much one little detail can affect an overall review. I really quite like A Path Unknown. It’s long form approach to ambient black metal is mostly engaging. But I have an issue with drum tone. Not all of it, but the kicks sound somewhere between a speed ball being punched, rustling cardboard, and a wet fart. Takes me right out of the moment.

Lurid Panacea – Demo
(Grindcore – Australia)
Self-Released – 2018/07/11

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Melbourne has a very fertile grind scene, absolutely loaded to the gunwales with potential. Lurid Panacea’s potential just happens to be swampy and very much on the deathgrind side of things. This is nasty, visceral grind. Even if it had better-than-demo production values, this would be a rough listen. And that just how these sickos want it.

Neckbeard Deathcamp – White Nationalism is for Basement Dwelling Losers
(Black Metal – United States of America)
Self-Released – 21/07/2018

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I love how unsubtly subversive this is. It takes fantastically delivered black metal and then turns the typical genre tropes on their head by invoking a steady stream of left wing invective. I hope this isn’t a gimmick. I hope it’s not a one shot for shits and giggles. I want this band to keep on punishing the ear drums with pulverising blackened fury.

Obscura – Diluvium
(Progressive Techdeath – Germany)
Relapse – 2018/07/13

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Obscura, for me at least, has always been one of those bands always just shy of greatness. And I’ve tried to give them a chance. Diluvium was my final crack at them. Make or break. And they made it like you wouldn’t believe. Where has this been? Their blend of pulsating technicality and inventive prog comes together seamlessly and joyously.

Rolo Tomassi – Time Will Die and Love Will Bury It
(Mathcore – United Kingdom)
Holy Roar – 2018/03/02

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Unlike most of the mathcore I’m used to, Rolo Tomassi allow their songs to take their time and luxuriate. The end result is an album that successfully manages to indulge in a soothing, Sunny Day Real Estate-esque sensitivity while being able to turn up the aggression to Dillinger/Converge levels of fury as required. It offers a different level of sophistication.

Sleep – The Sciences
(Stoner Doom Metal – United States of America)
Third Man Records – 2018/04/20

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I’ve had to battle some cognitive dissonance to get into Sleep. You hear so much positive press about a band that it turns you off. Glad I finally got over that hurdle because The Sciences is an absolute beast of a doom album. Its four substantive tracks are some of the most fuzzed out, resinous music to ever be heavy. It’s satisfyingly dank.

Urfaust – The Constellatory Practice
(Ambient Black Metal – The Netherlands)
Ván Records – 2018/05/04

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Urfaust are stretching the definition of black metal into bizarre contortions. Aggressively meditative, it sounds like the mad chant of a cultist trying to distort their chakras to awaken a dark godlike force in themselves. And despite the ambient nature of the album, there is no doubt this is black metal to its malevolent core.

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July 2018 Review Round Up

So. That was July. A month with more than a few surprises. I didn’t expect such a strong showing from the black metal hordes, for example. But Immortal, Deafheaven, and Panegyrist all demonstrated the potential black metal has, be it old school, new wave, or wtf.

I also didn’t expect Khemmis to actually love up to the hype. You hear things about the “it” band doing the rounds and so often you can tack a “sh” onto the front of it. Not Khemmis. Believe in Khemmis.

The final surprise was the album of the month. I wouldn’t have pegged it to be Korean old school thrash. It was bought on a whim with some leftover cash. And it kicks arse. It’s everything positive about thrash. Get into Sahon. They’ve been around for ages apparently. I feel ashamed for not knowing this.

August is looking oddly sparse, so if you know anything I don’t, hit me up. Always happy to take suggestions.

As always, you can reach me on Facebook.

Enjoy August

Album of the Month
Sahon – Chanting for the Fallen
(Thrash – South Korea)
Transcending Obscurity – 2018/07/15

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Old school thrash done properly still holds a certain magic. Sahon have captured this magic, distilled it down to an even purer form, and turned it loose upon an unsuspecting world. With vocals like a halfway point between Lemmy and Joey Belladonna, solos that soar like a drag racing eagle, and rhythms that blast like artillery on speed, how could you not like this?

The Rest in Alphabetical Order

Burial Invocation – Abiogenesis
(Death Metal – Turkey)
Dark Descent – 2018/07/06

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Abiogenesis is the perfect album for when you are already furious. It taps into that primal primate rage that we all try to pretend we’ve evolved past. The four main tracks are lengthy sojourns into death metal’s grimiest, darkest depths. This is appended by a final sinister instrumental track that is cathartic but uncomfortable. It feeds the beast.

Deafheaven – Ordinary Corrupt Human Love
(Post-Black Metal – United States of America)
Anti- – 2018/07/13

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Sunbather was polarising but brilliant on its merits. New Bermuda was an acceptable follow up, but not particularly memorable. So I had to approach this some trepidation. But this could well be their magnum opus. It’s the finest example of their craft. It truly shows that any emotion can be examined in extremity.

Fukpig – Bastards
(Blackened Grindcore – United Kingdom)
Devizes Records – 2018/06/01

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It would appear that they world has become sufficiently messed up for Fukpig to lurch forth and vomit forth their signature bile-crusted blend of grind and black metal. And believe me when I say they are mad as all the hells combined. They’ve never been a band that does pretty, but that ugliness works wonders when spewing invective and polemic.

Golgothan Remains – Perverse Offerings to the Void
(Death Metal – Australia)
Self-Released – 2018/02/08

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I’ve had the difference Satanism and Luciferianism (probably badly) explained as embracing humanity’s beastial nature versus striving to transcend humanity’s mortal limits. Golgothan Remains, judging by this savagery, are definitely on the Satanist side of the fence. Bestial, dark, and remorseless; this is a true embrace of animalistic fury.

Immortal – Northern Chaos Gods
(Black Metal – Norway)
Nuclear Blast – 2018/07/06

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Abbath who? Immortal may have returned sans their most iconic panda, but they have delivered a total masterclass in Fimbulwinter-cold black metal. Demonaz and Horgh play entirely to their strengths, producing an album that is crisp, taut, and furious. It’s a blizzard with the soul of a serial killer; frostbitten violence with intent.

Khemmis – Desolation
(Doom Metal – United States of America)
20 Buck Spin – 2018/06/22

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While technically doom metal, this really sounds like a very muscular heavy metal. Listening to it made me think they were trying to reverse engineer Black Sabbath but only had epic doom and Bay Area thrash to put it together with. I very nearly listed it as doom thrash for that reason. It has that magical quality that old school heaviness used to bogart.

Organ Dealer/Nerve Grind/Invertebrate – Split EP
(Grindcore/Grindcore/Powerviolence – United States of America)
Night Animal Records – 2018/07/01

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You may have noticed that I don’t really do splits, but Invertebrate are long term supporters of Metalshopped. Also helps that the three bands on offer have all delivered the goods. It opens with Organ Dealer’s shouty brand of grind, leads into three tracks of harsh, almost deathgrind from Nerve Grind, before finishing on Invertebrate’s ever-entertaining pv. Cracking stuff from start to finish.

Panegyrist – Hierurgy
(Black Metal – United States of America)
I, Voidhanger – 2018/05/18

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This is a pretty damn incredible album. It is instantly identifiable as black metal, but it sounds so radically different from anything else in the genre. Clean vocals and extensive melodic passages are integrated into Hierurgy alongside aggressive abrasiveness in such a seamless way that they sound as one. It is breathtaking in its technical merit.

Shrine of the Serpent – Entropic Disillusion
(Sludgy Death Doom – United States of America)
Memento Mori – 2018/04/23

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Grimey, slow, and heavy, Entropic Disillusion is exactly the sort of swampy mire you want to get stuck in. It has venomous ichor pumping through every note, every sustain, every growl. And it seems to improve with each subsequent listen. Put all together, you have an album that masterfully revels in its darkness, malevolence, and filth.

Skeletonwitch – Devouring Radiant Light
(Progressive Blackened Thrash – United States of America)
Prosthetic – 2018/07/20

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I thought I knew Skeletonwitch. Their bruising combination of black metal and thrash was always predictable but welcome. Devouring Radiant Light is an altogether different beast. Sophisticated, intelligent, and nuanced aren’t exactly terms you’re used to seeing next to blackened thrash, but here we are. A huge leap forward for an already great band.

Svalbard – It’s Hard to Have Hope
(Hardcore – United Kingdom)
Translation Loss – 2018/05/25

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Loudly, proudly, and unashamedly liberal and progressive, so if songs about reproductive freedom, wage theft, or animal liberation aren’t your thing, you should probably keep on walking. Those who stick around are rewarded with a rich, satisfying hardcore album. It carefully balances its specific directed fury with moments of delicate introspection.

Whoresnation – Mephitism
(Grindcore – France)
Throatruiner – 2015/04/13

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Fantasy, as a genre, has lied to me. It routinely claims that ritual magic takes a long time to complete. Total bullshit. Whoresnation can ignite the air and reduce everything around them to molten slag in under ninety seconds. It is a hell of sonic assault. They take enough death metal to give the grind some heft and they wield that heft like a vicious weapon.

May 2018 Review Round Up

Hoo boy, June kind of just appeared, didn’t it? Was still hammering out a review or two in the wee hours of publishing day morn. It was a pretty easy month to get distracted by though.

I started the month by travelling to see Ihsahn. As far as I’m concerned he’s one of the great icons of metal and it showed in his live performance. Credit too goes to Direct Touring for matching him up with some great support. Mar Mortuum were frosty and aggressive like black metal should be. The ludicrously good Ylva gave me vertigo through sheer heaviness. And Hybrid Nightmares were so over the top it was pretty well impossible to not enjoy them. But the man himself put them all to shame. Cracking night out.

On that topic of Ihsahn, Àmr is my album of the month. I expect high quality from him. We all should by now. But this is a step beyond. It’s probably the finest album in his catalogue. I’m sure some Emperor purists will disagree, but they should know they’re wrong.

Shout outs go to Altarage and Woundvac for some kick ass merch. Always appreciated when bands do merch in big guy sizes.

I’ll be back next month. As usual, if you have comments or critique, you can hit me up on Facebook.

Enjoy

Album of the Month
Ihsahn – Àmr
(Progressive Metal – Norway)
Candlelight – 2018/05/04

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If you only have one Ihsahn album in your collection, make sure it’s Àmr. It takes all the good things from his previous solo works and distils them down to nine tracks of perfection. It’s technically superb, emotionally vivid, and memorable in a way that defies expectation. From its opening moments I haven’t wanted to listen to anything else. It has completely dominated this month.

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Amorphis – Queen of Time
(Progressive Metal – Finland)
Nuclear Blast – 2018/05/18

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This is all over the place. I can’t remember another album quite like it to be honest. It has some songs that are contenders for track of the year. It also has a couple of appalling tracks that you just can’t listen to. The production values are universally top notch, so this is all about stylistic choices. And I just can’t fathom how it all came together.

Blood Tsunami – Grave Condition
(Thrash – Norway)
Soulseller Records – 2018/04/27

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Kudos to these mad thrashers. This started life as a four track ep, which they then bulked out with some unreleased material. But for Dungeon of the Rats (originally from For Faen!), I wouldn’t have noticed. It’s real impressive that it sounds so cohesive. Better than cohesive, it’s high quality and entertaining as hell. Quality musicianship from all involved.

Depravity – Evil Upheaval
(Death Metal – Australia)
Transcending Obscurity Records – 2018/04/30

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The toughest albums to review aren’t the great nor the grating. They’re the merely good. And that’s what Evil Upheaval is. Heavy without being crushing. Fast without being blistering. Entertaining without being memorable. And that’s the key point; if you like death metal, you will definitely like this, but don’t expect it to linger in your consciousness.

Drudkh – Їм часто сниться капіж (They Often See Dreams About the Spring)
(Black Metal – Ukraine)
Season of Mist – 2018/03/09

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Following up the terrific A Furrow Cut Short was going to be a tall order, but They Often See Dreams is a resounding success. Invigorated and pissed off, Drudkh’s signature invocation of misery has never sounded so vital. A dark undercurrent of furious energy drives this, never allowing it to settle. The Drudkh renaissance continues.

Ekranoplan – Hypnopædia
(Sludge Metal with a dash of Grind – Germany)
Narshardaa Records – 2018/01/30

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I remember Ekranoplan’s demo being much more of an Entombedcore affair, so this progression was a surprise. While there is still a mighty fistful of HM2 going on, the sound has been built on and enriched by adding aggressive, pounding, High on Fire-esque sludge. It’s not straight up mean; it’s complex layers of mean.

Mesarthim – The Density Parameter
(Black Metal – Australia)
Avantgarde Music – 2018/04/03

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Mesarthim want you to know that if you stare into the void, the void will never stare back. The void does not care that you exist. There is nothing out there but a vast frozen emptiness, occasionally lit by beautiful clouds of radiation capable of flaying flesh from bone and burning bone to ash. Existence is a perilous, bleak, and futile endeavour.

夢遊病者 (Muyūbyō-sha – Sleepwalker) – 一期一会 (Ichi-go ichi-e – For this time only, never again)
(Avantgarde Black Metal – Japan)
Sentient Ruin Laboratories – 2018/05/25

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I have quietly anticipated this album since it was announced. It just seemed so intriguing. It delivered on that promise. It mesmerises as it slowly unveils its many secrets. Such esoteric bleakness really shouldn’t sound this welcoming and warm. And, yet, it’s distant and almost unknowable. This is deliberate, challenging, masterful.

Petrification – Hollow of the Void
(Death Metal – United States of America)
Sentient Ruin Laboratories – 2018/04/23

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I could have been harsh and just written “See review of Depraved – Evil Upheaval”, but that would have doing them an unkindness. What we have here is an album that gives the listener the most tantalising hint of what a live experience would be. It’s evocative of headbanging front rows, circle pits, and windmilling hair. Definitely would see this live.

Serum Dreg – Lustful Vengeance
(Black metal – United States of America)
Vrasubatlat – 2018/04/20

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There’s something about this merciless slab of blackened nastiness that really makes me think of Nachtmystium at their finest. Aside from that being high praise, it comes with the added benefit of being Blake free. It’s more than just aggressive; it has a pervasive, creeping dread that gives it a febrile touch of madness. Sinister at all levels.

Thou – The House Primordial
(Drone Doom – United States of America)
Robotic Empire – 2018/05/01

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Ethereal and beguiling. Bleak and distressing. Horrific and vile. The House Primordial is all these things at once. It creates a maliciously pressurised sonic landscape so catastrophically heavy that light (joy, hope…) struggle to escape it. Thou specialise in these nightmares, but everything on display here still sounds as novel as the freshest hell.

Turbonegro – RockNRoll Machine
(Deathpunk – Norway)
Mercury Records – 2018/02/02

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Something got under the skin of the band in the years between Sexual Harassment and this. Deliberate throwbacks and obvious homages to other rock greats are delivered with their characteristic shit eating grin. It’s like their saying “Didn’t like what we did last time? Want us to only do things how you like it? Fine. RockNRoll Machine beep boop.” And yet, it’s still pretty damn good.

Woundvac – Terrorizing the Swarm
(Grindcore – United States of America)
Self-Released – 2018/05/04

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Listening to this, you might be tricked into thinking that Phoenix, Arizona is some sort of frozen wasteland. Why else would Woundvac need to bring this level of blistering heat? Believe me; this is an absolute scorcher and it rendered me slightly insensible for a bit. So much so that I temporarily forgot the US has other grind acts. It’s that good.