Monday, December 14, 2015

My 2015 favorite metal releases

2015 was by all accounts a great year for me personally.  It has been a year starkly contrasting years prior all in good ways.  In the early spring I found myself growing tired of my typical metal fodder but was too preoccupied to seek out something new to satiate it.  In the past I've successfully explored other genres and
enjoyed decent results.  I spent some time exploring what had to offer which led me to a stint enjoying Zeuhl & prog bands of the 70's and early 80's.  Then Beijing opera music of the early 1900's fell into my lap by way of my significant other, and it immediately scratched my itch in a new way.  I began plowing through time periods, genres and vast geographies of music from all corners of the globe and it yielded highly entertaining and fascinating results.  From the ritual Nat Pwe music of Myanmar, tribal music of the western congo, 80's khmer pop music from Cambodia, Thailand rock of the 60s, I could go on and on.  This had so significantly changed my listening habits that I had to take a step back.  After some pondering I decided that it might not be right to do a year end list since I was focusing so heavily on this new and exciting music.  But alas, I was asked to do my list again and I thought why the hell not.  Overall I found that this years list came together with an expected amount of difficulty.  I had very little problem deciding upon my top ten favorites, but found that there were so many more extraordinary releases that I couldn't bear to ignore, so I settled upon doing a top 20 with some honorable mentions.

1. Dødheimsgard - A Umbra Omega
It's hard to put into words the way this masterpiece incessantly confounds, inspires and floors me, but I am working on a full review of it.  Just let it be known that I had no hesitation or question that this was my absolute favorite metal album of the year.  I wait with bated breath to hear what the future has in store for this band.
2. Obsequiae - Aria of Vernal Tombs
I don't know if I've ever heard music that was so beautiful, stirring, and evocative.  This album is masterfully crafted and brilliant.  Way to set an example and set the bar high for what music can be when it is greatly inspired, perfected and honed with absolute inspiration.  If you aren't blown away by this masterpiece, then you're probably planning on voting for Donald Trump.
3. Amestigon - Their
Slow and pensive, dirgey and cosmically sinister, the massive breadth that this album conveys is staggering.  This is a tremendous blend of all relevant genres, but I just cant stress how massive and spacial it is.  "Their" is this years most underappreciated European metal album in my humble opinion.
4. Nechochwen - the Heart of Akamon
2015's biggest lesson is that European melodic metal influenced many of us in the states, and now, especially now that influence is beginning to come to a real formidable fruition.  So much so that I feel in the next few years it is the US's style who will be an influence on the rest of the world.  Nechochwen are showing here a firm grip on this style with both feet planted firmly as they tell compelling tales of bloody Native American history.
5. Old Graves - This Ruin Beneath Snowfall
It was a sure bet that this band would put out something amazing this year, based on prior efforts.  This EP struck me as a gold standard of what a shit ton of US bands are trying to do right now.
6. Panopticon - Autumn Eternal
I don't know why people aren't saying it yet, but this is a dark metal album!  A great one at that!  Its so great to hear Panopticon so capably wield a myriad of influences while maintaining one of the most unique sounds in metal.  Masterful, genuine and timeless.  I have yet to hear Panopticon falter, I'm putting this at #6 just to give some other artists some room in my top spots haha.
7. Lluvia - Eternidad Solemne
A little atypical for me / a little more down the straight and narrow, maybe almost "orthodox" in style?  I discovered this recently and I have been utterly consumed by it.  Lluvia harnesses the sheer hypnoticism of Darkspace and wields it into a gripping and unflinching whirlwind of sinister and bleak black metal.  I absolutely love this album.
8. Alda - Passage
Their third full length shows a ton of growth and maturity beyond compare.  This melancholic album like few other offers a poignant and effective vision of our stark and finite existence on earth.  Its teeming with beautiful melodic American black metal and amazing lyrics.
9. Horn - Feldpost
Feldpost is an engaging concept album.   Each song is based on a letter written from a trooper in an armed service in a different world war.  This is the first professionally recorded Horn and both the material, the music, and the overall sound have taken a huge leap up in quality.  Despite my undying love for Horn's "Naturkraft" album, this is almost an  entirely different band.
10. Nettlecarrier - Black Coffin Rites
The rarer it gets these days, the sweeter it is when a Norwegian band releases a new distinctly Norwegian sounding black metal record.  This is some naaaaaasty full speed black metal with some incredibly original riffing.  I never really got into Gorgoroth that much, but this reminds me of what they were going for only better, somewhat similar to early Dødheimsgard as well.
11. Grift - Syner
This might be the only "post-black metal" album on my list.  Its an amazing example of where the genre can be taken and is headed.
12. Zgard - Totem
Holy hell this is a rager!  With the conviction and might of fellow countrymen Nokturnal Mortum, Zgard deliver the goods here.  In the genre or Pagan black metal, this is exactly how well it can be done.
13. Shape of Despair - Monotony Fields
GUUUHHH, I don't think there has ever been a point in my life where I have experienced such unfettered anguish and despair as I do whenever I listen to this album.  Just when I thought the best doom metal albums ever were a thing of the past, THIS comes along and just makes EVERYTHING weep in agony.  FUUUUCK!
14. Murg - Varg & Bjorn
I could have swore this band was from Norway (they are Swedish).  It sounds like ultra pissed off Norwegian black metal.  When they decide to be melodic they command the helm but throughout the album this is a cold and blistering blast of straight forward black metal.
15. Sviatibor - Dans la splendeur des dieux
Further proof that the one man / bedroom / drum machine black metal genre cannot be given up on.  I'm thinking a comparison to a cross between Mare Cogitum and Xasthur might be accurate?  The melodic harmonies are absolutely brilliant, and lend so effectively to the powerful atmosphere.
16 . Visigoth - The Revenant King
The only reason this album isn't WAY higher in my list is because its just not my kind of thing really, but let me assure you, its a MONSTER of a debut album.  The Revenant King is a masterful blend of heavy metal and all of its cohorts.  Each song offers catchy riffing and some of the best metal vocals I have EVER heard thanks to the insanely talented Jake Rogers.
17. Infera Bruo - In Conjuration
I loved their debut, but this album is just a monster of an album.  Technical, brutal, sublimely intricate and slick as shit.  I'd love to see these guys live.
18. Ethereal Shroud - They Became the Falling Ash
Definitely a band to watch.  This works for me like Darkspace does only with the plodding and dreary foggy atmosphere of Nortt.
19. Magic Circle - Journey Blind
This band is so great.  I loved their debut and I'm really glad to see them getting some recognition.  This is a killer album that will be in regular rotation for many years to come.
20. Dispirit - Separation
How in the hell is this band so underappreciated?  If Dispirit would do a proper full length on something other than a limited cassette, they would get the attention that they deserve.  This band is amazing, and this new demo is no departure from their hypnotic and ensnaring mood.

Honorable Mentions:
Akhlys - The Dreaming I
Arcturus - Arcturian
Blodsband - Rungalder
Blood Storm - the Stellar Exorcism  (Yeah, this band is usually no good, but this was WAY fun. )
Brulvahnatu - Frozen Obscene Deliverance ( Entirely too stark and deranged for one sitting. )
Captain Cleanoff - Rising Terror
Circle of Ouroboros - Alttarimyllyt ( A more mainstream album proving the capability of CoO. )
Cross Vault - The All-Consuming ( I juuuust got this and so far its incredible.)
Cruciamentum - Charnel Passages 
Dolven - Navigating the Labyrinth (Unique! )
Drudkh - A Furrow Cut Short
False - Untitled
Forefather - Curse of the Cwelled
Galar - De Gjenlevende
Grift / Saiva - Split
Hellgoat - Infernal Zeal
House of Atreus - The Spear and the Ichor that Follows
Khors - Night Falls onto the Front of Ours
Leviathan - Scar Sighted
Melechesh - Enki
Mgla - Exercises in Futility
Misþyrming - Söngvar elds og óreiðu
Necropole - Ostara
Panphage - Storm
Perdition Temple - The Tempter's Victorious
Petrychor - Apocalyptic Witchcraft
Revenge - Behold.Total.Rejection
Satan - Atom by Atom
Skepticism - Ordeal
Thulcandra - Ascension Lost
Vanum - Realm of Sacrifice

Monday, December 7, 2015

Abbath is on a path of destruction, with a terrible soundtrack

Last week the official Immortal facebook page posted a revamped band photo with one of its founding members startlingly absent.  Abbath's departure from Immortal had been public news for some time but it didn't really quite hit me until I saw this photo.  After a brief ponder, I smiled, then read a mile of "No Abbath, No Immortal!" comments from a plethora of fans.  I am happy that a band I so dearly love is no longer in toil.  Rather than get involved in an argument with these folks, I wanted to chime in here instead.

I don't seek credibility for the following, but I want to clearly state how must I adore the music of early Immortal.  They have reigned atop my list of best metal bands for almost 20 years now, despite having released a handful of regrettable albums since 1999.  I have even spent several hours speaking on the telephone with guitarist Demonaz.  What kind of fan turns their back on a band in reaction to a line-up change?  What kind of fan has the gumption to say that they are owed another album?

In my eye it is the guitarist who has written a song, and if the guitar parts have been written solely by the guitarist, then the song was written by the guitar player, and the other members have accompanied the guitars by writing bass, vocals, and drums to further adorn the guitars, at least in black metal this is the case.  So if you want to argue it like this, for the first four albums, Demonaz was Immortal, and since then, Abbath has been Immortal (the albums I think are shit).

"At the  Heart of Winter" was the dawn of a new era of Immortal with the advent of sloppily played simplistic arena rock and  guitar riffs and mediocre fist pumping mosh parts, all brought to fruition my Peter Tagtgren's lifeless and sterile recording style.  Adorned by black metal's most iconic guffaw inducing band photos, it was clear to me back then that this band was done now that Abbath was at the helm.  Since then he has split up the band, reunited the band, been in and out of rehab, released a solo album, been through 4 bass players, applied for a trademark of the Immortal band name behind the other members' back, played in a Motorhead cover band, gone day drinking with a photographer for Metal Hammer so he could pose for publicity photos, and hes even reunited Old Funeral for a one off gig.  Now he has begun writing even worse music with another norsecore darling King Ov Hell, and Benighted's Kevin Foley.  Immortal released a statement (read this!) a few days after posting the photo regarding the struggle that Abbath has been putting his band mates through recently.  It was no surprise but I'm glad to hear he is no longer bringing Immortal down with him.

Now Norway's Scott Weiland is set to tour the US with Skeletonwitch and High on Fire (hasn't EVERYONE on earth seen these bands live already?)  Abbath (band) have released two laughable singles so far that sound like they were written by a 5 year old and made a desperate attempt to adhere relevance to his new foray by recording a version of "Nebular Raven's Winter" (from Blizzard Beasts) with the new line-up to further insult the friend and band mate he has since betrayed Demonaz.  So if this sounds like the kind of artist you want to support, please consider the above before doing so.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Forgotten Kingdoms - Demo I

The first time I listened to Eternum's Devouring Descent is a memory that will stay with me for a very long time.  That album is very very special to me.  The metal on it is great and the intros / interludes are equally, remarkably enthralling.  Through some internet sleuthery last week I happened to catch wind that Tour-de-Garde was releasing a limited cassette of the singer's dungeon synth project in limited quantities.  So I picked one up and it arrived in a timeley fashion.

Last weekend I was at Costco and I watched a young lady who was employed at the store scurrying to tend to her needs on her break.  She was making an urgent phone call while ordering two slices of pizza and hurry to the break room to swallow the greasy salt bread as quickly as it would slither down her throat between words.  As she collected her things to head to the break room I was sole witness to watching her wanton pizza slices make a run for it.  In tandem they lept from her paper plate and slapped face down on the floor.  I immediately looked upto her face and her conversation was interrupted by the pure honesty of a frown that this particular happenstance deserved.

In one mere moment she had a desire for pizza, she got that pizza and satisfaction was within her grasp almost immediately, only to have it robbed from her by gravity's begrudging grip.  This little story is a perfect metaphor for how my relationship with this demo has gone so far, particularly upon listening to it.

If this tape were ever a kingdom, it certainly would have been better off  remaining forgotten.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Mid year wrap-up

It appears that this has indeed become one of those sad sack weblogs.  One where I infrequently write in it and start the entries with sentences like "Sorry I haven't been updating, been busy with _______"  I'll spare you the bullshit and get to what you should really want: my educated opinions on the music that I would bathe in if I could.  The purpose of this entry is just to highlight the noteworthy metal albums that have come out thus far.  I assure you there is a lot more in store for the rest of the year, so my year end list will look starkly different I'm sure.  In no particular order:

1) Arcturus - Arcturian []  Yeah, one of my favorite bands has again reformed and released an album.  I'm glad they're back, I'm happy that they haven't really deviated from their signature style.  That being said, Arcturian gives me mixed emotions.  Half of me feels like this is a "going through the motions" album, much like the dismal, watery and apathetic Sideshow Symphonies was.  The other half of me feels like this is much better than that, it offers a bombastic and entertaining amount of music & variety to keep me interested.  Given my mixed emotions on the album, its a decent effort from one of the best avante garde bands in the genre, and I ALWAYS thoroughly enjoy listening to Simen Hestnaes sing on pretty much anything (aside from Sideshow Symphonies).

2) Fungoid Stream - Prehuman Shapes [] This actually came out early in 2014, but it totally flew under my radar.  Its my party and I can do whatever I want!  I had an intense relationship with their debut Celaenus Fragments about a decade ago and Oceanus didn't do much for me (needs a revisiting though).  However, Prehuman Shapes grabbed me by both arms, thrust me down firmly in a chair and unwaveringly beamed foreboding and ominous Lovecraftian nightmares straight to my inner bone marrow.  Its an intense and brilliantly crafted album.  Definitely pick this up for something different.

3) Ifing - Against this Weald [] I'd say that this band shows a lot of potential, and I might be right, but this debut is nearly as good as it gets.  There seems to be an arms race right now for bands trying to get this sort of genre just right, and there are some clear champions.  Ifing belong right up there among the Gallowbraids, the Falkenbach's and the Irminsul's.

4) Amestigon - Their [] This is every bit as great as I knew it would be, based solely on their excellent Sun of All Suns album that has been rather quietly well received since it was released in 2010.  This doesn't sound anything like the other bands that Amestigon's members are in (Abigor, Der Bluttharsch, Summoning).  Coincidental similarities to Seidr, Falls of Rauros are what I'm  hearing here, and I'm loving it.

5) Obsequiae - Aria of Vernal Tombs [] I've already written a fair amount about this band, but this sophomore album is monumentally inspired and engrossing.  This will definitely be on the top of many year end lists.

6) Darvulia / Sektarism - split [] This might be the year's biggest disappointment.  Darvulia are one of my favorite black metal bands and this is their final release.  This isn't even worth writing about any longer.  Buh.

7) Forefather - Curse of the Cwelled [] This is every bit is awesome as I knew it was going to be.  Though I haven't plundered their discography as thoroughly as I should, this is their best effort that i have heard.

8) Gorgoroth - Instinctus Bestialis [] I was about to say I don't clearly understand how or when this band became an utter joke but when I look back, I kind of think they were always floundering near joke-dom.  I really like a couple of their albums, but just having well-known members in your band does not good black metal make.  Anyways, I tried to download this album and my laptop froze in the process.  So I tried it again and the download failed due to a network error.  I tried downloading it on my other computer and it failed once again.  So I haven't heard this album yet but I'm sure it probably sucks, just like everything Tomas Asklund has a part in.

9) Infera Bruo - In Conjuration [] I knew these guys were soon to be a forced to reckon with when I first lain ears on their full length Desolate Unknown.  I wont give too much away because Worm Gear will be featuring my full review in the coming weeks.

10) Sviatibor - Dans la splendeur des dieux [] I'm going to take another opportunity to rave about this obscure french solo project.  Similar to Elderwind and Progenie Terestre Pura, even though his output is already at full throttle, the quality hasn't faltered.  This album should put him on the map and I really look forward to hearing future albums.

11) Addaura - ...and the Lamps Expire [] I waited three long years for a follow up to their brilliant debut, and all I got was 21 minutes of really good material.  Well I'm sated for about another year, haha.

12) Khors - Night Falls onto the Fronts of Ours [] I've only half listened to this a time or two, but I can tell its already an improvement upon their last album whose first half was incredible, and whose latter half left something to be desired.

13) Blood Storm - The Stellar Exorcism [] Let me preface this by telling you that this is the first time I've been able to make it through an entire Blood Storm album without shutting it off.  For some reason this album just seems to hit the right spot for me.  I'd describe it as a thrashier Hellhammer or something.

14) Infernal War - Axiom [] Either their charm has wore off on me or it has worn off altogether.  This kind of black metal is just lost on me anymore.

15) Melechesh - Enki [] This band may seem a bit out of character for me but I have a soft spot for their ultimately decadent thrashy melodies.  I cant get enough of this band and this new album is surely their best effort.  The new / old drummer is band and I'm glad for him, but I'm really going to miss Xul on the skins.  He was a perfect fit for this band.

16) Der Weg Einer Freiheit - Stellar [] It took me a while but I really warmed up to Unstille in 2012.  It was very strong but also showed a lot of promise.  Maybe I pumped them up a bit too much in my head but this new one turned out to be somewhat forgettable.  My initiation with the band was tepid, so maybe I need to put in a little work to warm up to this one.

17) Grift / Saiva - Split 10" [] Another little sample of some top quality Swedish black metal.  Looking forward to a Saiva full length.  That may tends to the wounds of Lonndom's break up.

18) Dødheimsgard - An umbra Omega [] Before I managed to peel myself away from this album, I was all over it like a Baltimore police officer on a jaywalker of color.  I'm going to write a full review of this as well so I wont go into too much great detail.

19) Kres - Na krawedziach nocy []  I havent had as much time as I'd like to fully consume this album, but I have enjoyed it enough to tell you that it is awesome.  In the vein of Wedrujacy Wiatr / Stworz, etc.  

20) House of Atreus - The Ichor and the Spear that Follows [] These guys are super talented and this album is a neck wrecker.  Not really the type of thing I usually go nuts for, but anyone who misses Arghoslent will be pretty happy with this album.