*This was delayed by the apocalypse. Please help any way you can, including giving to bands and venues affected by tour cancellation, and also the Red Cross and UNICEF and the like.*
February, the last normal month in human history, at least gave us an early favorite for album of the year. I fucking loved these records and expect they will stay on heavy rotation all year, so let me say up top–all of them are highly recommended. But if I must parse:
1. Midnight–Rebirth by Blasphemy
Their best album by a mile and my favorite record since…well, Crypt Sermon I suppose, but still. Holy shit! I expected dirty, Venomous nonsense of the highest order. I did not expect a United-style Priest anthem in the middle, or songs with real emotional heft behind the sleaze, but just listen to Rising Scum and You Can Drag me Through Fire. A next level jump by a band already at the upper echelon of the underground.
2. Xoth–Interdimensional Incantations
The cover art says it all. The last Vektor album with an injection consisting of equal parts death metal and mania. Might be too out there for some, but if you like thrash and losing your mind, get to it.
3. Haunt–Mind Freeze
Haunt is the most consistent and reliable trad metal band going right now. If those adjectives don’t get your heart racing, that’s on brand too–nowhere on Mind Freeze do they blow your mind, same as with If Icarus Could Fly and each release before that. But they aren’t swinging for the fences–they are trying get on base with each song. Would you rather have a record with 2 great songs and 6 garbage ones, or 8 pretty good ones, any of which could do the job in your live set? Haunt favors the latter, and I can’t knock them for it.
An outstanding melodic black metal album. Aethryick tends towards the atmospheric/mood side of the spectrum–think Dawn as opposed to Dissection or Naglfar. And they do so brilliantly, able to ring real emotion similar to Mgla’s brand of alchemy. Let’s just hope they don’t share some other things with Mgla…
5. The Great Old Ones–Cosmicism
I really enjoy GOO’s brand of death metal. They nail the Lovecraft aesthetic, and routinely have passages that come out of nowhere to just demolish the listener. These parts must be something to behold live. But they can never maintain that power throughout a whole song, let alone a record, which keeps them from rising to the very top of the genre. The album is still worth your time, and is perfectly suited to a particular type of mood, but you won’t be reaching for it like you do Tomb Mold or Horrendous records.
6. Blessed Black–Beyond the Crimson Throne
Blessed Black is a rock band. There is nothing wrong with that, but don’t go in expecting to hear stoner metal in the vein of Khemmis or even The Sword, because these guys are much more in the Kyng/Droids Attack/Taint lane. With that in mind, this is a solid collection of songs with good riffs and some standout soloing, and enough adventures towards the edges of traditional song structure that bodes well for the future. I will definitely see these guys live, and if they arrive at a sound and vision that’s truly their own, look out.
March Pick Ups:
Early thoughts–Interesting batch where each band has a seemingly obvious like for like (see below).
Hopefully some nuance reveals itself in the next few weeks, but even in this framework these are really enjoyable records. Tombs and Kvelertak sound reinvigorated, and Slaughter Messiah is the pummeling Destroyer 666-type machine I’ve been missing.
Provided this isn’t actually the Stand playing out, I’ll rank ’em up in about 3 weeks.
–Slaughter Messiah (Kreator)
–Godthrymm (Paradise Lost)
–Oath of Cruelty (Angelcorpse)
–Blaze of Perdition (Tribulation)