It was a lost summer over here, but I’ve managed to sneak in a few of listens. Let’s rank ’em up.
1. Paradise Lost–Obsidian
The last record was as metal as Paradise Lost has been in years. And was a triumph. So naturally, this album is a late-era-Katatonia pop album.
And it’s a triumph.
These songs will stick right in your head, and you won’t want to kick them out.
2. Dark Forest–Oak, Ash, & Thorn
Miss Pharaoh? Here’s your cure. Maybe even catchier than the American power heroes, Dark Forest has an unmatched ability to channel the Maiden-esque twin guitar attack, which many middling bands deploy, into actual Maiden-esque moments of transcendence.
3. Xibalba–Anos en Infierno
An absolute beatdown. It has surprising depth as well, but if you never get beyond the initial onslaught, you’ll still love it.
Hatebreed + Morbid Angel + Sepultura? Yes, please.
Another excellent, next-level death metal record and worthy contender to Tomb Mold and Horrendous’s throne. I think there is officially a new scene, with Tomb Mold, Horrendous, Blood Incantation, Necrot, Gatecreeper, Vastum, Spectral Voice, Witch Vomit, and now Ulthar flying the flag. They don’t all sound the same, but each have blended various elements of the classic death metal scenes in Florida, New York, Sweden and California into their own sophisticated sounds.
New Wave of (North) American Death Metal, anyone?
5. Black Curse–Endless Wound
This sounds like just about you would imagine from a Blood Incantation/Primitive Man team-up, though the Khemmis touches creep in at times. The main standout though, and why this band is an entity unto itself, is the relentless intensity. I can’t make heads or tails of most of these songs, but I do know its an overpowering, oppressive force that despite being abrasive and dissonant STILL ROCKS AND HAS RIFFS. ULCERATE, I’M LOOKING AT YOU.
6. Valdrin–Effigy of Nightmares
This is Diabolical Masquerade/Dark Tranquility territory for me. It’s competent and accomplished and I find myself coming back to it often, but when broken down, nothing is super impressive musically or compositionally. These are just fun melodic blackened death/deathened black tunes, with that air of pomposity that often suits this type of music. Check it out, but I doubt it’s a year-ender.
This is good, which is a disappointment because we know Horn is capable of being great. Too much weird filler and not enough good ideas to fill the overly long tracks bring this in solidly below Torm am Hung.
8. Lamb of God–S/T
The absence of Chris Adler is palapable, but so is a recommitment to riff-writing. This is no Ashes of the Wake (what could be?), but Memento Mori, Reality Bath, and Poison Dream are as accessible as anything since Sacrament. Which is a good thing; starting with Wrath, LoG’s have had an obtuseness to their songwriting, which is antithetical to what made the Palaces through Sacrament run so remarkable.
Welcome back boys.
9. Malokarpatan–Krupinske Ohne
Trad metal riffs, black metal vocals, odd song structures, bizarre instrumentation and genre blending make Malokarpatan one of a kind…
Oh wait. Sigh exists. This is like Sigh. And not in an unenjoyable way, but still, if you like this type of shit, you’re probably better off just firing up Imaginary Sonicscape again.
10. Ulcerate–Stare Into Death and Be Still
I respect this band and I am certainly unsettled every time I listen to this album. There is just simply more going on than I understand. They are as close to Gorguts as it gets right now…but…dissonance-forward extreme metal is not my jam.
11. Calligram–The Eye is the First Circle
This one never connected with me. Intensity for intensity’s sake has its place, but nothing made me want to come back.
Chris Black taking different parts from Motorhead songs and linking them together alongside some original Superchrist-style riffs to create a concept album about how war is fucked up, man. If that sounds appealing to you, scoop this up immediately. For the uninitiated, though, might I suggest Into the Lair of the Sun God?