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Chilled Out: Six Albums for Gazing Up at Summer Skies

summer
Photo credit: Andrew Rothmund

The warm weather months can be a precarious time for metal fans. While a few major festivals pull us begrudgingly from our caves, the sunlight is sure to sting. Further complicating matters is that while many bands make plenty of appeals to nature, few ponder the warm embrace of the day star, particularly when we have adjusted to only slight glimmers of sky slipping through cracks in the blinds. With a willingness to seek out just the right albums, however, raging heat and raging beats prove to be more compatible than you would think.

One of the best heavy arenas from which we can pull as Memorial Day enters this month’s picture is the alternative scene. Indeed, there is perhaps no greater gold standard for searing hot vibes than Deftones’ Around the Fur (1997). Not only does it feature a poolside young woman whose likeness earned her an update interview, but also cult classic “My Own Summer (Shove It).” Seductive riffs and frustrated screams mark the tensions that tend to arise when it comes time to zip off the bottom half of your cargo pants.

While alternative music has come a long way since the late 1990s, its value remains enduring when it comes to providing an antidote to worship of icy tundra and howling winds. Incorporating elements of prog rock, post-hardcore, and even hip-hop, experimental ventures are fit for blaring from top-down cars or open bedroom windows in the thick of sweltering oppression. While tones may be brighter and vocals, a stitch cleaner, the heart of madness and melancholy still lay at the heart of it all.

For those in search of a soundtrack fit for sun-drenched adventure, euphoria, and loss, look no further.

The ContortionistClairvoyant

While a good deal of metal famously invokes shades of grey, appreciation of layers of color shouldn’t be lost. Intricate brushes of rich tones are exceptionally utilized by Midwestern djenters-turned-new-wavers The Contortionist. The six-piece has become a progressive success story, forming a top-notch blend of spiraling riffs and consistent atmosphere without pretense. Going hard since 2007 has meant surviving the rise and fall of countless subgenre waves; while The Contortionist could have languished after their hallmark release Intrinsic (2012), they went on to develop their timeless sound with follow-ups Language (2014) and Clairvoyant (2017). Fit for the soft air after a thunderstorm, the gang’s most recent release paints with a delicate hand in order to create a crisp picture.

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Fair to MidlandArrows & Anchors

In a criminal instance of exceptional musicianship falling on deaf ears, Dallas’s Fair to Midland pushes the boundaries of songwriting and imagery alike in their final release before disbanding, Arrows & Anchors (2011). A sure crowd-pleaser for long road-trips with friends, the album masters the ability to ride the line between rock and metal, crafting epics that both wrench and warm the heart as vocal ranges defy the laws of gravity. Fair To Midland’s incorporation of folk instrumentals and futuristic keyboards alongside pulsing rhythm guitar approaches like rains infiltrating a vast skyline. Washing away the dust and soot, Arrows & Anchors is a refreshing treat for summer’s shine.

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IsleptonthemoonHelp Me Off the Ground

In a slightly different display of crispness, Bandcamp gem Isleptonthemoon provides an abrasive installment for blistering desolation. After all, when moving an inch demands the blood, sweat, and tears of running a mile, we all need a little help off the ground. the project’s first full-length wastes no time gripping you in the throes of reverse seasonal depression through visceral shrieks conjured from quite the tortured soul. Nevertheless, the album embraces a more optimistic post-metal edge as it develops, serving as the aloe on a burnt layer that will never come back. Most notably, by taking on acoustic elements mixed at a distance, the unnamed artist shreds the concept of blackened folk and sews it together completely anew.

Wicca Phase Springs EternalSuffer On

Every playlist needs a stylistic renegade. What Gothboiclique member Wicca Phase Springs Eternal lacks in metal he makes up in melancholia, and, at least anecdotally, he tends to win the hearts of the ficklest music fans. Like a modern-day Michael Bolton, the lanky legend meditates on love’s loss through a minimalist lens. Putting forth a vaguely western vibe on this record as compared to the sparkling Corinthiax EP (2018), Suffer On is a solemn savior away from the brazen indulgence of a DSBM record. After all, while you think your romance with the bass player of Bongzilla will transcend Maryland Deathfest, emerging from a long weekend and heading back into real life without becoming remarkably soul-sick is no easy feat — and for that, we need some seriously dark R&B.

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Violet ColdSommermorgen, Pt. III: Nostalgia

As humidity places the world in suspended animation, we oftentimes form the habit of looking back due to our inability to move forward. In the third installment of his project Sommermorgen — released over the course of summer of 2018 — Azerbaijan’s Violet Cold demonstrates his mastery of merging every style under the sun into a seamless trek. Sommermorgen is as willing to throw down a wall of blast beats as it is to let the beat drop. Full of crescendos and decrescendos as wispy as a breeze, it becomes hard not to reflect on ghosts of summers past with rose-colored glasses. Appropriately, each chapter of Sommermorgen displays a differently shaded bouquet.

An Autumn for Crippled ChildrenThe Light of September

As with all things, good or bad, they must eventually come to an end. While the jury may still be out on just how blah or blissful the warm weather months may be, what is certain is September. Saying goodbye is never easy, but the Netherlands’ An Autumn for Crippled Children puts on enough fanfare to make it all worthwhile. Whether you interpret The Light of September as the light at the end of the tunnel or the white light whisking you away, the 2018 release is no doubt a landmark in An Autumn for Crippled Children’s prolific career. Tremolo picked riffs aimed up towards the heavens channel the safety of daydreams freshly unlocked from languid atmosphere. The trio essentially provides a testament to what black metal can be and where it is going in a time when scene politics are looking extremely bleak. After a long, hot summer, there is always autumn.

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