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Editor’s Choice June 2015

drouth

Has it really been six months? Between all the trade deals and legalized marriages, I nearly lost track of time. It feels as though I only just finished posting the staff’s best of 2014 lists. Regardless, 2015 is halfway over, so I’ve decided to post some best-of lists for the first half of the year.

Honestly, I’m doing this for the lack of an overarching narrative, even though finding such a narrative is only a goal I made for myself.

It’s important to remember that musical trends are, to an extent, natural forces, or at least the net results of complex systems. Like the passage of time, trends don’t kowtow to human comprehension (even though trends are the result of human behavior). Even though years and months correlate with the movement of the earth through space, they’re really just human inventions and therefore are, to an extent, arbitrary. It’s up to people like us—writers and thinkers—to make meaning out of them. In that respect, I feel like I’ve failed. I have found no ur-story to hang smaller developments on in 2015.

All I can say with certainty is that I have never heard more doom metal albums than in 2015. Some are spectacular, like Crypt Sermon’s masterful Out of the Garden, Cave of Swimmers’s forward-thinking and charismatic Reflection EP and Ascension, the upcoming debut by Denver’s Khemmis. The vast majority have bored me to tears, though. Both reactions are a function of numbers more than anything. The more blackjack you play, the more you hit, the more you fold and the more you win. The relative margins between the three are where the magic of the game (and of hunting for music) comes from; it’s also the end result of complex systems.

Therefore, after a few musical samples, check out some lists. I let the readers take liberties with them. End of 2015 lists will be more regimented.

Let’s take some bets. What are the odds that Martin Van Drunen is the vocalist in anonymous European death metal quintet Undead? This is exactly what I want out of old school death metal: big, chunky guitars going punky fast and groovy slow in about equal measure—a formula that also describes Van Drunen’s other current projects, Hail of Bullets and Asphyx. Undead seems to be trying to sound a bit more like Death than Bolt Thrower, but that’s fine by me. Evil Chuck deserves more imitators. False Prophecies isn’t the sort of album that will make my year end list, but it’s probably going to stay on my iPod for years.
-Discovered via Last Rites.

Oh man, it is Average Joe death metal month, and I am in full support. Kataklysm have been doing the exact same thing for years, and I see no reason for them to stop now if “Thy Serpents Tongue,” the first released song off their upcoming album Of Gods and Ghosts, is any indication. their approach is nuts and bolts, but as Steve Jobs said, “It just works.” They were one of the first bands to get me acquainted with extreme metal vocals and for that reason they’ll always have a place in my heart, even if their records tend to include three good songs and then a bunch of filler. Too often that’s the price of metal with pop sensibilities, but I’m glad these Canadians can remain consistent.
-Discovered via Press Release.

Speaking of bands that got me into harsh vocals, that honor goes mostly to Lamb of God, who I have continued to listen to and champion for years with admittedly diminishing returns. It’s never been very hip to stand in that band’s corner, but I maintain they penned one no-bullshit masterpiece and fellow metal scribe Adrien Begrand insists that the band’s upcoming album, VII: Sturm und Drang is the worthy successor to Ashes of the Wake that I’ve waited a decade for. The two songs they’ve released so far, “Still Echoes” and “512” don’t quite confirm that, but they still seem more energized than the band’s recent output. Sturm und Drang will reportedly be informed by frontperson Randy Blythe’s stint in Czech prison. Good—Blythe has always been the best thing about Lamb of God (sorry, Mark Morton and Chris Adler, but you know it’s true). He’s a gifted singer and a spectacular lyricist when he actually writes the lyrics. For evidence see the lyric video for “Still Echoes,” his ode to the abandoned guillotine that stood down the hall from his cell. Color me cautiously optimistic.
-Discovered via Adrien Begrand.

I’ve only ever cried at a death metal concert once, and that was during Cattle Decapitation at Denver Black Sky 2014. The band is just that intense. While I’m a casual fan of the band’s storied output, the consensus seems to be that they only just hit their stride with 2012’s Monolith of Inhumanity, which saw the band slow down a bit and add some creepy auto-tuned-wrong vocals into the mix. That trend looks likely to continue on their upcoming The Anthropocene Extinction judging by the first released song, “Manufactured Extinct.”
-Discovered via Press Release.

Enough big money (hah) stuff; let’s get intimate. Drouth are from Portland, OR, which is significant because even though Portland has a vibrant metal scene, I can’t think of too many metal bands from Portland that I flat-out enjoy (punk is a different story). Lord Dying is great live, but leaves me flat on record; same for The Body. Droth, however, grok me. Their mix of crusty sludge and melodic, progressive tendencies reminds me of last month’s Plaguewielder, and therefore Nachtmystium. Their EP, Vast, Loathesome is pretty much what I wanted out of Nux Vomica, another Portland act that never connected with me on LP. I hope to see this band playing in Seattle soon, so I can catch that ball-busting riff that ends the title track in-person. (If you’re reading this, guys, pick me up a scorpion ring from Paxton Gate. I’ll get you back! Fuck shipping charges.)
-Discovered via Email from the band.

The thing I like most about the format of this column is that it’s restricted to things which I discovered in June, but which could be older. Take for instance Black Harvest, whose album Abject came out last year but flew under my radar. I think of their sound as Poland by way of NYC, the semi-industrial sounds of the city’s contemporary black and grind scenes put to the use of sounding like Behemoth. I wouldn’t give such props to a mere clone, however; they pack some unexpected punches, like the random blues intro to “Salt and Sand” and the brief Converge-isms on “Holy Blood.”
-Discovered via Email from the band.

Here’s some pretty good longform melodic black metal from France. In Cauda Venenum share in some of their country’s post-black-metal tradition, but their riffs are too angry to really fall into that category. Moreso, it’s like a folk-less Panopticon, blistering leads and all. There’s also a lot of Summoning’s melodic keyboards in their sound, which I quite enjoy. It’s just two long songs: the first begins slow, but does find its way into some interesting thrash-by-way-of-Immortal shredding toward the end. The second opens with a bit of Primordial worship before developing into something more Cascadian.
-Discovered via Email from the band.

Forgive the bad artwork, because Lucid/Ethenogene is so much better than the package it comes in. Estuarine is a bizarre one-man technical and progressive death metal band masterminded by Chris Skrocki, who is originally from Florida but currently operates out of Sweden. Much of the time, his project recalls his home state’s crop of jazz-inflected death metal bands such as Atheist and Cynic. When he’s blasting, though, Skrocki could pass for a young Erik Rutan. It’s rough around the edges, but most projects are at this stage—what’s more important is that Estuarine has scope and vision. All Skrocki needs is an art budget.
-Discovered via Email from the band.

OK: I’ll include one more big-name band, but only because I really liked going to see Ghost B.C. with my mom. This band had an incredible amount of momentum following their lovable and immaculately-crafted first album. By my judgment, they lost it all after the too-glossy followup, Infestissumam. For what it’s worth I didn’t think album number two was a total wash, and the evil gospel-disco of “Year Zero” is probably the best thing they’ve ever done. “Circe,” the lead single from their upcoming third LP, Meliora, is not quite as good, but it does pack one hell of a vocal hook. The vocals have always been the weakest bit of Ghost B. C.—too studio-doctored to work live—but Tobian “Papa Emeritus the Whatever” Forge sounds more comfortable here.
-Discovered via Facebook.

—Joseph Schafer

Now for some lists. A note regarding my list: if you notice that a lot of my picks streamed here on Invisible Oranges, that’s because I choose the majority of content we stream, not because of branding or toeing a party line. These lists are about an expression of taste, not a buyer’s guide (though you could certainly use them for that purpose).

Joseph Schafer

House of Atreus – The Spear and the Ichor that Follows
Arcturus – Arcturian
Plaguewielder – Succumb to the Ash
Antigama – The Insolent
Satyrasis – …Of the Dead
Crypt Sermon – Out of the Garden
Armageddon – Captivity and Devourment
Paradise Lost – The Plague Within
Tau Cross – Tau Cross
Royal Thunder – Crooked Doors

Here’s some top songs as well:
Theories – “Shame”
Cave of Swimmers – “Prince of the Power of the Air”
Visigoth – “Mammoth Rider”
Obsequiae – “Anlace and Heart”
Raven – “Destroy All Monsters”
Paradise Lost – “Terminal”
Faith No More – “Sunny Side Up”
Maruta – “Hope Smasher”
King Giant – “There Were Bells”
Tau Cross – “Hangman’s Hyll”

Vanessa Salvia

Bell Witch – Four Phantoms
Cendra – 666 Bastards
Akhlys – The Dreaming 1
Leviathan – Scar Sighted
Ysengrin – Liber Hermetis
blackQueen – The Directress
Aseethe – Nothing Left Nothing Gained
Ashcloud – Abandon All Light
Balmog – Svmma Fide
Ufomammut – Ecate

Jon Rosenthal

Obsequiae – Aria of Vernal Tombs
Erraunt – The Portent
Sufjan Stevens – Carrie and Lowell
Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly
Autokrator – Autokrator
Keeper – The Space Between Your Teeth
Fister – IV
Fixation – Rehearsal II
Blackline – Simultaneous Pulsations
Pyramids – A Northern Meadow

Richard Street-jammer

Aktor – Paranoia
Crypt Sermon – Out of the Garden
Ironsword – None but the Brave
Visigoth – The Revenant King
Deivos – Theodicy
Gorgoroth – Instinctus Beastialis
Lord Dying – Poisoned Altars
Nasty – Shokka
Veld – Daemonic: The Art of Dantalian
Revolting – Visages of the Unspeakable

Dylan Chadwick

Red Death – Permanent Exile
Neutral Accents Fanzine – #8
(Finally) discovering the Hell’s Headbanger’s Podcast
Pinfindergeneral.bigcartel.com (best metal button site on the net)

Ian Corey

Harm’s Way – Rust
Krill – A Distant Fist Unclenching
Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly
Bosse-de-Nage – All Fours
Hop Along – Painted Shut
Marilyn Manson – The Pale Emperor
Holly Herndon – Platforms
Xibalba – Tierra Y Libertad
Kamasi Washington – The Epic
Speedy Ortiz – Foil Deer

This article has been edited to properly reflect the name Drouth

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