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Editor’s Choice November 2015

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Straight up, right now I should be writing my end of the year list – that is, the next Editor’s Choice. I’ve already sent the forms out to the staff. Hell, I’ve already received a couple. Trouble is, it’s hard to think about how stellar 2015 has been when I’m already knee deep in records that won’t come out until 2016.

I’m accustomed to the first quarter of a new year being kind of a dead spot – films experience the same phenomenon. For example until about February of this year I struggled to find enough good material to merit a post every day.

That’s not going to be true for 2016, let me tell you. I’ve already heard some upcoming material that is strong enough to go toe-to-toe with the best of this year, and there’s samples of most of it in my list below.

A quick note: I am changing the content on this article beginning in 2016 to focus less on material from small bands released via Bandcamp. Enough significant artists have crossed my desk with little more than a Bandcamp page to convince me that the service deserves its own regular column.

I’m not the first to heap praise on the forthcoming self-titled solo album by newly-outcast Immortal frontman Abbath. I also won’t be the last because the record is good. Solo debuts tend to be dubious propositions in all genres, but Abbath is the exception that proves the rule. This should come as no surprise, since every Immortal album is good, and in the latter part of the band’s career, Abbath wrote most of the music. Still, I didn’t go into Abbath with my hopes up. The man’s former bandmates have called him an alcoholic, which seldom bodes well. Be that as it may his solo debut is a triumphant direct continuation of the Immortal sound. The first formal single, “Winter Bane,” is an indicative sample. Abbath’s guitar lines remain both aggressive and catchy, and the clean bridge pattern near the end of the song still displays his mastery of iron-gripped tone. King Ov Hell accentuates his bass fills with a few interesting fills and slaps, the kind of flourishes that were too often buried in his other projects, Gorgoroth and God Seed. Abbath’s new material will fit in snugly with Immortal classics on the 2016 Decibel Magazine tour.
-Discovered via Blabbermouth

Vektor might be the only thrash metal band that matters anymore, partially because only the bare vestiges of thrash remain in the band’s music. Submitted as evidence: “Ultimate Artificer,” the first single off the band’s upcoming album, Terminal Redux. The band begins with a little polished Coroner worship before exploding their sound into gorgeous passages equally informed by black metal and Mahavishnu Orchestra. Dave DiSanto’s screeching vocals remain as piercing as ever, but he’s stuffing more notes per second into his guitar solos than before. Vektor now reminds me of the jazz plus slayer sound hinted at on the early Cynic demo tapes before that band plunged deeper into unknown territory.
-Discovered via Facebook

That said, if you’d rather imagine a world where Cynic camped on the sound they innovated with Focus, then maybe “Akroasis,” the title track to the new album by Obscura, will be more to your liking – it’s rife with clean shredding, amniotic basslines and philosophical waxing obscured by higher-register retching. There’s no robotic autotuned vocals on this track, but they do appear elsewhere on the album. Akroasis comes after a long dormant period for Obscura – when the band’s last album, Ominivum, dropped in early 2011, when their style of hyper-produced technical death metal was quite popular and, because of frequent delays in the release of a new Necrophagist album, Obsucra and The Faceless were at the vanguard of the style. In the years since, frequent lineup changes stalled the ascent of both bands. Only band leader Steffen Kummerer remains, though the rest of the Omnivium lineup has recorded several albums since, either as part of Spawn of Possession, the criminally under-appreciated Alkaloid project from earlier this year, or the two solo albums released by ex-members Hannes Grossmann and Christin Muenzner. It’s worth noting that all of those records featured session work by other ex-members of the band, as well as the group’s current bassist Linus Klausenitzer. Confused yet? Death metal bands have a reputation for rapidly shifting and incestuous lineup changes, but Obscura’s lineage might take the cake. It gets more complex: Akroasis was produced by V. Santura, also of Triptykon and Dark Fortress with also shares members of Alkaloid. Perhaps it’s best not to think about it too much and focus on how, for better or worse, five years of slumber have barely altered the band’s sound. If, like me, you were a fan from the start, then it’s cause for celebration. “Akroasis” isn’t an obvious single the way “Anticosmic Overload” and “Vortex Omnivium” were, but it’s also not quite so harsh on the ears.
-Discovered via Blabbermouth

Bands like Obscura used to be at the forefront of technical metal, but in 2015 Dissonance is the new melody. Ok, ok, Dissonance has been a major part of modern metal composition for years, but from where I’m standing diminished ninths and sickening odd time have been carrying more weight than sweep-picked arpeggios for some time. This month in depressive technical metal offered a two song demo by Wall of Water, a joint project by drummer Shawn Eldridge of Disma and multi instrumentalist Cullen Toner formerly of Abazagorath. These two songs offer jazzy dissonant chords played on seven string guitars – of course they’re from New York City – as well as a healthy dose of black metal atmosphere and even a hint of hardcore vocals at the end of the sprawling second song, “Clairvoyance.” The band’s stated purpose is to “transcend the boundaries between the numerous micro-genres of metal” and on that front they have succeeded. I expect big things should they ever record an album.

It’s a big deal whenever Discharge release new music, even if it is not good music – that said, “N.W.O.” is good. It’s nothing outside the norm for the band, but it’s a cause for celebration when any British punk band from 1977 still putts out music this energetic and nasty. I can’t imagine many readers are unfamiliar with the band, but just in case, here’s a brief primer. Discharge do not play metal, but their influence on the genre is outsize. Hell, their influence is probably more important than their (kind of spotty) recorded output. Here’s quick primer: the high-velocity kick-snare drum pattern that shows up in almost every crust song, not to mention in tons of death, thrash and black metal, is called the D-beat. As in the Discharge beat. Not that Discharge innovated it (lots of people think that honor goes to Motorhead), but they certainly perfected it. Loads of bands have started their names with the syllable “dis” in honor of Discharge, including Disfear, Disclose and more (Dismember also used the D-beat but there’s no proof that they did so because of Discharge). Metallica covered them twice on Garage Inc..
-Discovered via Facebook

The Antichrist Imperium is the joint project of ex-members of Akercocke and The Berserker. The band’s first (and likely only) album, is composed of the material that would have been the sixth Akercocke album, which probably already has many listeners decided on whether or not they’re going to give this record a serious listen: Akercocke was a hot band for a moment, and their blend of high-fidelity blackened death metal and melodic progressive passages was a very marketable idea–hell it’s basically what Behemoth did on their last record. Unfortuantely Akercocke, wrote some great tunes but never quite gelled for a whole record. The Anitchirst Imperium holds together.These songs are more melodic, the same way that Voices (the other ex-Akercocke project) is more melodic, but the album as a whole is more cohesive than London because it lacks a convoluted plot line in favor of more meaty songs.
-Discovered via Personal Recommendation

The scope of good editing stretches beyond prose and into music. Songs need fat trimmed from them. Metallica is a great example of this. I attribute much of the group’s recent torpor to a simple unwillingness to chop their songs down to digestible four-minute bits. Just because the band’s creative high-points often consist of six-to-eight minute-songs doesn’t mean they ought to stay in that realm. I like to imagine a grindcore-length edited version of St. Anger that might prompt some critical re-appraisal of the record. The closest thing I’ve found is this cover of Blackened” by Brooklyn green outfit Meek is Murder.The difference between arena rock and guttural fury is just four minutes and a little screaming.
-Discovered via Facebook

Living in Seattle means I’m exposed to a larger-than-average contingent of MAgic: The Gathering players. Wizards of the Coast is based here. While I haven’t played the game in quite some time, I still admire the pieces of art that the game commissions, and one of my favorites has long been Tombstalker. Sure, it’s a Balrog ripoff, but one that exudes confidence and guts. The same might be said for Lexington, Kentucky’s Tombstalker: their take on no-frills death metal makes up in aggression what it lacks in creativity. Were it not for the modern (read: grindy, compressed) guitar tone, I could have sworn this came out in 1993. their new full length, Black Crusades isn’t the kind of record to make most people’s year-end list, but its well-worn blast attack is more durable than the latest trend, and I expect it to stay that way for years to come.
-Discovered via Press Release

—Joseph Schafer

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