Upcoming Metal Releases 3/20/2016 – 3/26/2016
Hey guys, this is the last time you’ll be hearing from me this month – it’s high time I moved into a new apartment, so I’ll be preoccupied with the whole relocation process for a few weeks. Our good pal Richard Street-Jammer will be taking my place until I come back – it’ll be like I never left! Hope you don’t miss me too much.
Below is a truncated list of metal albums slated for release this calendar week (March 20th through 26th, 2016). Though I try to include all the releases I can, it really isn’t possible. Feel free to fill in the blanks by leaving a comment below, or you can even e-mail me! The comment box also doubles as a neat conversation machine, just put your intended (related) conversation starter in the box, press “post,” and watch the responses fly. Be nice, though.
Pyrrhon – Running Out Of Skin | Independent/Digital (future CD edition by PRC Music | Avant-Garde/Technical Death Metal/Free Improvisation | United States
Furthering their status as the most innovative newer face in death metal, Pyrrhon baffled just about everyone with the surprise Bandcamp release of the brief, manic Running Out Of Skin EP last Tuesday. The deliberate cacophony of Pyrrhon’s music, a free-improvisation-directed sort of noise rock/death metal hybrid, evokes similarities to the canonical and obvious Gorguts and Demilich, sure, but they are so much more. The “avant metal dream team” of guitarist Dylan DeLilla, bassist EriK Malawe, and (recently ex-)drummer Alex Cohen effectively manage extra-stylistic impressions of Derek Bailey’s automatic guitar madness, Pharaoh Sanders’s possessed spiritualism, and the full-spectrum fullness of Ligeti, all wrapped up in frontman (and IO alumnus) Doug Moore’s maddening roar. To use the term “thinking man’s metal” would be canned and predictable, but such a convincing fusion of death metal’s aggression with the communicative chaos of small-combo free jazz goes unprecedented. Opener “Statistic Singular” will definitely be in the relative comfort zone for seasoned or aspiring Pyrrhon fans, a pre-composed bout of mostly-calculated discord, and the closing homage to Chuck Schuldiner (yes, they covered “Crystal Mountain” in a distinctly Pyrrhon way, and it works oh so well), but the two tracks sandwiched between speak to Pyrrhon’s true musician’s sensibilities. Completely improvised and absolutely insane, “Ashes to Alveoli” and “Motivational Speaker II” are impossibly dense and by far Pyrrhon’s most challenging work yet, but the moments of cohesion between the four-headed hydra, all feeding off of each other with the sensibilities of a jazz combo or, dare I say, a jam band, these two exercises in discordance show just how connected these musicians are. As mentioned earlier, drummer Alex Cohen has since left Pyrrhon and been replaced with the very talented Steve Schwegler, making Running Out Of Skin one hell of a farewell.
Cobalt – Slow Forever | Profound Lore Records | Progressive Metal | United States
This is an intimidating album to review. Aside from the very sensitive social issues surrounding Cobalt before their new lineup was finalized and Slow Forever was finally recorded, this is an exceptionally long album. At a staggering, monolithic 84 minutes in length, Slow Forever isn’t just a casual listen, but, at the same time, the intimidation of length belies some of multi-instrumentalist Erik Wunder’s finest performances to date. I guess to preface my thoughts on the actual music, you will see I didn’t classify Cobalt as “black metal” this time around. To be honest, the only variable which kept Cobalt floating around the black metal universe was former vocalist and band founder Phil McSorley’s attitude and swagger. Now with musical veteran Charlie Fell handling vocal duties, Cobalt shifts in many directions, none of which seem to explicitly be black metal. Musically, Slow Forever embodies a much more progressive sound which was expressed to a lesser degree in previous albums, from which I could draw more comparisons to, say, The Jesus Lizard, Tool, and even Merle Haggard, rather than Mayhem or Wolves in the Throne Room. Cobalt had always been moving in this direction, with Wunder’s past utilization of strange phrasing and “grungier” sounds, but it wasn’t until Slow Forever that we see such a monumental shift from metal’s definition of “extreme” to a much headier, musicianship-oriented extreme. Charlie Fell’s throaty screech fits right in with the ‘90s avant-rock sound, reminiscent of a rabid David Yow, and, to be completely honest, Fell proves himself to be a much more versatile frontman than his predecessor (though this isn’t the comparison game). Quite a few people still express concern over whether or not Cobalt is still “Cobalt” time around, which always happens with such dramatically-connoted lineup changes. To those who do doubt, I have one word: listen.
The Wolves Of Avalon – Across Corpses Grey | Godreah Records | Progressive Folk/Black Metal | United Kingdom
It isn’t very often I come across a 30+ minute pagan metal song. Don’t get me wrong, they do exist, but most of them are just so…boring and bland. You can only play the same folky chord progression for so long before I have to start wiping drool off of my sleeve, you know? Given the length of The Wolves of Avalon’s newest album’s title track, which is one of those staggeringly long culprits, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. However, I soldiered on, and rightfully so – Across Corpses Grey boasts one of the strongest, strangest guest musician lists I’ve ever seen, featuring performances by Hildr Valkyrie, Rob “The Baron” Miller, Roman “Thurios” Saenko, and many more eyebrow-raising others. Musically, The Wolves of Avalon comes from the furthest reaches of left field. They are folky, sure, and their Anglo-Saxon pride shines with bright flute melodies, but their connection to fellow black metal weirdos The Meads of Asphodel (whose Metatron performs lead vocal duties in The Wolves of Avalon) is all the more apparent. As catchy as this album is…it’s weird. The progressive nature of the band’s performance, be it in unusual instrumentation, avant-garde structures, or some very impressive bouts of technicality, puts The Wolves of Avalon in a field all their own, and certainly maintains a high level of excitement throughout the title track’s intimidating length. As a bit of a reward for surviving the long trek, Across Corpses Grey also features some very impressive Drudkh and Venom covers, so be sure to dive in headfirst and experience everything The Wolves have to offer.
Of Corpses Grey Album Preview– THE WOLVES OF AVALON – OF CORPSES GREY – ALBUM PREVIEW – OUT FEB 2016 – Album features members of – Drudkh – Venom – Amebix – Sigh – Primordial – Hildr Valkyrie – Mael Mordha + More including Metatron of The Meads of Asphodel.
Posted by The Wolves Of Avalon on Sunday, January 17, 2016
Rorcal – Creon | Bleak Recordings /GPS Prod/GRAINS OF SAND RECORDS/HALO OF FLIES Records/Lost Pilgrims Records/Wolves And Vibrancy Records/Division Records, Dullest Records/Longlegslongarms Records/Unquiet Records | Blackened Sludge/Doom Metal | Switzerland
From my premiere of “Haemon”:
“[In “Creon”, Rorcal] deftly moves between aggressive black metal, bottomed-out doom, and thick, muscular hardcore with an ease which somehow also borders on the reckless.”
VLK – Of Wolves’ Blood | Tour de Garde | Black Metal | United States
It is always comforting to find solid, well-performed black metal from my neck of the woods. Chicago-based (now) 3-piece Vlk’s triumphant, melodic black metal displays strong folk and post-punk leanings, leading to a strong, but simplistic sound. The dynamic approach to Of Wolves’ Blood, a dramatic step up from their original demo, rampages just as much as it mourns, utilizing muscle and power equally alongside simple, effective melodic songwriting.
Mesarthim – Pillars EP | Independent/Avantgarde Music | Atmospheric Black Metal/Ambient | Australia
In a surprise release (literally a surprise, they just kind of posted about it on Facebook), the young Mesarthim only furthers the conceit of their status as the new masters of “space black metal.” Their lush, entrancing, cosmic sound echoes a much more Kubrick-ian view of space, colorful and luminous, compared to their much darker, inhuman counterparts. This lengthy EP is only available via Mesarthim’s Bandcamp page for now, but will see a physical release at the masterful hand of Avantgarde Music in the near future.
Blood Ceremony – Lord of Misrule | Rise Above Records | Psychedelic Doom Metal/Rock | Canada
From Rob Sperry-Fromm’s premiere of “Old Fires”:
“Old Fires is, as we expect from this band, really good. Blood Ceremony are the rare band that emulates a classic aesthetic that actually sound like they could be coming at you from England in 1978, and this song just hits every right note all the way through. The band has nailed the feel of this type of music, and while most bands who walk on this ground risk sounding kitschy, there’s a balance here between fun and straight-faced that works perfectly. From the pitch-perfect fuzz of the guitar, the organ that works as both warm and scary at the same time, and Alia O’Brien’s vocals that land right between ethereal and hellish, it’s a winner.”
Darkestrah/AlNamrood – Akyr Zaman / Tajer Al Punqia | Shaytan Productions | Folk/Black Metal | Kyrgyztan (Germany now)/Saudi Arabia
Kyrgystan expats Darkestrah and Saudi Arabian AlNamrood’s similar sound thematics lead to an interesting, albeit lopsided split. Darkestrah has always had a penchant for the exotic and epic, and even with a new lineup (I do miss the classic lineup with Anti and Kriegtalith, but that is neither here nor there at this point) their sound is dense, grand, majestic, and horrifying. Darkestrah’s Eastern-tinged black metal embodies the majestic, vast emptiness of the desert and the pride of the Kyrgyz people within. AlNamrood occupies a much more “traditional” folk realm which does lead to some memorable, catchy melodies, but “Humbaba”’s half-growled/half-sung voice makes them sound like much more of a caricature than they really are.
Amon Amarth – Jomsviking | Metal Blade Records | Melodic Death Metal | Sweden
Has Amon Amarth truly ever let us down? Conservative and “samey,” sure, but you can listen to any Amon Amarth album and feel that same sort of masculine, Viking-specific triumph. Do you remember the classic video game “Golden Axe”? Amon Amarth is “Golden Axe” the band.
Horse Latitudes – Primal Gnosis | Ritual Productions | Drone/Doom Metal | Finland
Given the drone/doom tag, I was expecting something a little more “Sunn”-y, but Horse Latitudes sounds like a more extreme version of the ‘70s on a handful of qualuudes.
The Body/Full Of Hell – One Day You Will Ache Like I Ache | Neurot Recordings | Incomprehensible | United States
I can’t make heads or tails of this, but I couldn’t make heads or tails of Full of Hell to begin with, anyway. Unfortunately, the chameleons they are, The Body fits right into the weird, grinding mess.
UNRU – Als Tier Ist Der Mensch Nichts | Sentient Ruin Laboratories/Supreme Chaos Records/MONOTONSTUDIO RECORSD | Black Metal/Punk | Germany
Pissed off, psychedelic black metalpunk. Some of you might remember a much more expansive sound from Unru’s split with Paramnesia, post-rocky, and aggressive, but that sound is so…it’s so over, you know? Als Tier Ist Der Mensch Nichts takes all those elements and puts them in a trash compactor, taking all the melodrama and atmosphere and injecting it into tough, rugged blackened hardcore. Don’t look at this one on bandcamp at work, though. That cover artwork is totally NSFW.
Hunok – Megrendíthetetlenség | Tour de Garde | Folk/Black Metal/Ambient | Hungary
Hunok’s debut full-length has quite literally been a long time coming. Having started the band in 1998 (eighteen years ago), Gábor Zselencz has made some of the most striking black metal and folk-tinged ambient these ears have heard, and yet he always managed to stay within the underground. Megrendíthetetlenség shows Zselencz fusing those two separate styles, resulting in ethereal, triumphant, thought provoking black metal ambiance.
FOR THE ADVENTUROUS
Inwolves – Involves | ConSouling Sounds | “Kosmiche musik” (Krautrock/Ambient) | Belgium
When reading the press description for Inwolves’s Involves, I was expecting something a little more on the “buzzing synthesizers for that one friend of yours who takes acid by the sheet,” but this Belgian group’s surprisingly groovy, ethnic-tinged music screams more Metamorphosis-era Ulver than Tangerine Dream fodder.
Daghraven – #1 | ConSouling Sounds | Drone/Dark Ambient | Belgium
Daghraven definitely occupies the aforementioned Tangerine Dream-like sphere. Minimal, droning, and textured, #1’s harsh approach comes off as a post-industrial equivalent to the ‘70s synthesizer wizard, or a much less intoxicated Raison d’Etre.
From my premiere of “Entwined”:
Compared to their main project, the ethereal Kauan, one wouldn’t expect Alex Vynogradoff and Anton Belov’s new project, the equally as lush but much quieter a noend of mine, to hold that same sort of grace. After all, Kauan is that sort of layered indulgence I referenced earlier, and with its many layers comes beautiful melodrama and a sort of cinematic pomp, but whereas Kauan bounds and bellows, a noend of mine tiptoes and whispers. This is quiet, beautiful, folky progressive rock, echoing the softer moments of Opeth’s Damnation and Katatonia’s Last Fair Deal Gone Down. Between the drifting layers of strummed acoustic guitars, distant whispers, and verdant atmospheres, a noend of mine unveils a stillness, like a calm, reflective lake. It is beautiful.
Hollow Sunshine – Burning | Robotic Empire | Slowcore/Drone/Dreampop | United States
After a few YouTube-only EPs (Coward, Leader, and Omega), California bummer-pop-drone duo Hollow Sunshine returns with their first physical release since last year’s Bring Gold. Though still undeniably rooted in dreampop, slowcore, and drone (remember, Hollow Sunshine is not a shoegaze band), Burning shows an expansion in Reuben Sawyer and Morgan Enos’s sound palette, mixing in elements of Alice Coltrane’s hypnotic, Eastern-inspired jazz and Florian Fricke’s ephemeral, Earthly flutter, resulting in Hollow Sunshine’s most complex, textural work to date. The cassette version comes with a lot of goodies, so grab one before they’re all gone.
Metal Church – XI | Rat Pak Records | Heavy/Power/Thrash Metal | United State
The return of Mike Howe after a twenty year absence (yes, he really left in 1995 – was it that long ago?) results in Metal Church’s burliest material in just about as long. Y’all need to pray at the Church more often.
Chiral – Snow//Heritage | Independent/Digital | Black/Doom Metal | Italy
Grandiose, spectacularly written melodic black/doom metal with one major pitfall: it sounds completely synthetic. Is this guy using Adobe Audition and a really nice synthesizer?
No One Gets Out Alive – Severe Cold | Morbid Generation RecordS | “Banjo Slam” (Brutal Death Metal/Bluegrass) | Germany
This is both the worst and best thing in the universe. No One Gets Out Alive takes your run of the mill “solo artist brutal death metal” slam-after-slam approach and, yes, includes banjo. Yes, it is as amazing/awful as you think.
The Vision Bleak – The Kindred Of The Sunset | Prophecy Productions | Gothic Metal | Austria
While I cannot attest to whether or not this release is good – there has been absolutely no promotion for this album outside of a few posts on social media – I can certainly espouse my love for Ulf Theodor Schwadorf’s body of work. I’m sure The Vision Bleak’s “horror metal” is just as potent as it has always been.
WHAT WE MISSED
Cantique Lépreux – Cendres Célestes | Eisenwald Tonschmiede | Black Metal | Canada
Metal noir Quebecois of the highest order. The union of many bands in the Quebec scene (Forteresse, Chasse-galerie, and more), Cantique Lépreux cuts no corners with their region-specific brand of aggressive, melody-driven black metal. We haven’t really heard much from this general camp since the Legendes double-7” split a few years back, so it is nice to hear murmurs from the North.
Sunless – Demo 2016 | Independent/Digital | Progressive/Technical Death Metal | United States
Sunless’s first and thus far only demo might only have two songs, but this Minneapolis technical death metal four-piece has already managed to give most newer precision-based death metal a run for its money. Similar in sound to bands like Ulcerate and Anata, Sunless’s razor-cut discordance shows great promise for future releases (and sounds infinitely better than most demos I’ve heard).
Pillar Tombs Of Aku – IV | Crude Form | Raw Black Metal | Netherlands
Cut from the same ragged cloth as Folteraar (Pillar Tombs of Aku actually boasts both Folteraar members amongst its ranks), Pillar Tombs of Aku’s fourth demo is incredibly harsh, minimal black metal destruction, reveling in pitch-black buzz and barely-discernible rhythm. Not entry level music, but totally worth tracking down if you’re into lo-fi black metal like I am. IV is sold out from the source, so happy hunting!