April 2021 Release Roundup
Look, I know I said this last roundup too, but the quantity of music released this past month that's worth checking out is massive—make sure to take a scroll through our archives after reading this list to make sure you're up to date.
It's also worth nothing that the Aprils of years past have had some killer stuff too—this past month we celebrated 30 years of Autopsy's Mental Funeral, a genre-defining classic, and 25 years of Satyricon's equally legendary Nemesis Divina. But, let's return to the present and look at five picks from a stacked month of releases.
Gabestok—Én gang rådden, altid rådden
April 15th, 2021
While one of the standout features of this record is probably the King Diamond-esque wails that occasionally ride on top of its first-wave black metal, I'd be remiss to leave it at that (though I am very glad to see more and more of this make its way into underground metal): Gabestok has injected a turbulent irreverence into their black metal that is notably absent from a disturbing amount of modern implementations. Leaning into rock-oriented riffs and rhythms at times and injecting creepy synths and other theatrical elements into their music did not, as it turns out, make the band's black metal wimpy or lame: instead, Én gang rådden, altid rådden feels like an early, untamed slice of metal that sounds exactly how the band wanted it to. If I were to quickly summarize that sound: spooky, evil, and raw.
Bewitcher—Cursed Be Thy Kingdom
April 16th, 2021
The way some bands conduct themselves, it’s easy to forget that so much early metal placed a massive emphasis on the fun factor. Unabashed fun is an essential part of the energy many of the genre’s core bands unleashed into the world, from the double-barreled swagger of Iron Maiden to the full-throated exaltations of Rainbow and Dio. And while much of the glam movement of the 1980s may have lacked the perceived aggression that characterizes much of metal’s other regions, these bands certainly remembered to bring the fun by the truckload.
Bewitcher are very much in-tune with the celebratory and life-affirming nature of metal. With their previous record Under the Witching Cross an incendiary statement of blackened speed metal, Bewitcher have toned down tempos while substantially cranking up the swagger for their newest full-length Cursed Be Thy Kingdom. The band’s latest work reaches to classic rock and the leather-clad archetypal heavy metal of Judas Priest just as liberally as back into the influences of their previous work.
Cursed Be Thy Kingdom is a black ‘n’ roll record more raucous than Tribulation, more joyous than Cloak, and completely without any of Watain’s pretense, one which reaches through decades for its direct influences while presenting an entirely contemporary experience. Over it all, M. von Bewitcher’s Abbathian vocals keep the music grounded in black metal with the voice you’d discover if you forced a frog to chain-smoke for a week and then stepped on it.
Wheel—Preserved in Time
April 9th, 2021
Epic doom metal is a movement that has really specific connotations to fans and to most of the bands playing it. There are a limited set of influences that musicians allow to shine through; two or three Candlemass albums, the first two Solitude Aeturnus albums, Solstice, and for the adventurous, maybe some Trouble.
Doomsters Wheel ignore those conventions. The biggest comparison that comes to mind listening to their new record Preserved in Time is certainly Adagio-era Solitude Aeturnus, which is not something I’ve ever heard in a band without Rob Lowe on vocals. The grace of the music is matched by how catchy and varied the record is, with each song having a distinct identity, and the emotional approach to the music is a bit of a rarity in a genre full of bands alternately trying to pray or pummel their ways to the top. Wheel have spent some 15 years now honing their craft, and that wealth of experience is obvious. Though I can only hope we don’t have to wait another eight for a fourth album, Preserved in Time was worth every second waiting for it and will propel me forward for quite some time as I eagerly anticipate a follow-up.
Oryx—Lamenting a Dead World
April 30th, 2021
Denver by way of New Mexico sludge collective Oryx have put forth their 4th proper LP Lamenting A Dead World, their first with Translation Loss. Swirling passages of darkness are Oryx’s main objective here, as you get dragged slowly through this aural abyss. Opener ‘Contempt’’s use of sludge and doom metal interchangeably compares favorably to bands like Coffinworm, save for the overall grossness that usually follows said band.
This is a relatively bite-sized affair that clocks in just over 40 minutes albeit in only 5 tracks; album closer ‘Oblivion’ is 15 minutes of that whole. There is a lot to like on the album’s swan song, especially for fans of the heaviest sludge bands like Buzzoven, but with the added atmospheric touches of Neurosis. The pained vocals give way to countless levels of variety when the band was already firing on all cylinders with sludge, also tapping into death metal riffs and cacophonous caverns of general dissonance. If you dig heavy sludge/doom, give this one a spin.
Spectral Wound—A Diabolic Thirst
April 16th, 2021
A Diabolical Thirst is black metal that, with its entire soul, endorses every aspect of the genre. It's so unabashed that as it runs, you'll find yourself applying your own layer of corpse paint. Spectral Wound are as black metal in essence as one can be (without getting cancelled), asserting how vigorous the genre can be when performed with the utmost sincerity.
The appeal of A Diabolical Thirst is its immediacy. The record possesses a throttle akin to adjacent crust punk. Each of the six tracks throbs like they're trying to shatter the barrier between conception and execution, and even the towering ten minute "Mausoleal Drift" sprints its marathon runtime as the atmosphere is built by an ever-engaging assault. The frustration and isolation latent in black metal, usually expressed through ambience, protrudes through sheer ferocity. Spectral Wound use a myopic skillset to embellish a wealth of sentiments. It's also a treat to hear a one-man project this cleanly produced; Patrick McDowall's frenzied vocals are decipherable and every gilded guitar line harmonizes in defined order.