January 2020 Release Roundup
Welcome to February. Let's hope this month continues a trend set last month: stringing together a whole ton of unquestionably good releases from unquestionably good bands. January never seemed to be the most fertile time for metal releases, but seriously, last month proved that observation flat-out wrong. The metal world got to work straight away after the holiday break -- as such, we were blessed with more releases than our bodies had room for. A handful of us were able to narrow down our favorites, though, and here they are in all their glory. Each one is different, of course, like each of us, but they each shine in some kind of special and weird brilliance all the same.
-- Andrew Rothmund
Lotus Thief -- Oresteia
January 10th, 2020
Heavens almighty, what beautiful music Lotus Thief have created. As I said in my premiere + interview feature last month, I was a huge, huge fan of 2014's Rervm (which just saw re-release, actually). I honestly didn't expect Oresteia to beat it, but it sure as hell did. Lotus Thief have completely revamped their sound, adding significant dynamics, amplified emotions, and the absolute best singing from frontwoman Bezaelith yet. Damn, too… that voice, it's just something special, and the way the band molds and melds around Bezaelith's vocals feel sublime and effortless. I bow my head to this level of mastery; I give my everything for this quality of music.
Yatra -- Blood of the Night
January 31st, 2020
I'll go ahead and nominate this for "official soundtrack for armored skeletons holding rusty swords rising out of swamps." Blood of the Night is disgustingly thick stoner doom that embraces head-banging heavy metal for a thick and visceral result: biting riffs cross-pollinate with druggy pentatonic crescendos in a way that's at once electrifying, repulsive, and righteously replayable. This didn't come out of nowhere, either, as it's a continuation of the group's work on Death Ritual that already proved their harsh stoner metal had a viable cult following. Now, they've chosen to take on more flights of hard rocking fancy, go all-in on the nefarious atmosphere, and generally avoid just playing it safe.
There's plenty of classic low-and-slow to go around on this record, sure, but the songwriting seamlessly works in hard-charging barrages without losing the majestic torpidity or the unnerving malevolence. The "blood" this record speaks of is not some fresh spray of blood from valiant combat -- it's the drying channels of a chosen victim's lifeblood flowing out upon a ritual table, spilled deliberately and inching towards a potent destination.
Wormhole -- The Weakest Among Us
January 14th, 2020
Just now as I'm sitting here, spinning Wormhole's second full-length The Weakest Among Us and writing this blurb, my wife Kaine chuckles and chimes in with, "This is fun!" "It's ridiculous, isn't it?" I replied, to which she answered, "I quite like it. It's cute." And while I'm not sure "cute" is what Wormhole was going for when they put this thing together, it hits at the core of what I'm responding to most strongly with this record: the guys behind it are having such a blast as they casually deploy their ridiculous musicianship toward such absurd ends.
Wormhole draw deeply on slam traditions with slow-then-slower breakdowns and vocalist Anshuman Goswami's genre-perfect squeals and gurgles, then fuse them with tech-death's dual-guitar explorations and the pervasive mastery of bassist Alex Weber into a golem stitched together by the virtuosic drumming you'd expect in either style. Hovering just shy of a half-hour in length, the record is packed (slammed?) with energy while avoiding dulling its own impact through overexposing the listener to Wormhole's delightfully noxious bag of tricks. There's already so much to process within this record that playing it on repeat is simply the sensible thing to do. "Open up, it's time for the pill!"
Kirk Windstein -- Dream in Motion
January 24th, 2020
Kirk Windstein drops his usual melancholic Crowbar persona and exchanges it for one more mellow and melodic. Not to say that Windstein drops the heaviness -- that couldn't be further from the truth. Instead, he ups his introspection and expands his musical palette without stepping outside the bounds of what Crowbar fans would end up loving. This is simply proof that Windstein is far more than doom and gloom, or southern-tinged sludge. This is the artist opening the doors and showing you the whole house and shining a light on some completely unseen corners.