March 2021 Release Roundup
We're a few days deeper into April than we might normally publish the March roundup, but we had to make sure nobody would take this as an April Fool's joke: no humor here, folks, this is the best of what March had to offer. Well, part of it, anyway—before we begin, a few important mentions. Herzel's triumphant debut full-length was one of the best heavy metal releases so far this year and Brandon's interview with them was killer, so make sure to check it out. We also premiered, interviewed, and reviewed Estuarine's new grindy madness Nyarlathotep, so I'd be remiss not to mention that. Lastly, Mike Patton's supergroup (one of many, I suppose) Tomahawk released a new album worth checking out — here's our review of that, plus an in-depth primer on the frankly absurd range of stuff he's done.
To be honest, there was really an astounding depth of good music released last month and we covered a lot of it—what I've mentioned here is just scratching the surface, so spend some time in our archives if you're not caught up. Before that, though, here's our staff's picks for the best of March 2021.
Rise to the Sky—Let Me Drown With You
March 12th, 2021
I don't find myself all that impacted by mournful doom metal that much—a side effect of listening to a lot of it, I guess, and even more so than other genes it takes genuine concentration and dedicated time to appreciate. That's a rarity, even in a pandemic. However, Let Me Drown With You bypasses all that: I wasn't looking to feel, but feel I did. Almost instantly, in fact: the second the heavy guitars came in, so did a wave of burdensome sorrow. The one-man act weaves together a staggering array of guitar and synthesizer layers into a massive wall of sad that can very easily overwhelm even if you're not actively trying to sink into it.
Should you do so, though, it's an incredibly rewarding listen: each layer of the massive sound has been carefully put together, blending reverential, hopeful tonalities against impending doom spelled out by thundering drums and cavernous vocals. There's enough going on musically to make the whole beefy album worthwhile, and the song lengths are at an interesting mid-point for the genre: averaging six to eight minutes gives them a lot of time to develop motifs without becoming multi-part epics in themselves. Whether you rise or fall in response to this album, it's one that will absolutely move you.
March 26th, 2021
Sanguisugabogg is the latest death metal band the Internet has decided to get mad at, though it's totally unclear why. Is it their fantastic merchandise? Their gory-but-actually-serious lyrics? The fact that they purposefully play into modern death metal tropes and seem to be having fun? Whatever it is, Sanguisugabogg is churning out some of the grossest death metal this side of the decade and deserves the spotlight. Their debut full-length album Tortured Whole is equal parts slam production and old school death metal, though at a convergence point that makes them stand out above all others. I mean, come on, these dudes wrote a song called "Dick Fillet" about "a wild innermost desire inside of us and that’s slowly killing and torturing pedophiles." What's not to love?
March 19th, 2021
A home-run debut album is always something to celebrate, but following that home run with an even greater success is a far rarer triumph. Dvne’s 2017 debut Asheran launched the band into the progressive sludge conversation by delivering a record that held true to the genre’s expectations while shocking new life into it via its rich and nuanced songwriting. The result was an immediately accessible and gripping record that held fast while unfolding itself and revealing all its innermost delights.
To follow up on this would be a challenge, and it’s no wonder the band spent over three years shaping its successor. Etemen Ænka is an hour-plus exploration that bests their debut on nearly all metrics, confirming the band’s status as promising and dynamic leaders in their sonic spaces. Dvne displays an intimate understanding not only of their mission as a band but also of how and why the choices they make in pursuing it are successful, and they’ve ratcheted everything about themselves up several notches to make Etemen Ænka the overflowing banquet of splendor that it is.
Dvne straddles a Mastodon-tinged canyon running between Baroness and Pallbearer, drawing equally from both banks, but it’s the clean vocals that shape much of the band’s sound. There’s none of John Dyer Baizley’s burliness, none of Brett Campbell’s silken grace, but instead a thin wisp whose power comes from its very fragility. By holding itself up as an equal partner to the combustive drums and roiling dual guitars, this frail voice demands weight and claims its strength for itself, in a manner similar to that of iconic Dune protagonist Paul Atreides realizing his potency as the savior Muad’Dib. The sticky growls may slot into the music more smoothly by conventional guidelines, but it's the cleans that define the Dvne sound as much as any other aspect of their music.
Halloween Knight—Abductors from Gypsy Town
March 27th, 2021
Michigan has really established itself as a stronghold for iconoclastic and strange heavy metal in the last few years with bands like Demon Bitch, Borrowed Time, and Dungeon Beast. In deep-underground heavy metal circles, one of the more passed around names from that scene is Ruiz, with brothers Victor and David Ruiz having played in a variety of the most exciting bands that Michigan has to offer and also playing together in Prelude to Ruin, which is sometimes affectionately called “Prelude to Ruiz” because of the people involved.
Though it’s not much to sink your teeth into, Victor has launched a new project with this first Halloween Knight demo and the sole song on it (if the introduction piece is discounted) hits like a sonic sledgehammer of magick and arcane heavy metal might. Blazing lead guitars, inventive songwriting, and wild vocals come together for a song that encapsulates everything I wanted to hear from a new Victor Ruiz project and though I desperately hope it’s not a one off, at least it gives us something special and magickal to blast while we wait for more.
Regional Justice Center—Crime and Punishment
March 5th, 2021
The buzz for Regional Justice Center has been building over the past few years, and with their second full-length and first for Closed Casket Activities, it's about to explode. There's a reason why one reviewer recently called them "modern hardcore's most compelling band" and why another said "At the moment, this [album] is resting atop the hill… awaiting contenders. Essential and fucking tremendous." Crime and Punishment really might turn out to be one of the year's very best hardcore records. Like past releases, it pulls from a mix of hardcore, powerviolence, grindcore, and other metal/punk hybrids, and while Crime and Punishment is as raw and grimy as anything this band has ever put out, it feels a little more focused and accessible too. Maybe that's due to producer Taylor Young pushing main RJC member Ian Shelton to "find even more dynamics in the songs," or maybe it's due to this album's much-publicized Beatles influence. It never actually sounds like The Beatles, but it makes sense to learn that Ian looks outside of hardcore and takes influence from a band where literally every song is memorable. He also mentions that the song cycle on side B of Abbey Road was specifically an influence, and you can kinda hear that on Crime and Punishment too. Only one of these 10 songs reaches the two-minute mark, and the whole thing blurs together as one greater whole. It's also worth noting that this is frequently a personal and introspective album, and even if you can't always understand what Ian is shouting, you can always feel the very tangible emotion.