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Dystopia is knocking; the door slowly creeps open.

We're in a phase that heavy metal has long illustrated, whether in premonition or observation -- the tumult of everyday life has amplified itself to the maximum, and then we folded in just about every awful thing you could imagine short of the simultaneous eruption of all the volcanoes on Earth. Hang in there, everyone.

What matters most now, though, is that we fight for justice and truth no matter what comes of this crucial period in human history. Music as art typically doesn't come up in those sorts of discussions, though, lest we imagine art as something that bears a shade of truth (which it does).

Suffice it to say: there is truth to be found in art, especially at the fringes where heavy metal lives. Usually it's emotional truth, or the ability of an artist to illustrate what it's like to feel a certain way. Sometimes the illustration is realer than the feeling itself, hence catharsis.

Being in touch with those feelings comes hand-in-hand with the consumption of art, especially music. Below, four of us share our favorite releases from last month that echoed with us the most. Enjoy the words and tunes; in the meantime, stay healthy and safe, and keep focused on a better tomorrow.

-- Andrew Rothmund

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Andrew Rothmund

Yarrow -- We Made What God Could Not
May 1st, 2020

If death-doom was a physical object, something you could touch and rub (if you wanted), it'd be caked in the most wretched crust known to mankind. Bands decide, then, how much to hack off in terms of polishing their sound and embellishing their final product. Yarrow's brand of death-infused doom leaves every foul inch of crush behind, though, in offering an album We Made What God Could Not that feels born or summoned rather than engineered or created. What's noticeable from the very onset is that Yarrow takes their time -- this is the sort of music you let swell and grow beneath you, a mighty pit that this album comprises.

Painfully slow passages form the backbone of Yarrow's work here, coloring the skies pitch-black with themes of doom and horror. Things pick up occasionally, demonstrating Yarrow's ability to dole out extremely pissed-off mid-paced death metal, like on the shortest and penultimate track. But the dirge remains, bolstered by an especially over-the-top (in the best way) vocal performance that pleases from start to finish. We Made What God Could Not lives up to its name: there is nothing sacred or holy here, only raw absence and the terror it brings.

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Ted Nubel

Ikaray -- No Borders
May 1st, 2020

Post-metal is a borderless entity itself -- like with all post- genres, it's more of an ethos than anything, albeit with some atmospheric and structural expectations. It's fertile grounds for experimentation and cross-contamination: black metal and sludge in particular feel like natural inclusions into the spacious, emotional passages. On their debut full-length No Borders, Chicago outfit Ikaray has perfected their own blend of these elements, stoking the embers of evocative, atmospheric metal into an outspoken blaze that spreads without a chance of containment.

The whole of No Borders is atmosphere pushed to the breaking point: vocals hint at a break with sanity, melodies drip with cynicism, and each crack of the snare elbows its way through the mix into your ears. It only took me a few minutes on my first listen to fully sink into the music and enter a sort of half-depressed, half-obsessed trance: the crushing production seals you into the melancholy like a concrete slab on a shallow grave. Long periods of softer, introspective ponderance are balanced neatly with the meteoric rage that defines most of the album, but each song on the album has its own trajectory -- no formulas applied here.

The album also has turned out to be a rather fitting soundtrack for the state of the world -- "political dissatisfaction" doesn't really even begin to cover it, you know? The passion of the band has been baked into No Borders so intrinsically that you don't need to understand a single word or look at track titles to understand the sentiments contained within -- and it all applies today even more than it did shortly ago at release.

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Ivan Belcic

Uprising -- II
May 15th, 2020

Uprising is the aggressive and caustic solo project from Waldgeflüster's Winterherz. Though his work with Uprising carves a much harder and more direct path, tangible melodic threads link the two projects as recognizable co-expressions of Winterherz's musical identity. Uprising sees Winterherz delivering a biting antifascist critique of the power structures running through the global capitalist and imperialist framework.

Hear it from Winterherz himself, as he howls on the record's closing track "Radical Decency": "Burn down every palace / Of wealth and decadence / they enrichened themselves / time and time and time again / Burn down every fortress / Of the forever yesterday’s / they denied you justice / time and time and time again."

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Sahar Alzilu

Many Blessings -- Emanation Body
May 29th, 2020

Ethan McCarthy, perhaps best known for his extreme sludge and grindcore shenanigans via Primitive Man and Vermin Womb, is no stranger to more formless and sometimes non-metal forms of music. Many Blessings is his newest outlet, a solo endeavor dedicated purely to drone-laden noise meditations -- Emanation Blessings, the second full-length from the project, sees McCarthy shedding his usual bludgeoning persona for one far more hallucinatory and spine-tingling. Like an eerie soundtrack for a silent horror film, Emanation Body is a dense and suspenseful listen that demonstrates, if nothing else, that McCarthy is a wearer of many hats.

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