November 2019 Release Roundup
The year is almost to a close. As we all know, releases slow down a bit for the December to January time period, but that doesn't mean those months still don't contain special gems from the metal underground. Nor does it mean that November is some kind of last-ditch month to rush releases to the calendar before ensuring things are truly ready to go. But it does mean this: many, many releases from this year so far are on the minds of folks for year-end best-of considerations. So, arguably, releases out in November have the most competition. Let's see if any of our picks this month make it to year-end (or even decade-end) lists; for now, time to enjoy the tunes. Be well.
-- Andrew Rothmund
Liturgy -- H.A.Q.Q.
November 12th, 2019
I didn't expect Liturgy's latest album, surprise-released just a few weeks ago despite being slated for next year, to sound as different from prior Liturgy releases as it does. I'm a fan of the "burst beat" groundwork that has come to define Liturgy's blackened staccato sound, but that technique actually seems to make less of an impact and influence on H.A.Q.Q.. Instead, project mastermind Hunter Hunt-Hendrix went for full-on cinematics, with special focus placed on atmosphere and the ascent/descent of intensity. While past Liturgy albums have been atmospheric inasmuch as they're black metal, H.A.Q.Q. sees that dial turned way up, and oddly enough, this album is the least black metal of them all. It feels bespoke and original, something increasingly difficult to achieve (especially for a "hype" band), but here it is.
Bonus: stay tuned for an interview between me and Hunt-Hendrix about the new album.
Obsequiae -- The Palms of Sorrowed Kings
November 22nd, 2019
There are castles in the distance, obscured by a shimmering radiance. Yes, Obsequiae (that's pronounced ob-see-quee-eye, mind you) is back, and their special brand of melodic, bright "castle metal" -- something which is not quite black metal and not quite melodic death metal -- is bound to blow most other 2019 releases out of the water. Multi-instrumentalist Tanner Anderson's melodious, organum-led Medievalisms are truly a sound to behold, and the pristine The Palms of Sorrowed Kings positions itself as one of the finest releases of this artist's discography (including the aged Autumnal Winds material which came before it -- please track down a copy of Venerari Sacra Mysteria if you can).
Blood Incantation -- Hidden History of the Human Race
November 22nd, 2019
What else can be said that my review didn't? Simple: Hidden History of the Human Race whips an inordinate amount of ass, knowing when to snap your neck one minute and induce psychic visions the next. There's a value to intellectualist writing about death metal (and extreme metal in general), but let's be real here, the first and last reason we hit play on these records day in, day out, well into middle age and beyond, is because they fucking rule. Death metal forever, death metal for life.
Bonus: read Langdon's aforementioned full review.
Have a Nice Life -- Sea of Worry
November 8th, 2019
Have a Nice Life returned this month with their third album Sea of Worry, and it’s yet another excellent full-length from this cult band. Its opening title track is perhaps the most accessible song of the band’s career, with its five-minute distillation of the band’s usual ingredients (driving post-punk basslines, shoegazing atmospherics, doom and gloom, and powerfully emotive vocals) that’s as catchy as anything happening in rock music in 2019. They keep it going with more driving post-punk on the next song (“Dracula Bells”) and successfully dip their toes into their own weird version of new wave after that (“Science Beat”). And then Sea of Worry hits its highest peak on “Trespassers W” which rocks harder than any other song from the band to date. It’s the closest they come to straight-up punk and post-hardcore -- complete with a thrilling mix of scream/sung vocals, riffy guitars, and apeshit drums -- and it’s all done in a way that’s unmistakably the work of Have a Nice Life. The album gets a little sleepier in its second half, but the highs are high enough to make Sea of Worry stand tall against any of its predecessors.
Bonus: read Andrew Rothmund's interview with Dan Barrett and Tim Macuga of Have a Nice Life.
Abigail Williams -- Walk Beyond the Dark
November 15th, 2019
Abigail Williams combines orchestral flourishes found on 2012’s Becoming with the raw, rough black metal fury of 2015’s The Accuser for a result far larger than its component parts. Walk Beyond the Dark stands on the shores of melancholy and plays bleak, dynamic music to a black sky as cold waves lay washed-up bones upon the rocks. Ken Sorceron’s output should be closely paid attention to in the coming decade.