November was... a month. It simultaneously went by faster than I expected and yet,also, a millenia passed within its 30 days. Stars took shape, matured, and collapsed into black holes within the seconds-that-were-years that plagued November, during which time I doom-scrolled way more than I should have and learned a lot more than I wanted to about U.S. constitutional law. For most of us in the States, the Thanksgiving holiday weekend was a lot more isolated than usual, which took its toll for sure. On the plus side, it seems like the trend of stores opening earlier and earlier for Black Friday every year slowed down -- it only took a pandemic, right?

But hey, we're through it, and the month gave us a huge burst of music before the lull that always seems to hit in December. Though you'll find plenty more taking a look back at our posts this month -- notably including a review of the standout new Eternal Champion and a retrospective interview with Markus Stock of Empyrium to coincide with its reissue -- here's a sampling of the month's finest for your inspection.


Ted Nubel

Lord Drunkalot -- Heads & Spirits
November 11th, 2020

Stoner doom is a thing, so why not "drunken doom"? Certainly Lord Drunkalot are not the first to play doom metal that has an almost tangible scent of booze to it, but they meld it into their concept as well as execution. The swaggering riffs and unabashed bite behind their groovy proto-metal leaning doom are not the byproducts of being mellow or couchbound -- rather, it's the aural equivalent of chugging a six-pack, the ensuing drunken revelry, and a luxuriously satisfying late-night feast at whatever fast food place is still unfortunately open. Just like the marijuana-inspired equivalent, you don't have to partake to enjoy this, though -- there's plenty to appreciate stone-cold sober.

What hooked me on this wasn't the first song -- though "2+2 = 3" is a curious song title and it's a tasty heaping of sludge. Rather, the later tracks show an expanded palette of influences and musical tastes, running the gamut from extended, bluesy jams to double-bass riffers, which is what kept me coming back. Throughout it all, "Ganjalf The Green," as he labels himself, howls surprisingly catchy lyrics on top for an extra layer of inebriated madness.

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Jon Rosenthal

Midnight Betrothed -- Bewitched By Destiny's Gaze
November 2020

Self-described "Sombre Romantic Black Metal" isolate Midnight Betrothed takes black metal to a further, more ambient extreme. Piano-and-synthesizer forward, Midnight Betrothed pushes distortion and volume to the background; this project's black metal elements are more about ambiance and atmospherics than the project's actual backbone. Much like Vrörsaath, whose Under Vast Dreamskies was released in the same tape batch on Australian label Atrocity Altar, Midnight Betrothed's piano and synthesizer Romanticisms keep what is otherwise minimal, sad music afloat. Compiling the project's two long-since sold out demo tapes, Bewitched By Destiny's Gaze's lovelorn existence gives this writer hope for more, even stronger material in the future. Bewitched By Destiny's Gaze will see a vinyl release by Livor Mortis.

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Andrew Rothmund

Avandra -- Skylighting
November 20th, 2020

Avandra writes super liquidy progressive metal that resonates like glass and feels absolutely crystal-clear to a punch. Skylighting is no different: this release finds the band even "softer" than before (using that word with a bit of caution). I don't mean "soft" like tame or weak, but more like, easy on the ears -- there's something about the galactic levels of groove this band employs within a progressive framework that helps sell how technical and musically-minded Skylighting is. But, at the same time, you can disconnect your attention span from all the goings-on and just enjoy the more generalized (and extremely potent) energy of this fine, fine tuneage.

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Andrew Sacher

Blood From the Soul -- DSM-5
November 13th, 2020

It's been a very busy year for Shane Embury, who already released great new albums with his legendary band Napalm Death and his punk side project Venomous Concept, and now he has reactivated his short-lived 1990s project Blood From the Soul for a new album. Originally an industrial metal collaboration with Sick of it All frontman Lou Koller, BFTS is now fronted by Converge's J Bannon and rounded out by Dirk Verbeuren (Megadeth, ex-Soilwork), and Jesper Liveröd (Nasum). (Making this not only Shane's third album of 2020, but J Bannon's second.)

Bannon was already a fan of the original BFTS ("I remember I bought that record the day it came out"), but he doesn't try to recreate what Lou Koller did 27 years ago; this new lineup approached DSM-5 like an entirely new band. Lyrically, it's a concept album written from the perspectives of both human beings and sentient machines, and musically, it's exactly the kind of killer metallic hardcore you might expect from a Napalm Death/Converge crossover episode. Bannon mainly sticks to his trademark screams, and Dirk Verbeuren's drumming gives this album more of a straight-up punk backbone than BFTS' drum-machine-backed debut. The whole story behind this album seems almost too good to be true on paper, but once you click play you'll see that it's very true, and indeed very good.

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Brandon Corsair

White Magician -- Dealers of Divinity
November 20th, 2020

Wicked magic has a special place in my heart, and White Magician seem to feel the same way. Dealers of Divinity blend 1970s hard rock and the more gleefully twisted side of early heavy metal to do something that's at the same time delightfully frenetic and also incredibly catchy, putting together bizarre time changes, a sense of Mercyful Fate-inspired evil atmosphere, and fun rocking sensibility. There's a lot to absorb here, and it takes time for the album to sink in, but repeated listens reveal just how thoughtful the composition is and how good all of the members are at what they do. Between this one and their other equally-deadly band Demon Bitch, these Detroit rockers have earned all of the attention their music has garnered over the years, and then some.


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