With October over, we're now in 2021: Endgame. Expect to see year-end lists crop up before your brain is ready to accept that 2022 is on the horizon—though, we'll be waiting for a little longer before publishing any of ours.

This was a packed month for releases, as it always is—there was an obscene amount of high quality albums every week, presumably to make sure they arrived in time to be considered for the aforementioned end-of-year lists. To that end, we've compiled a few of our favorites here, but if you're looking to catch up, make sure you also skim through our Upcoming Releases columns from the past month.

—Ted Nubel

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Ted Nubel
LuciferIV
October 29th, 2021

You can't glance at a list of recent doom releases without seeing something that lists Roky Erikson, Blue Öyster Cult, or any other esoteric rock act as an influence—but it's frustratingly rare to actually hear one that sounds like that. And yeah, it's not a requirement that any band sound like their influences, but somebody needs to give me a fix of oddball occult 1970s rock, okay? And Lucifer does just that, especially now four albums deep. Combining creative riffs with powerful vocals and a light touch of synths and keys, IV has a singular appeal that calls back to the weirder side of classic rock and proto-metal.

Johanna Sadonis' vocals are definitely the highlight, given vintage saturation and floating on top of the mix like they've been dubbed on top of a horror movie soundtrack. Nicke Andersson's drumming gives the twin-guitar attack the rhythmic entrenchment they need to strike even deeper. Beyond simply being creative and nailing the vibe, IV's potency stems from the mind-blowing skill behind its execution.

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Jon Rosenthal
EosLes corps s'entrechoquent
October 8th, 2021

It's been a long time since Quebecois black metal trio Eos released their (at the time) highly celebrated L'avalé demo: a crucial chapter in the early Fallen Empire Records history. Even with their 2019 split with fellow countrymen Malebranche, I wasn't quite satisfied, expecting more of their unique brand of "balanced" black metal, maintaining a melodic backbone to what is otherwise a very discordant approach to the style. Les corps s'entrechoquent, translating to "bodies collide," offers the longform dive into Gia "Glauque" Hoi's idiosyncratic method which the world truly deserves, and a fitting sequel to L'avalé's "will they/won't they" approach to melodicism which sits just at the outskirts of the Quebecois scene's often melodious and triumphant sound. At times terrifying and even overwhelming at others, Les corps s'entrechoquent's harrowing presence positions itself near the more atmospheric and "dissonant" end of black metal's spectrum, but with an emotive weight which sets them apart just enough to make this new album a special listen.

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Ivan Belcic
Vivid IllusionVivid Illusion
October 29th, 2021

One of guitarist Aki McCullough’s other bands is called Dreamwell — but Vivid Illusion’s latest full-length is as dreamlike as her music has ever been. The atmospheric post-black metal she and bandmate Ant Taboada create reaches back towards the delicate wanderings of American Football or Mineral and fuses those roots with ardent and impassioned flurries capped with McCullough’s torrential howls.

Underneath it all is a meticulous ear for percussion that coaxes the songs ever forward while never taking center stage, always the appropriate parter to the band’s two-pronged vocal landscape and intertwined layerings of guitar that evoke the sublime coziness of bare feet on bouncy carpet, overlong grass, and beach-at-night sand, all at the same time.

I wrote last month about the value of confronting the despair enshrouding us these days seemingly from all angles at once, but it’s just as unhealthy to dwell there permanently as it is to avoid those places altogether. When it’s time to surface and breathe, let Vivid Illusion be the current guiding you skyward.

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Colin Dempsey
Primeval WellTalkin' in Tongues with Mountain Spirits
October 20th, 2021

For those who didn’t spend Halloween reading the thematically significant Hellboy miniseries The Crooked Man, here’s the synopsis. Hellboy, the half-demon, half-human paranormal investigator, helps the weary wanderer Tom Ferrel transport his father’s corpse to its proper burial place in 1950s Virginia. The two combat witches, devil worshipers, and other Applachian ghouls, with the entire piece serving as a metaphor for how the guilt one carries defines who they are.

It’s an episode about atonement that postulates its themes through spooky ghosts while also being a spooky ghost story itself, much like Primeval Well’s Talkin’ in Tongues with Mountain Spirits. Beyond the album’s inquisitions into repentance, the group earn their due praise by showing how far American black metal has come from North-Western forests and the Appalachias. Primeval Well literalize that journey by bringing the atmospheric sound to Tenneesse, a state just outside of the Appalachian region. It trades dense layering for Southern ghost tales and, more importantly, Southern rock.

American black metal has been incorporating Americana for more than a decade, but Primeval Well distinguish themselves by synthesizing Southern music intricacies and overt homages into black metal. Of course there are the folk passages and Western introductions, but the beauty is how Primeval Well congeal those with both melodic and Norwegian black metal, like how “Where All Things Are Forgotten” begins as a gospel ballad, or how they distort bluegrass on “Tales Carved in Stone on a Forbidden Road.” Every piece conjures the atmosphere of a haunted bayou as the group reckons with their ghosts both allegorically (the phantoms in the protagonist’s past lace his anxieties on “Where All Things Are Forgotten”) and literally. It’s an American wiccan horror cobbled together with feathers, antlers, and skeletons tumbling out of wooden cabins.

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Joe Aprill
WormForeverglade
October 22nd, 2021

Worm’s third release Foreverglade came out of nowhere for me, which is exactly the kind of album I cherish to experience and the dearth of those experiences this year has made this instance all the sweeter. Their last album seemed to get some press, but it totally flew under my radar till I heard rumblings of hype from friends and colleagues about this next release. At first glance, I was a bit dismissive that it would sound like the sort of modern old-school-leaning death metal that more often than not hits the right sounds but is neither imaginative nor playful in songcraft. What I got instead is possibly one of the best death/doom metal releases of the year—potentially the best of the decade.

The band started as a black metal project, but that genre connection is far more tangential these days—though, it's still strikingly prominent in their promotional photos and occasional video interviews where they’re dressed head to toe like they’re ready to cut a music video in the deep Norwegian woods rather than anywhere near their Miami, Florida hometown. Instead, the dominant sound on the album is a near perfect encapsulation of tribute and genuine inspiration born from modern death/doom metal heroes like Evoken and Hooded Menace. However, the breadth of elements brought in elevates the album above limitations rather than keeping it like a log trapped in swampy muck.

It reaches a perfect balance of ethereal and haunted keys along with punctuations of lead guitar work laced over the crushing riffs adding just the right amount of melodic melancholy. Occasional guitar solos feel torn right from classic 80’s metal guitar gods but never feel out of place with the song’s structure. Beyond the clear influential bands mentioned before, some sections surprise such as the early My Dying Bride-like riff that pops up midway on “Cloaked in Nightwinds,” the opening of “Centuries of Ooze” feeling right at home on a classic Cradle of Filth album, and “Empire of the Necromancers” at a certain point goes barreling at a speed beyond any doom metal right back to late 90’s Scandinavian melodic black metal. All those elements combined offer a supremely brilliant album worthy of its place alongside today’s heavy hitting contemporaries and yesteryear’s legends.

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Tom Campagna
MastodonHushed and Grim
October 29th, 2021

Mastodon are back with their 8th proper album and the very first double album of their well-documented career. Hushed and Grim serves as the band’s farewell letter to late manager Nick John, whom the band thought of as one of their own. There is a lot of new material here, clocking in at nearly 90 minutes in total, so where to even begin? Much like their last album Emperor of Sand, there are plenty of odes to their old selves on “The Crux” and “Savage Lands,” Crack The Skye sections from “The Beast,” and a lot of their current sound with a touch of Baroness’ more rock forward-ness at times especially on “Peace and Tranquility”.
Closer “Gigantium” is a slow burn and a beautiful ode to their old friend, assuring that their Led Zeppelin-loving compatriot gets a proper send off to the great beyond. Go big or go home as it were, and Mastodon definitely went for it. If you already love Mastodon, then this will likely strike a chord, but if you don’t have the time for it, Hushed and Grim might be a bit too much to take in for casual listeners.

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