September 2021 Release Roundup
Happy October, everyone—hopefully you're finding some time this month to crack down on your horror movie backlog, listen to King Diamond, or engage in some other, equally spooky activities. We're somehow past September and drawing terrifyingly close to ending 2021, so before time slips further through our fingers, let's reflect on some of the best releases from September.
Some other things from this month worth noting before we get going: black metal underground darling Lamp of Murmuur surprise-dropped another record, and it owns; writer Tom Morgan compiled a great list of essential Relapse Records releases, and Jimmy Monack drove up to talk to Steve Von Till in person, earning himself a speeding ticket in the process. We also published our first batch of live photos in well over a year—more to come from stages and photo pits soon, I hope.
With all that covered, we've got five records we strongly suggest you check out before submerging yourself fully in the firehose of October releases.
Tentation—Le Berceau des Dieux
September 24th, 2021
I keep coming back to this record. Beyond the powerful, energetic heavy metal inside, there's just a certain magic to the anthemic French vocals and the exuberance behind them (especially when backing vocals come in) that makes Le Berceau des Dieux a joyfully metallic experience. Drawing from traditional heavy metal with steely twin-guitar action and occasional keyboards, the band excels at getting blood flowing (and spilling) through wild, classic songs with fantastic lead work and headbang-along pacing.
The band's approach to traditional heavy metal includes a mix of thrashy, fast riffs as well as slower and simpler, rock-focused riffs as a contrast—and when the double-bass comes in and things get mean, you feel it. With crystal-clear production and a punchy, impactful mix, it's absurdly easy to just turn this up and let it drive my mood for a while. As we spiral desperately closer to 2021's end, this kind of uncompromising fun is what I've been looking for.
Mastiff—Leave Me the Ashes of the Earth
September 10, 2021
Over the past year and a half and for obvious reasons, music-as-escapism has been a heavy theme in much of music writing. I’ve framed music this way, others here have framed it this way — it’s a very valid and often genuinely therapeutic way of both consuming music and processing our feelings about not just COVID, but the myriad other crises currently gripping the world.
But sometimes, it’s just as healthy, if not more so, to confront our collective and personal grief, anxiety, and despair head-on. When used in excess or isolation, escapism and other forms of denial kick the can down the road in terms of dealing with uncomfortable realities and the negative feelings they cause. And when it’s time to grapple with the discomfort squirming inside us, there’s Mastiff and their latest record Leave Me the Ashes of the Earth.
There’s no respite to be found across this nonstop bludgeoning of resentment and spite. Instead, the band sink their grime-encrusted thumbs into your eyes as they hold you flailing under the surface, your lungs grasping for the clean air of distraction and finding only the cold, dispassionate water of angst and loathing.
Ars Moriendi—Le Silence Déraisonnable du Ciel
September 24th, 2021
The atmospheric component of atmospheric black metal usually entails solitude, which is a limiting approach because atmospheric, by its definition, doesn’t refer to one particular feeling, instead referring to a piece’s potency. Le Silence Déraisonnable du Ciel, from the one-man band Ars Moriendi, is an atmospheric triumph where that atmosphere is a fantastical retelling of the Charles Baudelaire poem Enivrez-vous. For the uninitiated, the poem is an open endorsement to get smashed on all of life’s bounties. While this includes more wholesome indulgences like poetry and virtue, it also supports chucking back some pints to free oneself.
Le Silence Déraisonnable du Ciel takes Baudelaire’s sentiments and turns them into a freewheeling medieval celebration. Ars Moriendi carries Baudelaire’s calls for freedom through gothic romanticism, weeping synths, melodramatic vocals, and moments of dark jazz. The album is whimsical like an Arthurian myth while also boasting the finest symphonic black metal this year. It’s a cavalcade of Iron Maiden-esque melodic leads, and a tapestry of compositional liberty. Le Silence Déraisonnable du Ciel is drunk off of its own fumes, and it’s all the better for it.
September 24th, 2021
For anyone who knows me well, it should come as no surprise that my favorite album from this past September was Unto Others' “sophomore” release Strength, given their previous debut album was my favorite album of 2019. Yet, that was under their previous name of Idle Hands which they had to abandon last year due to a prior trademarking that seemingly came out of nowhere. A name change can often be a major stumbling block in a band's career, especially once they've already had some success using the previous name (as their opening spot on the last King Diamond tour showed), but fear not, as in the same period of time the band was picked up by major metal label Roadrunner Records, now a part of Elektra Records and the Warner Music Group. The newly christened Unto Others now has the same team putting bands like Gojira and Slipknot into large amphitheaters behind their back.
With Strength as the next musical step in their future, Unto Others certainly are capable of standing confidently on any large stage they are given. The core of the band’s sound remains intact, a triumphant traditional metal sound with touches of the melancholic and lead singer/songwriter Gabe Franco’s expressive baritone that push it towards gothic rock. Imagine a fist-raised hesher draped in denim and leather yet teary eyed, toting under the other arm books from Neil Gaiman and Edgar Allan Poe. All of this is expertly crafted into single-length songs bursting with catchy hooks that will have you singing or swaying in your car or at a festival. Developing on that core, though, is a more crystal clear production than debut Mana managed along with flourishes of more extreme influences like some straight up black/death metal shrieks and riffs straight from a Slayer album as noticed on cuts like opener “Heroin”. Almost every track could work as a radio hit, though the surprise cover of Pat Benatar’s 1980 “Hell is for Children” could easily blow the band up into higher realms. With well-crafted material still dripping out like overflowing honey and the support of deep pockets, Unto Others have the opportunity to conquer the world with their infectious brand of gloom.