Upcoming Metal Releases 1/10/2016 – 1/16/2016
Happy birthday to me. Yes, I turned X years old yesterday and have today off work, so I’ll hopefully still be asleep once this column goes up. I deserve a break, anyway. Here’s a really long column to commemorate another anniversary of my human form circling around that big fireball in space.
Below is a brief list of metal-and-related releases slated for release this calendar week (January 10 through January 16, 2016). I’m bound to have missed some stuff, so feel free to use our nifty new comment system - even my local news source has transferred over to Neighborhood Square - and tell me fun things! Maybe wish me a happy birthday? Maybe guess how old I am?
Lycus - Chasms | Relapse Records | Funeral Doom Metal | United States
Funeral doom - the oft-attempted yet rarely well-executed bane of the internet. Though black metal is defined by its sonic success stories, funeral doom’s defining moments are far and between. Though there are definite mainstays (some of which, like Skepticism, Esoteric, and Mournful Congregation have been around from the genre’s beginning), funeral doom’s slow, calculated nature is plagued with one-offs and masses of "sure, I can play slow," when it’s so much more complex. Lycus definitely struck a chord with their first demo back in 2010, and now, with a second album, can be considered "consistently good." Those of you who know funeral doom understand that Lycus is essentially genre fodder - morose, melodic, plodding, cavernous, crushing, all of the ingredients for a nice slab of funeral doom. Unfortunately, Lycus does suffer from "same-y" syndrome, in the sense that listening to Chasms evokes a very similar feeling to its predecessor, 2012’s Tempest, almost to a deja vu sort of level. However, on the flip side, Lycus’s discography is also, as I’ve said before, consistent. These guys know what they’re doing, and it’s nice to hear a strong, young contender enter the "tenured" funeral doom genre roster (especially since it’s been almost a decade since we lost Asunder).
I guess I should start my mini blurb about Japanese black metal weirdos Ahpdegma by professing my love for Arkha Sva. Yes, from the first moments of their Gloria Satanae album the LLN-obsessed, Vlad Tepes-with-a-possessed-person-vocalist champions of the Far East fashioned a strong grip on my heart which hasn’t let up in nine years. Unfortunately, Arkha Sva also resides on the "only prolific in brief, imposing spurts" end of the underground black metal spectrum, so I go long, long whiles without getting an adequate new fix. There had been trickles of a new band in the "Ordo A.A.A.A.", to which Arkha Sva belongs (with other related bands), which were eventually confirmed with Ahpdegma’s single-track demo a few years ago, but still there wasn’t really much to go on. Now, with their first full-length of completely unhinged, discordant, completely bizarre raw black metal, the public sees Ahpdegma’s true face. Featuring Ur from Arkha Sva performing masterfully inhuman vocals, Jekyll from the equally infamously strange Manierisme performing guitar and bass, and O. Misanthropy of Kanashimi fame on keyboards, Ahpdegma is the "new Japanese underground black metal" supergroup I’ve been craving. The two tracks releasing-label Astral Temple so graciously uploaded to their soundcloud are absolutely impenetrable walls of sonic dischord, the kind of raw black metal which perfectly matches knuckle dragging traditionalism with head-scratching 21st-century modernisms - to put it lightly, it hurts. But it hurts so good.
Arkha Sva Manierisme Kanashimi
Fifth to Infinity - Omnipotent Transdimensional Soulfire | Avantgarde Music | Progressive Black/Death Metal | Sweden
The departure of departure Martin Lopez marked the end of Opeth for me. His rhythmic sensibilities, namely in the "Canonic lineup"-era of Opeth, carried such a tasteful, but still "fun" air about them. It was unmistakable, that obviously Latin-inspired groove (Lopez immigrated to Sweden from Uruguay) which really drove Opeth’s progressive sound home. It is unfortunate that Martin’s drumming skills went largely unused after his departure from Opeth (I’ll choose to ignore Soen), which I suppose clouds my view of Fifth to Infinity. Fifth to Infinity, originally founded by Martin Lopez and Martin Mendez, who isn’t in the current lineup, in 1997, occupies that nice, dark space which lies between progressive metal and death metal. Their majestic, laid-back, morose approach acts as a nice foil to most of the newer, more aggressive progressive metal on the market.
Witchcraft - Nucleus | Nuclear Blast Records | Psychedelic Hard Rock/Doom Metal | Sweden
Given all the disdain I carry for "throwback" doom and classic heavy metal bands, it would make all too much sense for me to hate Witchcraft...which makes it extremely strange that I like them as much as I do. There is something about their lilting, light, decidedly retro groove rock (with flute! Maybe it’s my love for Tull) which draws me in and has me drumming on my desk until I receive a scolding e-mail from my boss. As far as I’m concerned, all the other "70s time travel" retro bands could take a few pointers from Witchcraft.
Pensées Nocturnes - Á boire et á manger | Independent | Experimental/Progressive Black Metal | France
Pensées Nocturnes has always been a bit of a challenge. Though the "black metal covers of Chopin nocturnes" sound of Vacuum drew me in, I found everything from Grotesque onward to be...difficult. Vaerohn had created the sound equivalent of the French modernist movement, a sound of cafes filled with brilliant, drunken, clashing minds. The parlour jazz accordion/black metal mash up was too much, but I suppose that was the intent (as evidenced by the album title proclamation C’eci est de la musique. Sole member Vaerohn is a modernist, and in modernity comes the absurd, which is a title all too fitting for his pet project Pensées Nocturnes. Á boire et á manger is still just as challenging as its predecessors, but there is an air of accessibility surrounding it. The Devil Doll and Oingo Boingo atmospheres of Vaerohn’s previous solo outings seem to have tamed, instead making way for the swinging, discordant, singular album we see here. As someone so eloquently put it on the Bandcamp page: If Marcel Duchamp was still alive I guess he would play Black Metal with these iconoclasts. Proceed with an open mind and plenty of cautious steps.
Palace of Worms/Thoabath - Palace of Worms/Thoabath | King of the Monsters Records | Black Metal / Industrial/Noise/Power Electronics
Now this is a split which has taken its time in getting released. Some of you might remember Palace of Worms from sole musician Balan’s previous works on The Flenser (I still listen to his split with Botanist semi-regularly. Some of you might even remember Thoabath’s industrial power electronics ephemera from previous columns [ Thoabath’s sole member, Andy Way, also sings in Sutekh Hexen -Ed.], but the union of these two distant ends of extreme music is so disjointed that it just...makes sense. After infinite setbacks, Palace of Worms pits a lengthy single track of aggressive, melodic black metal (ten minutes is pretty long for a 7" record!) against AC. Way’s absolutely horrifying, blackened machine noise. This actually acts as a nice teaser for Palace of Worms’s upcoming full-length The Ladder, which is slated for release on Broken Limbs Recordings, Sentient Ruin Laboratories, and Acephale Winter Records sometime this upcoming Summer.
Bloodiest - Bloodiest | Relapse Records | Experimental Sludge Metal/Post-Rock | United State
This is a band I haven’t thought about in a while. I remember their debut full-length being a Swans-y, psychedelic sludge romp (I might need to revisit it). Unfortunately, Bloodiest 2016 manifests itself as an arthouse version of your standard Hydrahead ca. 2004 band. Bouncy, Torche-y riffs but with a darker atmosphere. At least I can say Chicago hometown hero Bruce Lamont is a saving grace (that guy is great).
Old Forest - Dagian | Avantgarde Music | Atmospheric Black Metal | England
This reminds me of the feeling I used to get when I’d listen to really dense, orchestrated depressive black metal back in the day. In fact, I’d go as far as to say Old Forest’s buzzing, nicely orchestrated black metal hypnotism is a backwards glance to those glory days when "depressive black metal" was a tag one would use in earnest. There is a lot of power in music like this, especially when armed with the clarity which separates each of Old Forest’s musical elements.
Sacrocurse - Destroying Chapels | Iron Bonehead Productions | Black/Death Metal | Mexico
I vaguely remember enjoying Sacrocurse’s performance at Hells Headbash 2 a few months ago, but maybe I’ve just burned out on "war metal" again. What I’m saying is... it’s war metal.
FOR THE ADVENTUROUS
that means things which aren’t metal
Arrowwood - Eve of Ivy, Thorn and Moss | Little Somebody Records | Psychedelic Folk/Neofolk | United States
Oh wow, I didn’t expect to start 2016 with a new Arrowwood album! Though very similar to previous works, the dreamy, hushed folk of Eve of Ivy, Thorn and Moss is just as perfect as it needs to be.
Sol - The Storm Bells Chime | Avantgarde Music | Experimental Doom Metal/Ambient/Drone | Denmark
Most of you might know Sol from Emil Brahe’s earlier death/doom works on Van Records, and I don’t blame you, as Let There Be A Massacre is a pinnacle of post-2000 death/doom metal, but Brahe has since wandered down a much more experimental path. Featuring a full band, The Storm Bells Chime is an absolutely engulfing... drone album. Brahe’s careful fusing of doom metal’s dark ambiance with neofolk’s pastoral sense and the deep, harrowing sound of drone is an initially difficult and esoteric, but ultimately rewarding listen.
Virvel av Morkerhatet - Metamorphosia | Avantgarde Music | Black Metal | Ukraine
The tags read "Ved Buens Ende," "Abigor," and "Deathspell Omega," and these Ukrainians definitely scored par for the course. Dissonant, chaotic black metal. Nothing new, but it isn’t bad, either.
FROM THE GRAVE
Opprobrium - Serpent Temptation | Relapse Records | Death/Thrash Metal | United States
The name Incubus was originally used by a death metal band in the 80s. Looks like licensing became an issue, so here’s the band who brought you "God Died On His Knees" joining the new millennium with a new name.