...

As you've probably noticed by now, astute reader, we've made some changes around here. Welcome to Invisible Oranges 3.0. On Friday, 12/11, we retired our beloved 2.0, which made it's debut back in 2010. That design followed the original from 2006. After five years of faithful service it will forever be out 'classic' design, but we figured it was time for an upgrade. The new site is mobile optimized, and features some more advanced designs, such as a list feature which you will see later today with our first Top Album of 2015 feature. Got feedback about the new look? Leave comments below. First, though, check out more weekly album picks courtesy of Jon Rosenthal.

—Joseph Schafer

 

...

Writing is stressful, and yet I find my name on a screen every Monday morning. I wonder how that happens?

Below are a handful of metal-and-related albums/EPs/demos/splits slated for release in the calendar week of December 13th through December 19th (it’s almost Christmas! You guys!). Did I miss anything? Is my dissection of a particular release incorrect? Are you mad about it? Are you going to be constructive? Do you know any cool bear facts? Do you know any bears? Tell us in the comments!

—Jon Rosenthal
send Jon your promos at jon@invisibleoranges.com

...

ANTICIPATED RELEASES

Volahn/Shataan/Arizmenda/Kallathon - Desert Dances and Serpent Sermons | The Ajna Offensive | Black Metal | United States
The Black Twilight Circle brings about some . . . conflicting feelings deep down in my plums. Though the Circle’s massive output is (mostly) flawless, I also happen to be one of the many people who have gotten burned by their less-than-savory business practices, and, just like most of those who lost money, I keep coming back. The boundless creativity found within this small, close-knit group of musicians is one of the bright lights in post-2000s black metal in which I reluctantly bask. A four-way split which features two of the Circle’s “premiere” bands (Volahn and Arizmenda) and two seldom-heard projects (Shataan and Kallathon), Desert Dances and Serpent Sermons is a strong cross section of Crepusculo Negro’s depth in sound.

Opening with Volahn’s epic “Chamalcan,” we find sole member Eduardo Ramirez embracing the jangling, near Minutemen-in-corpsepaint sound pioneered on last years Al’aq’bal and imbuing a stronger, distinctly “American” sound to his melodic ideas. Though Al’aq’bal was a strong album, there was a dissonance between the Mexica/pre-Hispanic themes and the overall Spanish sound of Ramirez’s approach, especially when he would utilize a romanza as an interlude. Now? Hidden in the uniquely complex, technical, jangling black metal of “Chamalcan” are slide guitars and martial rhythms one might associate with . . . say, a John Wayne movie. Maybe not Mexica or the traditional music of the Yucatan just yet, but a solid step in the right direction, and enjoyable at that.

I went into this split expecting to be disappointed by Shataan, and, while I ended up slightly intrigued, the tripartite “Caminando del Destino/Desert Smoke/Wells Run Dry” shows little growth from the forgettable War Cry Lament cassette. In theory, I should like Shataan: flute-driven, psychedelic, droning, folky, progressive rock with a slight black metal touch, but the sound ends up so disjointed and goofy that I end up left with nothing to really grasp. It’s a shame, as the musicianship is stellar.

Arizmenda’s continuation of their signature brand of thick, unhinged black metal shows sole member Murdunbad’s songwriting at its strongest. Hot on the heels of Stillbirth in the Temple of Venus, Arizmenda’s dense, entrancing onslaught is rife with memorable melodies, Murdunbad’s trademark groans/shrieks, and a strong bass presence. Arizmenda is definitely one of the few pinnacles of newer atmospheric black metal.

Closing out the split is a rare appearance from the seldom heard Kallathon. Probably my favorite songwriter from the entire Circle, Kallathon’s concentration on minimalism sets his solo project aside from the rest of his peers. The simplicity of the single guitar approach on “Falling into the Horizon, Burning into the Black Twilight,” sounding more like a live take than the indulgence of the three preceding tracks, shows a strength in restraint and an ear for proper composition. Though Kallathon’s offering is the lengthiest track on this split, his approach is a refreshing end to a sound barrage and the thirteen minutes just fly by.

Oh, and for those of you who don’t want to gamble sending Crepusculo Negro money, you’re in luck: The Ajna Offensive is releasing this stellar split on CD, followed by a double LP on Iron Bonehead next February.

Dr. Shrinker - Contorted Dioramic Palette | Dread Records | Technical Death Metal | United States
Wisconsinites Dr. Shrinker are definitely local legends. These technical death metal oddballs released a handful of demos in the late 80s through their demise in 1991, though death didn’t quite stop their outreach. Their tapes went everywhere, filled with musical proficiency so strange that they probably would have rivaled Demilich in their prime. Now, almost thirty years after their inception, the reformed Dr. Shrinker offer up their first studio full-length, and it might as well be 1991. This is technical, gruff, old school death metal at its finest, and Rich Noonan’s wild, vomited grunts are some of the most unique in death metal.

Dakhma - Astiwihad-Zohr | Iron Bonehead Productions | Blackened Death Metal | Switzerland
So I’ve been pretty hard on “war metal” as of late, but can you blame a guy for getting tired of hearing Blasphemy and Black Witchery over and over and over again? I kept wishing that someone would do something differently, but, like thrash metal, emulation is king in this genre. I was expecting the same from Switzerland’s Dahkma, and, while there is no question of their status as one of the many Blasphemy-inspired bands on the market, it isn’t quite their execution which makes them special. One might recall Doug Moore posing the question "Have we reached peak murkiness?" upon the release of Grave Upheaval’s full-length, and, yes, Australia’s death metal answer to Sunn O))) goes unmatched, but Dakhma makes us answer “Have we reached peak incoherence?” There are so many layers of fuzz, almost as if this EP was recorded through a thick comforter, that the only discernible trait (most of the time, as there are some really cool riffs strewn throughout if you listen hard enough) is Dakhma’s pure aggression. There’s nothing to distract from the rage which is practically oozing from my speakers every time I spin Astiwihad-Zohr.

...

...

OF NOTE

Baroness - Purple | Relapse Records | Progressive Sludge Metal/Rock | United States
It’s been a while since we’ve heard from progressive sludge lords Baroness, and with good reason. After a gnarly bus crash and subsequent lineup overhauls, I’m honestly surprised it didn’t take longer for John Baizley’s musical child to get back on its feet with a new studio album. Respect. Returning with Purple, Baroness has all but shelved their former sludgy, metallic sense in favor of atmospheric psychedelia. Don’t dive in expecting the riffy, technical aggression found from their early EPs through 2012’s Yellow/Green, rather, Baroness have found a new identity nestled somewhere between Wish You Were Here-era Pink Floyd and Thin Lizzy’s ineffable Black Rose. Is it my cup of tea? Not really, but it isn’t bad by any means.

Troglodyte - Anthropological Curiosities and Unearthed Archaeological Relics | Independent/Digital | “Bigfoot Metal” (Death Metal/Grindcore) | United States
Misery Index with a cryptozoology addiction. It’s pretty fun, if not a little too goofy at times. I really wish these guys would have bitten the bullet and written a brutal death metal song called “Slamsquatch,” because I’d feel obligated to listen to it at least five times a day for the rest of my life.

Ripping Death - Tales of the Ripper | Iron Bonehead Productions | Death Metal | Italy/Spain
These guys really like Paul Speckmann’s early work, which is nice as I haven’t been totally on board with the most recent Master albums. Ripping Death’s debut effort of punky, primitive death metal is the most fun you’ll have throwing a temper tantrum.

...

FOR THE ADVENTUROUS
that means things which are not metal

...

Svalbard - One Day All This Will End | Halo of Flies Records | Screamo/Neocrust | England
Okay, I was supposed to cover this album when it came out on Holy Roar Records this past September. Thank god Cory over at Halo of Flies gave me an excuse to redeem myself. Svalbard is good, even if you think you absolutely loathe all things “screamo.” The passion found within One Day All This Will End, be it their incredible songwriting, passionate execution, or Serena Cherry’s absolutely inhuman voice, Svalbard has proven themselves to be one of the pinnacles of new, melodic hardcore. Don’t believe me? Listen for yourself.

Anopheli - The Ache Of Want | Halo of Flies Records | Neocrust | United States/England
Most of you might remember vocalist Alex CF’s previous works in the incredible Fall of Efrafa and Light Bearer, but he’s managed to keep himself busy following those ill-fated break-ups. Enter Anopheli, an Oakland-based melodic crust band who just so happens to utilize CF’s signature roar (all the way from England, no less) to help demonstrate their effectiveness. Though relatively standard in execution, more or less Tragedy/His Hero Is Gone d-beat and minor key worship, it is Anopheli’s utilization of a cello to re-iterate every melody which sets them apart. Unfortunately, it is exceedingly difficult to mirror a guitar’s measured intonation with a cello’s smooth fingerboard, especially without proper classical training, so some of Anopheli’s otherwise powerful melodies end up seasick.

...

 

FROM THE GRAVE

Chaos Echoes - A Voiceless Ritual | Nuclear War Now! Productions | Avant-Garde Death Metal/Aleotoric Music/Free Jazz | France
Chaos Echoes - Duo Experience/Spectral Affinities | Nuclear War Now! Productions | Avant-Garde Death Metal/Aleotoric Music/Free Jazz | France
Chaos Echoes - Parisian Sessions/Rehearsal I | Nuclear War Now! Productions | Avant-Garde Death Metal/Aleotoric Music/Free Jazz | France
France’s Chaos Echoes have definitely gotten a lot of well-deserved praise this year, and rightfully so - not many are able to play death metal in convincingly modern shades of free-form jazz and get away with it quite like these guys can, though their final work as Bloody Sign, coincidentally titled Chaos Echoes, should have been a good sign. With these early demos, rehearsals, and live recordings, we see a fledgling Chaos Echoes getting their bearings, really understanding each other’s improvised musical selves, all of which culminated in their debut demo, The Tone of Things To Come. Are these absolutely crucial? In an exploratory sense, sure, and especially if you’re a collector, but to the lay listener these all come off like meandering jams (which they are, but context is key here).

Pogavranjen - Sebi jesi meni nisi | Arachnophobia Records | Experimental Black Metal | Croatia
Weird, yet remarkably powerful black metal made by what I can only imagine to be Croatia’s strangest black metal band. Oddly intonated, drunken, and chaotic, Povagranjen stumbles into a vinyl edition of their magnificent debut.

Shining - Within Deep Dark Chambers | Never Dead | Suicidal Black Metal | Sweden
Shining - Livets ändhållplats | Never Dead | Suicidal Black Metal | Sweden
Shining - V - Halmstad (Niklas angående Niklas) | Never Dead | Suicidal Black Metal | Sweden
Shining - VI - Klagospalmer | Never Dead | Suicidal Black Metal | Sweden
Shining is definitely an important band to me, rather, everything Shining did up to V - Halmstad. These cassette re-issues of two crucial albums and the horrendously disappointing Klagospalmer are an interesting cross-section of Shining’s earlier, more simplistic work, their most effective, progressive work, and where it all went wrong (in that order). Oh, and Swedish Shining is the superior Shining [God dammit, Jon. -Ed.]. Feel free to lambast me in the comments.

...

 

OTHER RELEASES

Sonata Arctica - Christmas Spirits | Nuclear Blast Records | Power Metal | Finland
My Christmas wish wasn’t for power metal Christmas songs, but . . . ’tis the season.

...