Jon is away again, so we all know what that means…

It’s a massive week for new releases, including two of my most anticipated albums of 2017 –what’s say we skip the preamble and get down to it?

-Clayton Michaels

Here are the new metal releases for the week of March 26, 2017 – April 1, 2017. Release dates are formatted according to proposed North American scheduling, if available. Expect to see the bulk of these records on shelves or distros on Friday unless otherwise noted or if labels and artists get impatient. Blurbs and designations are based on whether or not I have a lot to say about it.

See something we missed? Goofs? Let us know in the comments. Plus, as always, feel free to post your own shopping lists. Happy digging.

Please note: this is a review column and is not speculative. Any announced albums without preview material will not be covered. Additionally, any surprise releases which are uploaded after this is published will not be covered. This week: VI/Temple of Baal/The Order of Apollyon – Split

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Pharmakon- Contact | Sacred Bones | Power Electronics/Industrial Noise | United States

Pharmakon’s last record, 2014’s Bestial Burden, was my gateway into the world of power electronics. I fell hard for that album, in no small part because Margaret Chardiet takes a much more structured approach in her songwriting than a lot of other noise practitioners. Her songs are carefully composed rather than improvised, and the incorporation of vocals makes it much easier for the listener to find an entry point into the din. Basically, that album was about as accessible as noise gets while still being ungodly fucking abrasive. Contact very deliberately takes another step towards accessibility, or at least towards creating some kind of communion with the audience. The album is structured around the idea of trance states, with the structure of each side meant to mirror the four stages of a trance. As such, there’s an ebb and flow to Contact that wasn’t there on Bestial Burden. On “Nakedness of Need,” she doubles down on the abrasiveness, but on “Sleepwalking Form” she veers into more ambient territory not unlike Prurient’s more recent output. I had really high hopes for this one, and it definitely delivered – it’s a strong early contender for my album of the year.

Falls of Rauros - Vigilance Perennial | Bindrune Recordings | Black/Folk Metal | United States

Speaking of albums I fell hard for in 2014, that’s also when Falls of Rauros dropped their third full-length, Believe in No Coming Shore, which ended up being my album of the year. The black/folk tag here is a bit misleading, particularly since they’re a Bindrune band – they’re actually more like black metal with a serious 70s rock influence that’s even more pronounced on Vigilance Perennial. Overall, they sound a lot more confident on this record, and as a result they really stretch out and seem to take a lot more chances in terms of the songwriting. Aside from one brief instrumental track, all of the songs are over ten minutes in length, but there are enough movements and ideas within each track that none of them really feel anywhere near that long. The production values are slightly better here as well, and the guitar tones in particular sound much warmer and more varied. The closing duo of “Arrow & Kiln” and “Impermanence Streakt Through Marble” are just breathtaking in their scope and execution. Check back for a full stream later this week.

Coldfells- Coldfells | Bindrune Recordings | Black/Doom/Prog Metal | United States
I can't say enough great things about this project. We'll have a full album stream later this week but for now, here's an excerpt from my Editor's Choice:

-Joseph Schafer

The latest edition to the Bindrune records roster is a melodic and gothic doom outfit that recalls the best parts of early Paradise Lost without losing sight of the Appalachian fortress sound that makes that label’s roster so special - sharing members with Plaguewielder and Nechochwen will do that. Their upcoming self-titled record has already asserted complete dominance over my MP3 player. Gloomy and emotionally earnest, Coldfells is an early contender for best band of 2017, in my book.

Every time I fill in on this column, there’s always at least one band that wasn’t on my radar that ends up totally flooring me. This time it’s the genre-hopping Montreal outfit Show of Bedlam. The chameleonic quintet effortlessly move from Cult of Luna one moment to SubRosa the next, then throwing a little Oathbreaker in for good measure. Their secret weapon, though, is vocalist Paulina Richards, who anchors the whole thing with her strong, expressive cleans and equally emotive screams. “Hall of Mirrors” might be the best think I’ve heard this year.

Unfortunately, there are no preview tracks available for this one.

Imber Luminis- Nausea | Naturmacht Productions | Atmospheric Doom /Post-Black Metal| Belgium

It’s a mystery to me why more metal bands don’t look to existentialist philosophers for ideas (and Nietzsche doesn’t count – he generally seemed more interested in critiquing Judeo-Christian morality than exploring the nature of existence). Just imagine what Watain or Behemoth could do with Kierkegaard’s The Sickness Unto Death, his treatise on man’s distance from God, as their lyrical inspiration? One-man Belgian outfit Imber Luminis uses Jean-Paul Sartre’s novel La Nausée as the basis for this concept album, and the existential dread of the subject matter pairs beautifully with their particular brand of post-blackened, atmospheric doom. Déhà’s vocal performance here is particularly strong, as he takes on the persona of protagonist Antoine Roquentin on his descent from ennui to eventually questioning the reality of his own existence. Really good, heady stuff.





Mastodon- Emperor of Sand | Warner/Reprise Records | Progressive/Sludge Metal| United States

Just when I had resolved to pretend that Mastodon broke up after Crack the Skye, they pull me right back in. Now, I’ve not heard the whole record yet—and since it’s a double album, there’s a better than average chance that there will be a fair amount of chaff on it—but I’m heartened by the fact that they’ve already released more good songs from Emperor of Sand (three) than there were on their previous two albums combined (one – “Octopus Has No Friends” from The Hunter). Call me cautiously optimistic on this one.

Slagmaur- Thill Smitts Terror | Osmose Productions | Avant-Garde Black Metal| Norway

It’s been eight years since mysterious Norwegian troupe Slagmaur’s last full-length, so there’s been a considerable amount of buzz around this one. I’m not sure I get it, though – it’s certainly one of the stranger records I’ve heard recently, but it’s a self-conscious kind of strangeness that rings kind of hollow. Take away some of that calculated weirdness—like the slightly off-key piano on “Bestemor Sang Djevelord,” or the panoply of strange voices used by the vocalist(s? there might be more than one)—and it would probably be some fairly boilerplate second wave stuff. I wonder who the target audience is for this, but we'll be streaming the record later this week…

Dargar- The Shores of Space | Rising Beast Recordings | Black Metal/Noise| United States

Dargar play black metal the way I like it best: sad, kind of pretty, and under a heavy layer of grime. There seems to be a pronounced doom influence here as well, particularly on songs like “City of Ashes” and “No More Skies,” both of which feature mournful chord progression that remind me a little bit of Bosque. The guttural vocals and noise elements keep things from veering too close to atmospheric or post-black territory.

The Moth Gatherer -The Comfortable Low | Agonia Records | Sludge/Post-Metal/Electronica| Sweden

Two excellent tracks of electronica-tinged post-metal. Check back later in the week for a full stream.

I spent a good chunk of my miserable high school years listening to bands like Bauhaus and The Cure, so I have a serious soft spot for black metal bands incorporate that particular strain of Gothic post-punk into their sound. Medico Peste totally hit that spot - “Hallucinating Warmth and Bliss” is anchored by an almost bouncy Simon Gallup-esque bass line, and they close the EP with an excellent cover of Bauhaus’s “Stigmata Martyr”.



Kelly Moran - Bloodroot | Telegraph Harp | Modern Impressionism/Prepared Piano/Electroacoustic | United States
Have you ever counted the strings in a piano? I'll save you the trouble, they average, at least our 88-key friends, at around 236 strings. There have obviously been countless compositions on the piano in its current state, mashing fingers against ivory and wood keys and letting the strings naturally resonate inside the chamber, but what about the next step? "Preparing" an instrument involves direct human interference, completely changing the way the bowels of an instrument functions, manipulating resonance and sustain, as well as limiting and transforming harmonic capabilities. Some of you may recall Gorguts/Dysrhythmia/Sabbath Assembly guitarist Kevin Hufnagel's adventures into ukulele timbre, in this particular case using a tongue depressor to create a hypnotic buzzing drone. It's all about transformation and boundless creativity - seeing a new instrument trapped within the confines of another.

Following in the footsteps of seminal composer and philosopher John Cage, Brooklyn-based composer Kelly Moran utilizes this idea of "preparing" an instrument to the many strings found within the chamber of a piano. Ever the post-modernist, Cage set out to make impenetrable, sonic representations of philosophical notions, but Moran sets her sights earlier. Utilizing the expanded timbre palette of the time-consuming, variable-intensive prepared piano as a catalyst for a more Modern take on Impressionism (think Debussy and Liszt, not the Monet. This is music, after all.), Kelly Moran constructs Bloodroot out of cut crystal beauty and the kaleidoscopic light which shines through it. This collection of songs is glass-fragile, but lashes out with an unexpected, percussive sharpness, placing beauty alongside a notion which Mallarmé would, with a grin, call "difficulty."

-Jon Rosenthal

Mount Eerie - A Crow Looked At Me | PW Elverum and Sun | Folk/Singer/Songwriter | United States
Multi-instrumentalist Phil Elvrum offers a plaintive, devastating view into coping with the death of a loved one. Listening to this has yet to leave me fully composed. Have fun crying! :(

-Jon Rosenthal



Mortician - Darkest Day of Horror | Hell’s Headbangers | Brutal Death Metal/Grindcore | United States

Ahh, Mortician. Horror-obsessed death/grind – what’s not to love? Darkest Day of Horror was their fourth full length, and even if you only have a passing familiarity with the band, you know exactly what to expect here: jackhammer drum programming, brutal downtuned riffs, impossibly guttural vocals, and lots and lots of horror movie samples. It’s not their strongest album—that would probably be their third album, Domain of Death—but it’s still a gore-soaked good time.

Mid-period Incantation isn’t necessarily my favorite Incantation, but there’s really no such thing as a bad Incantation album. They’re kind of like baseball in that respect: even a middling album from them is better no Incantation at all. Decimate Christendom is notable for being the first album where John McEntee handled lead vocals.

Witchtrap - No Anesthesia | Hell’s Headbangers | Black/Thrash Metal | Colombia

This one was originally released in 2006, but Witchtrap’s second full-length sounds straight out of the late 80’s South American proto-black/thrash scene. Kind of goofy lyrically with it’s mix of songs about Satan, drinking and being metal, but it’s a fun listen overall.

Moonknight - Ligeia | Rising Beast Recordings | Black Metal | United States

Slightly more traditional one-man second wave black metal from Horus/Roach, who also handles drum programming for Dargar. Originally released in 2011, it quickly went out of print. It reminds me a little bit of Xasthur’s A Gate Through Bloodstained Mirrors, which puts it in some pretty good company.

Azelisassath - Total Desecration of Existence | Avantgarde | Black Metal | Sweden

I generally associate Avantgarde with ‘pretty’ black metal: either folky bands like Ashbringer or more atmospheric bands like Manetheren. Azelisassath are neither - they play misanthropic second wave black fucking metal, and it’s pretty glorious. Originally released on cassette by Ancient Records in 2015, it’s nice to see this one getting a wider release. It definitely deserves it.

Scumripper - Scumripper | Hell’s Headbangers | Black/Thrash Metal| Finland

Originally self-released digitally, Finnish black/thrash outfit Scumripper’s six-song demo is getting the 7” vinyl treatment from Hell’s Headbangers. This one’s a lot of fun – they kind of sound like Midnight’s scuzzier cousins.



Vacivus -Nuclear Chaos | Goatprayer Records | Death Metal| United Kingdom

Capably performed OSDM that might lean a little heavy on the atmosphere and a little light on the riffs. The outro to “Blind Idiot God” is hella sick, though.

Warbringer -Woe to the Vanquished | Napalm Records | Thrash Metal| United States

Re-thrash: still a thing. Honestly, this is pretty solid for what it is, but for all intents and purposes it’s virtually indistinguishable from Havok or Bonded By Blood (who Warbringer now share a guitarist with) or Hatchet or even the most recent offerings from Exodus and Overkill. I’ll be they’re fun live, though[Having just seen them in cocnert with Havok, they most definitely are - Ed.].

Mantar -The Spell | Nuclear Blast | Sludge Metal| Germany

I know a lot of people who love this band, but for some reason their particular brand of Motörhead meets Floor sludge-and-roll never really clicked for me. I will say this, though - lead track “The Spell” is pretty damn catchy.

Bereft -Lands | Prosthetic Records | Doom/Post-Black Metal| United States

Not to be confused with the sludgy Intronaut/Abysmal Dawn side project of the same name, this particular Bereft sound a bit like a more atmospheric version of Tombs. Not bad, but the songwriting chops don’t quite justify the epic song lengths. If you’re going to ride one riff for three minutes, it’d better be one hell of a riff…

Morast -Ancestral Void | Totenmusik | Blackened Doom/Death Metal| Germany

Last we heard from Morast, they were contributing a rather perfunctory cover of Bathory’s “Armageddon” to a split 7” with Ultha. Based solely on that cover, I wasn’t expecting a whole lot from this record, but I’m actually pleasantly surprised. Turns out that Morast play some really solid death/doom in the same vein as Temple of Void.

Punkish black metal with some oddly theatrical vocals. Credit for trying something different, but I’m not sure it really works.

Sangue-Sangue | Nuclear War Now! Productions | Black/Death Metal| Italy

Oppressively raw black/death - probably a little too raw for my tastes.

There’s a heavy Archgoat vibe to this one, which is totally fine by me. It’s slightly one-dimensional, as these sorts of albums tend to be, but it’s well executed and enthusiastically played.


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