...

Week two – I think I'm getting the hang of this thing maybe. I was definitely out of the loop for a while. This week seems to feature more fun music, so if that is your f-word, back out now. I, on the other hand, am having a great time.

Am I missing anything crucially important? Should I not entry/be burned and died? Do you want to feign intelligent discourse? If so, leave a comment. I won't bite especially hard.

—Jon Rosenthal

...

ANTICIPATED RELEASES

Arcturus - Arcturian | Prophecy Productions | Avant-Garde Black Metal | Norway

My relationship with Arcturus goes way, way back. I must admit I was skeptical when the band announced their reunion back in 2011, especially since they didn't exactly end on a high note (sorry to any Sideshow Symphonies fans). To be totally honest, I wasn't even totally sold when Prophecy Productions unveiled the opening track “The Arcturian Sign" (seen below). However, listening to this album as a whole has been one of the best times I've had with an album in a long time. I've always treated the “avant-garde" subset of metal with quite a bit of trepidation, especially given the style's propensity to sound like circus music on meth [You say that like it’s a bad thing—Ed.]. Even Arcturus went through a bit of a clowny phase shortly after Aspera Hiems Symfonia. Arcturian, however, foregoes a lot of the genre's more stereotypical follies. I mean, there is solid, solid songwriting, with enough of the aforementioned oddity to remain challenging without sacrificing any enjoyment. I also have to admit that it's really nice listening to ICS Vortex sing with a band which isn't Dimmu Borgir, because that guy can sing.

House of Atreus - The Spear and the Ichor that Follows | Dark Descent Records | Melodic Death Metal | United States

It has been a long, long time since I've been this excited about a new melodic death metal band. Re-claiming a wayward genre and injecting it with a good amount of muscle takes skill, and House of Atreus have spent almost half a decade doing just that. Following the sound they've honed with the their previous demo and EP (you best believe I own both of those on tape), House of Atreus takes melodic death metal back to before it was plagued by that awful sense of formulaic stagnation and was actually, you know, metal. It's the kind of album you air guitar and headbang like an idiot to (I know I have). This is a pleasant reminder that, no matter any occasional doubts, I still really, really like metal. If I felt the need to gallop into battle anytime soon, The Spear and the Ichor that Follows will be my soundtrack.

You can listen to a full stream of The Spear and the Ichor that Follows here.

Drudkh - A Furrow Cut Short | Season of Mist | Black Metal | Ukraine
My relationship with Drudkh these past few years has been a rough one. The enigmatic Ukrainian nationalists kind of lost me with 2007's Estrangement and have had a difficult time clawing their way back into my good graces (and this is coming from someone who thinks their first four albums are top-tier black metal). That being said, I've listened to their latest effort, Season of Mist's A Furrow Cut Short, and I am beginning to see Drudkh returning to their former splendor. I could see Drudkh approaching the magnificent melodies and pastoral grandeur which made me fall in love with their sound in the first place with 2012's self-referentially titled Eternal Turn of the Wheel, but now I see the now-full lineup really cementing their ways in a much more modern form of their older style. This might not be anywhere near my favorite Drudkh album, as I had referenced earlier, but I do like this. That feels good.

Antigama - The Insolent | Selfmadegod | Grindcore | Poland
This long-tenured Polish grindcore outfit returns with their seventh LP, just in time for a brief US tour with Drugs of Faith and an appearance at Maryland Deathfest. They’re known for technical playing and mind-bending song structures, you’d almost call them progressive were it not for the fact that this stuff will probably send death Theater fans running for their lives. For a grind outfit, their song lengths tend to stretch into “normal" territory, but making a good hallucinatory riffscape takes time. Drops May 7 for some reason.

...

...

OF NOTE

Sigh - Graveward | Candlelight Records | Avant-Garde Black Metal | Japan
Okay, so remember the circus-sounding stuff I referenced in my Arcturus mini-writeup? Sigh are kind of the progenitors of that sound in black metal. Aside from a few excellent, genre-defining albums early in their discography (can't beat Scorn Defeat and Imaginary Sonicscape has some fun moments), Sigh doesn't really jive with me, and Graveward is no different. Do I think madman Mirai Kawashima is talented? Sure, it takes a lot of talent to make music like this, and I know a lot of people like it, it's just...too hyperactive and jumpy for me. I know editor man in chief Joseph Schafer certainly likes Sigh, which is why he hosted a full album stream for you to enjoy. Don't let my grumpiness get in the way!
Related to: Self Spiller, Necrophagia

Cave of Swimmers - Reflection | Independent | Progressive Doom Metal | United States
Super oddball, heady doom metal, laden with angular grooves and a nuanced sort of reverence to the Black Sabbath style. Now, when I say nuanced, I mean bassist/guitarist/keyboard player/singer (two pieces sure know how to divide up responsibilities!) Guillermo definitely draws influence from Iommi's classic, bluesy dirge style, but tends to...cut things up. You'll hear some very strange riffs where you might not really know exactly where to bob your head, but drummer/percussionist Arturo's tasteful Latin flair really brings it all together. Expect to hear some extremely over the top vocals, as well. I like to liken Guillermo's voice to an operatic Serj Tankian. This sort of weirdo, cinematic doom metal is not for everyone, but it definitely is (as I mentioned in my intro) fun.
Related to: N/A

Hogslayer - Defacer | Undergroove Records | Sludge/Doom Metal | Wales
Heavy, angry sludge from the oft-overlooked country of Wales. Cut from the same cloth as the now-defunct Indian, Hogslayer (what a great band name, right?) builds their sound on minimal, bottom-heavy grooves as a means of turning any unsuspecting listener's head into a fine paste. The hardcore influence, apparently a vestige of a few members' tenure in legendary chaotic metalcore band Shaped by Fate, definitely lends to their aggressive and concise nature. Would be cool to see these guys tour with Celeste.
Related to: Zonderhoof

...

FOR THE ADVENTUROUS

that means things which aren't metal

Steve von Till - A Life Unto Itself | Neurot Recordings | Folk/Singer-Songwriter | United States

It has been a long time since Steve von Till's last solo full-length outing, so when I first heard that he would be returning to the spotlight… let's just say I was excited. Not even a quarter of the way through the first song I could happily say my excitement and anticipation were both worth it. Steve von Till's special brand of miserable, carefully orchestrated folk music echoes the greats: Merle Haggard, Townes van Zandt, and Hank Williams (the FIRST), but with von Till's trademark, gravelly baritone. It's a beautiful, tender sort of sadness, the kind of startling juxtaposition any new fan would least expect from one of the figureheads of the loud and abrasive.
Related to: Neurosis, Harvestman

...

FROM THE GRAVE

Crebain - Under Black Wings Of Night | Foreign Sounds | Black Metal | United States

His works might not be as universally prevalent now, but Crebain was one of those legendary bands in the early 2000s US black metal underground. Having quietly released the now timeless, drum machine-driven Night of Stormcrow demo and a split with the ever-present Leviathan, sole member “Ancalagon the Black" kept Crebain to himself, working on various projects but generally staying below the radar. Now nearly impossible to find (unless you want a picture LP – ugh), both of these works have been given the re-press treatment by up and coming label Foreign Sounds, who have brought us re-presses of classic works by Krieg, Xasthur, and, of course, Leviathan. This is excessively limited, but, if you guys have an aversion to tapes, Night of Stormcrow will be given a proper, NON PICTURE vinyl re-press on the same label later this year.
Related to: Moon Dark, Horn of Dagoth

Chrome Waves - Chrome Waves | Foreign Sounds | Atmospheric Black Metal | United States
Another re-press from black metal's rising star Foreign Sounds. The initial release of Chrome Waves' self-titled EP some three years ago was a bit of a snafu which I won't get into, but now this “supergroup," featuring members of The Atlas Moth, Doomsday, Twilight, Abigail Williams, Wolvhammer, and, at the time of the EP's release, The Gates of Slumber, gets the proper release treatment. A massive offering of atmospheric, melodic black metal, featuring a slight 80s goth tinge around the edges. I, for one, am glad to see this release brought back into the spotlight and hope for more material in the future.
Related to: The Atlas Moth, Wolvhammer, Doomsday, Von, The Gates of Slumber (RIP)

Self Spiller - Worms In The Keys | Varia Records | Experimental Black Metal | International
I must have missed the memo about this week being reserved for odd black metal releases. Spearheaded by Agalloch bassist Jason William Walton, Self Spiller's debut, originally released in 2012 on the now-defunct (?) Vendlus Records, this exercise in indulgent excess (in a good way) will be re-released on vinyl via Varia Records. Expect a lot of strange genre-hopping, saxophone, bizarre electronica, and the occasional sample which resembles a meowing cat. It certainly never gets boring.
Related to: Too many bands, but mostly Agalloch, Sigh, Fleurety, and Formloff

...

OTHER RELEASES

Kamelot -Haven | Napalm Records | Power Metal | United States
The masters of power metal cheese return with even more power metal cheese. Do not approach if lactose intolerant.

Seremonia - Kristalliarkki | Svart Records | Psychedelic Rock/Doom Metal | Finland
Spacey doomrock grooves with Finnish lyrics.

Six Feet Under - Crypt of the Dead | Metal Blade Records | Death Metal | United States
Chris Barnes...need I say more? (You be the judge).

WHAT WE MISSED

Peste Noire – La Chaise-Dyable | La mesnie Herlequin | “Hooligan Black Metal" | France

Okay, how the hell did I miss this one? It seems that all-around hooligan (DJ) Famine quietly uploaded this to his Bandcamp after hinting at a new album for months. It is, as expected, awesome, weird, funny, and, as we have learned with Famine's post-Balade Cuntre lo Anemi Francor career, unique. Music to get drunk and hit your friends with a baseball bat to. Another win for Peste Noire.

Jute Gyte - The Night Door Under Lock And Key / Laocoön | Black Horizons | Experimental Black Metal | United States
The master of the strange and modern does it again – Adam Kalmbach's solo outing Jute Gyte releases another venture deep into the mixed worlds of modern classical music, dark ambient, and raging black metal. Armed with his trusty quarter-tone guitar, harsh screeches, and sharp drum machine attack, Jute Gyte's trademark, inhuman sound only plunges deeper into the pitch black abyss Kalmbach started digging a decade ago. The extreme discordance of “The Night Door Under Lock and Key" is paired with its foil, the lengthy, beautiful bout of crackling guitar ambiance which is “Laocoön." Expect a new full-length (already?!) next month.

...