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It never really ends. I am at the bottom of the pit, up to my eyes in metal albums. There is no end in sight. How did I end up here? Surely I will find my way out. Someday.

—Jon Rosenthal

Here's a list of things which come out during the week of 5/24-5/30. Did I miss stuff? Do you think my assessment of something is incorrect? Did your band put something up on Bandcamp on Saturday night, conveniently just after I turned in my final draft of this article? Am I an embarrassment to metal? Did you think you saw me at MDF, but in reality it was just someone who looked like me (as I have never been to Baltimore)? Comment and tell me! Don't be shy. C'mon, guys.

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ANTICIPATED RELEASES

Erraunt - The Portent | Independent | Atmospheric Black Metal | United States

I try my hardest to include independent releases when I can – and this is one whose creation I've watched slowly unfold over the past few years. Erraunt is...an interesting entity – holding steadfast to the traditional tenants of atmospheric black metal, but only by a thread. Here you will find adventurous guitar work, the heavily distorted and omnipresent bass guitar often holding the melody and acting as a driving force. The Portent is definitely the result of careful planning, all the pieces fit together with masterful precision, motif-based composition, and an obvious passion for unconventional songwriting. This is by far one of my favorite “newcomers” to the scene, though sole member Oneiric has been anonymously lurking just beneath the radar for a long, long time. A masterful juxtaposition of eerie dissonance and concordant beauty, Erraunt's thunderous heights have proven to be one of the stronger debuts in the last few years.

Autokrator – Autokrator | Iron Bonehead Productions | Industrial Death/Doom Metal | France

I saw this floating around various questionable “Russian Mafia” leak sites earlier this year, more often than not toting the “Drone/Death/Doom Metal” tag. I raised my eyebrow but decided against it – I figured it was just some funeral doom band that an Eastern European leaker tagged incorrectly or something and moved on. Then I got an e-mail concerning Autokrator's debut album which was receiving the vinyl treatment from...Iron Bonehead? Okay, maybe I'd give it the old college try.

After mopping my innards off the floor, I bought a copy. I mean, really. How could I say no to such apocalyptic heaviness, especially from the man who gave us N.K.V.D.? This is the most oppressive listen I've had in a while, the music generally coming off as a percussion-driven dense wall of deep, bassy, obscured fuzz, fronted by a trio of absolutely putrid-sounding vocalists. You ever wonder what would happen if you listened to Godflesh's Pure during a deliriant-driven freakout? Look no further, and good luck finding a new subwoofer. This is by far the heaviest thing I've heard all year.

Amestigon – Thier | WTC – World Terror Committee | Black Metal | Austria

Holy hell, this is like listening to extremely loud liturgical music in a subterranean, inverted cathedral. Big, majestic black metal, never really straying from the mid-paced realm, but that's okay. It's nice to see Amestigon is back on a black metal label, as I don't really feel they were fully appreciated on industrial/neofolk label Hau Ruck!, who handled their previous albums. Silenius (if I have to explain how important this man is, you done goofed) offers his voice on the twenty minute title track, though I can't help but shake the feeling that Tharen (who is a member of Graumahd, one of my favorite neofolk groups) is a much more vicious vocals, often sounding more animal than human. I'll be listening to this one for a while to come.

Listen to album opener “Demiurg” here.

Vargnatt – Grausammler | Eisenwald Tonschmiede | Black Metal | Germany

Remember how I said I always love being taken by surprise? Well, seeing a band with the “black metal” tag whose name is a reference to Ulver's earliest demo, I have to admit I wasn't exactly sold. Blame the oodles of mediocre Norse-fetishists from South America and my horrible cynicism. Either way, about a week ago I figured it was high time I actually gave Vargnatt's debut full length a solid listen. Wow. Like really, really wow. It is majestic black metal with an atmosphere as heartfelt as it is enraged and despondent. A much more modern (read as: post-punky, kind of post-rocky – post of post-y things) take on the classic Ulver and Satyricon sound to which their band name alludes, Grausammler reveals itself as a bit of a dark horse. Over time you might find that I end up being sort of a sucker for completely over the top, crazy, caterwauling vocals, and let me tell you, these are completely unhinged wails, shrieks, and bellows, but without treading into Silencer territory. No, these convey more emotion than loss of touch with reality, and they fit. Further research shows this is another project of the man who brought us Impavida's 2008 masterpiece Eerie Sceneries, which is a pillar in itself, because aside from just being a great album it is the first and likely only non-nu-metal album to sample the classic Salad Fingers flash animation.

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OF NOTE

Mamaleek – Via Dolorosa | The Flenser | Experimental Black Metal | United States
I've loved everything anonymous duo Mamaleek has put out. Hell, I even interviewed them on my old website, The Inarguable. Their cohesive mix of black metal, jazz, trip-hop, industrial music, and a whole slew of others into this big, chaotic whole was appealing to me. Unfortunately, I am beginning to see Mamaleek falter a little bit with Via Dolorosa, namely in the use of poorly recorded live drums and an unpleasant unbalancedness to the album as a whole. Instead of a nice mix of the above genres, we are presented with one or two metallic songs which end up kind of bookending a “jazz noir”/trip-hop album. Not that I mind those two genres, I just kind of see Mamaleek splitting their sound instead of maintaining it. Hopefully this forking will subside, as this album has some great moments, especially the few, brief moments of trap beats. Yes. Trap beats. Who will protect black metal's precious flower now?

Nocturnal Depression – Spleen Black Metal | Avantgarde Music | “Depressive” Black Metal | France
Go figure that the best move a band can do is have all the live members take over after the main studio member quits. Yes, it seems that the departure of sole member Herr Suizid and the usurping of the Nocturnal Depression name by his live performers (as Mr. Suicide never played live) resulted in... a pretty decent album. Instead of the surprisingly mediocre depressive black metal of the past, Nocturnal Depression resembles much more of a Celestia/Drakkar Records sort of sound now. I might not listen to this album past the whole “Hey, you need to objectively review this album, so listen to it” phase, but this is a definite step forward for an otherwise notoriously lame band.

Stellar Descent – Darkening Peaks | GreySun Records | Atmospheric Black Metal | United States
A really, really long (like eighty minutes long) single track from the man who brought us Bleak, A Sombre Boreal/Boreal, and Soulfuckingblight. Fans of Fauna should take notice, as there are some lengthy, rather beautiful folk moments. Not to say the rest of the album lacks in beauty, there are some really lengthy passages of gigantic, layered grandeur. The only real setback in my eyes is how it's produced. I'm not one to talk about production, I mean, I listen to really harsh stuff (see the Autokrator writeup above), I just can't stand it when certain parts are much, much louder than they are supposed to be, especially next to other tracks. I had the same sort of frustration with his last full-length, Accretion. I still like this musically and will definitely be picking up a copy of the cassette, but I hope Anthony W. transcends this sort of demo-like sound in order to attain the proper grandeur long-form metal like this deserves.

Cloud Rat - Qliphoth | Halo of Flies | Grindcore | United States
The return of the crazy, extremely multi-faceted grind heroes. With the immense success of Moksha, this album's predecessor, there was a lot of hype to live up to. Expect a lot of passion, more riffs than you can count, a hefty screamo influence (Orchid, not the swoopy haircut shit), and more blog reviews than you can shake a stick at. Boasting a massive 2000 copy pressing, I think it'll take more than a month before Cory over at Halo of Flies has to put in an order for a new pressing. Maybe. Listen to it here.

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FOR THE ADVENTUROUS

that means things which aren't metal

Hollow Sunshine – Bring Gold | Iron Pier | Dreampop/Drone | United States
So I'm really sick of just about every Hollow Sunshine writeup referencing how “shoegazey” they are. This isn't shoegaze, nor is really metal, which seems to right beside the “shoegaze” comparisons. If you're familiar with the more dreamy end of alternative rock – you know, bands like Yo La Tengo and Hum – this is more like a heavier version of those bands. Dense, heartfelt music with lots of pop hooks. I'm sure most metal websites will still use the heavy, distorted sound as a crutch for calling this metal. That's dumb. Do not be ashamed of your love for really good dreampop.

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FROM THE GRAVE

L'Acephale – Mord und Totsclag | GreySun Records | Atmospheric Black Metal | United States
I. Love. L'Acephale. The concept, the execution, the visuals, everything. And it all started with this humbly-released album back in 2005. Future releases show driving force Sex Sothis Nox La's vision become cleaner, expanding the lineup to include Waldteufel's Markus Wolff, among many others, but the oddly titled Mord und Totsclag (Totsclag has been misspelled for a long time) is a different story. Though the traditional percussion and neofolk influences do manifest themselves in the longer tracks like “Against a Sea of Weeping Sleep,” this is mostly an oppressively raw black metal album. This was the beginning of an era, re-issued a select amount of times on SkullFuckingTapes and the infamously inconsistent Aurora Borealis, now on pro-tape via GreySun Records.

Mania/L'Acephale split | GreySun Records | Experimental Black Metal | Atmospheric Black Metal | United States
So I've already waxed poetic about L'Acephale above, and the pairing with the legendary Mania (not the harsh noise Mania from Texas) was a perfect union in sound. Mania's filthy, putrid, WEIRD black metal acts as a beautiful foil to L'Acephale's lengthy offering “Barrow's Embrace,” which I think was eventually turned over to Set Sothis Nox La's other band Hail (though I could be mistaken – I will have to consult my CD-r collection). The original tape edition of this split sold out on Mania's 2010 tour, then Set Sothis Nox La re-issued the split on CD (LIMITED TO EIGHT COPIES. WHY.), so it makes sense that this split would get a more...public re-issue. Too bad it's a 25 copy run, so act fast! It might even be sold out by the time this column even gets posted.

Swans – Filth (Deluxe) | Young God Records | SWANS | United States
Dude, it's Swans. On top of that, it's goddamn FILTH. Flex your muscles. Get the 3CD for some nifty early live tracks. You know, the shows which were notorious for making people vomit.

Infra - Initiation on the Ordeals of Lower Vibrations | Rising Beast Recordings | Death/Black/Doom Metal | Portugal
This definitely flew under my radar when Nuclear War Now! released it a few months back, so I'm glad I was paying attention when Roach's (Harassor, Lord Foul, Moonknight) Rising Beast Recordings put the tape edition up in their store. At first listen, this is your usual NWN! fodder; you know, bands who sound like Blasphemy and Conqueror (I'm a sucker for that), but there are some big, melodic moments snuck in here and there which really catch me off guard.

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OTHER RELEASES

Leprous – The Congregation | InsideOut Music | Progressive Metal | Norway
Ihsahn's former live backing band makes another jazzy progressive metal album which sounds oddly... Ihsahn-y. Go figure, right? Keyboardist/singer Einar Solberg happens to be the little brother of Ihriel (Ihsahn's wife). We would get irked about nepotism if his pipes weren't so damn on-point. Bellow on, black metal prince, bellow on.

Helloween – My God-Given Right | Nuclear Blast | Power/Speed Metal | Germany
You know what this is. You know you want to bask in its corniness. Do it in private where no one can see you air guitar. It's okay, I won't judge you.

Cult of Endtime – In Charnel Lights | Svart Records | Death Metal | Finland
It's great when Svart releases a death metal album – I wish he'd do it more often.

Supuration – Reveries | Listenable Records | Death/Doom Metal | France
Strange, slightly progressive death/doom metal from the long-standing French stalwarts. I've heard them compared to a weird mix of Carcass and Voivod, which is about right.

Sangharsha/Blank split | Alerta Antifascista | Neocrust/Neocrust | United States/Germany
Two sides of the same coin with this split – fun, bouncy, melodic crust from the States and from across the pond. Those of you who are familiar with Alerta Antifascista's output should be pretty familiar with the sound presented here.

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WHAT WE MISSED

Keeper – The Space Between Your Teeth | Crown And Throne Ltd. | Sludge/Doom Metal | United States
Heartfelt, crushing doom. This duo has been on my radar for about a year, and I definitely enjoyed their demo and split with Sea Bastard, but this definitely solidified my fandom.

Ruined - Familiar | Independent | Drone/Doom Metal | United States
Gloomy bass-and-drums doom. Apparently they have another new tape out, but I haven't really seen any evidence of it yet.

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