Let’s have a sit-down chat, everyone. We (including me - I am not exempt from this) need to talk about opinion, criticism, and metal. To put it lightly, modern metal fans are among the top-tier of elitist, opinionated scum. We all know what we’re talking about, our opinion is fact, and everyone who disagrees is a 1) moron, 2) hipster, or 3) (my favorite) both. There is a lot of butting heads and patting backs out there in the wild fields of the internet, my friends, and it is really indicative of a greater evil which is endemic to our general generation. Are we really so narcissistic to believe that someone who views another subjective thing is truly moronic? Is the general term "hipster" (which appears to be on its way out. You guys should all read this. Thanks for the link, Doug!) really such a heinous insult, or is it another strawman argument like "poser" back in the early 2000s? Maybe even Holden Caulfield’s empty "phoney"? Are our egos so fragile that any invalidation to our taste is a threat to our entire being? I have always found the most important part of interesting dialog to be the dissent - and that’s real, impassioned dissent, none of this whole Devil’s Advocate/adversarial business - otherwise you’re just speaking in an echo chamber. Hearing your own opinion spoken back to you might be empowering in a narcissistic way, but expression without challenge gets really boring. Do we really want to streamline opinions like that? Do we really want to risk such vile stagnation? Do opinions need to be approved and sculpted to fit the narrative and goals of others? Do we need to put that much stock in our opinions? Are they what truly define us as people? Why am I even talking about this? Maybe I’m the real idiot, here.

—Jon Rosenthal



Shape of Despair - Monotony Fields | Season of Mist | Funeral Doom Metal | Finland
After a decade-long wait in the wake of Illusion’s Play, the masters of majestic Finnish depression emerge from their deep slumber. Shape of Despair has always been an important band to me, falling in love with their romantic, dense brand of funeral doom within the first few seconds of "...in the Mist" from their debut Shades Of…, and my adoration grew with time. Featuring "new" vocalist Henry Kuivola (a change about which I was actually pretty worried - I thought former vocalist Pasi couldn’t be replaced), who had actually joined Shape of Despair in 2011, we find that not much has changed for our despondent heroes. It’s quite breathtaking, and, while Monotony Fields’s eight tracks and seventy-plus minutes are a bit of a bear to digest, I find that the time passes quickly. From the days of Thergothon, Finnish depression has always manifested itself as the most majestic of sadnesses, and Monotony Fields only furthers that conceit. If only they picked a different title.

False - Untitled | Gilead Media | Black Metal | United States
I’ve always had my problems with False, feeling that their previous two releases were prime examples of "almost getting it." I know that sounds rather harsh, but they were always so close to doing something great that the disappointment of the near miss was almost too much to bear. Untitled, False’s debut album, is a different monster. Complex, riff-heavy, and oddly majestic for something so bass-heavy and chunky, Untitled might be False’s best material yet. That isn’t to say it isn’t without fault - sometimes I feel the album is a little overlong and sometimes frontperson Rachel’s voice becomes a little monotonous, but overall this is a really nice album. I have been known to resist bobbing my head to "Hedgecraft" while at my work desk.

Pale Chalice - Negate the Infinite and Miraculous | Gilead Media | Black Metal | United States
Pale Chalice’s debut EP was released to little fanfare on The Flenser some four or so years ago and, sad to say, I never really gave them a chance. It just sort of came off like every other West coast band whose idea of "forward-thinking" was to play the main riff in Weakling’s "Dead As Dreams" at a different tempo or in a different key. It’s easy to set a mental filter for that. However, after giving Negate the Infinite and Miraculous, I might have been wrong. This is a weird album, weaving between traditional black metal warfare, beautifully constructed harmonies, and, as most new black metal bands are wont to do, extensive forays into extreme dissonance. Granted, Pale Chalice might not be the most original band on the market, but that won’t stop me from listening to this.





Total Negation - Zeitzeuge | Temple of Torturous | Experimental Black Metal | Germany
As it is with the rest of Total Negation’s discography, this is a foray into the bizarre. A cohesive melding of black/doom metal and krautrock, we find Zeitzeuge’s sullen sound to be a strange one. Here you will find sole member Wiederganger weaving between aggressive melancholy and the detached, bizarre psychedelic grooves of traditional krautrock. The only thing which is really keeping me from fully enjoying this album is Wiederganger’s voice, which more often than not comes off more like a cartoonish caricature of an angry German than a black metal frontman.

Virgin Steele - Nocturnes of Hellfire & Damnation | SPV GmbH | Heavy/Power Metal | United States
I’m sure this shows just how young I am, but most heavy/power metal doesn’t really do it for me. I can definitely see Virgin Steele’s talent shining through, especially frontman David DeFeis’s massive vocal range, but this long-running Long Island band comes off as just another heavy metal band to me otherwise. Maybe one day bands like Virgin Steele will click with me, and I’m sure seeing them live is an entirely different story, but for now I can just deem this "talented, but just okay."

Lucifer - Lucifer I | Rise Above Records | Doom Metal/Rock | Sweden
Another throwback doom metal band on another throwback doom metal label. Ex-The Oath frontperson Johanna Sadonis can definitely sing, but I am only two songs in and this really makes me want to listen to Coven’s Witchcraft Destroys Minds & Reaps Souls, which I suppose is a success in itself.



that means things which aren’t metal

KEN Mode - Success | Season of Mist | Metalcore/Noise Rock | Canada
The prodigal sons of disjointed Canadian snot return, this time diving headfirst into the world of conservative noise rock. It was always obvious KEN Mode was heading in this direction, what with their rather Jesus Lizard-inspired approach to metalcore… it was only a matter of time until they completely shed their hardcore roots. This reminds me of mid-era Sonic Youth by way of the B-side of My War.



Vattnet Viskar - Settler | Century Media | "Post-Black Metal" | United States
Oh god, the album cover. I know that’s been a source of contention for most, but...woof. It doesn’t help that the photo was taken in the famed "vomit comet," does it?

Graveworm - Ascending Hate | AFM Records | Melodic Black/Gothic Metal | Italy
The masters of leather-and-lace clad Italian gothic cheese return with another chunky, keyboard-laden album. True to their penchant for covering unexpected songs (most of my experience with Graveworm was finding their cover of REM’s "Losing My Religion" to be very amusing), Ascending Hate features a cover of none only than Jon Bon Jovi’s "Runaway."

Wrvth (Wrath of Vesuvius) - Wrvth | Unique Leader | Technical Death Metal | United States
Technical death metal with an odd sort of melodic post-hardcore edge. Almost sounds as if Victory Records signed Necrophagist. Can’t say I’d listen to this again, but that was a pleasant surprise from the oft stagnant Unique Leader roster.

Tempel - The Moon Lit Our Path | Prosthetic Records | Progressive Metal | United States
As a rule, instrumental metal tends to rub me the wrong way, especially in the "extreme metal" genre. What we have here is a nice slab of "Opeth metal," you know the type - big, flowery chords, massive dynamics, lots of passion, the works. But...the lack of vocals makes it seem like something’s missing. Yes, you can make the argument "well, you don’t have the patience," but I just feel like the voice in extreme metal acts as another instrument. Where’d it go? [On the contrary, this is the best instrumental metal album I've heard in years—Ed.]



Wroth - Force and Wrath | Universal Consciousness | Black Metal | Netherlands
Bass-heavy and primitive-as-all-getout Ildjarn worship. A punky time-machine of an album, looking back into the days of old.

Lord Time - Drink My Tears | Universal Consciousness | Black Metal | Netherlands
Black metal outsider weirdo Andorkappen’s, whose name you might recognize from the mighty Harassor, hour-long, single-track psychedelic black metal vision, now on CD. A beautiful, harmonious foray into completely psychotic, broken sounding black metal. Some parts even sound like if Roky Erickson was really into Procer Veneficus. It would be a bad idea to take psychedelics while listening to this. Or a good one, I don’t know. I wouldn’t, though.

Derketa - In Death We Meet | Ibex Moon Records | Death/Doom Metal | United States
Old school as they come, Derketa existed when I was still in diapers and had no idea what death metal was. Derketa released their long-long-long awaited In Death We Meet in 2012, but a much-needed overhaul was needed on the audio. This new edition, released by Ibex Moon Records, features re-mixed and remastered audio which does absolute wonders for Sharon Bascovsky and Mary Bielich’s incredibly heavy riffing.



Mefitic - Woes of Mortal Devotion | Nuclear War Now! Productions | Black/Death Metal | Italy
If you’re as familiar with their near-prolific EP output as I am, you should know Mefitic’s style - hypnotic, dissonant, slow-burning blackened death metal. Not as murky as their "war metal" sound brethren, which is a welcome progression in the style. There is some rather harrowing guitar work on this one which really shines through with the uncharacreristically clear production.

Katechon - Coronation | Nuclear War Now! Productions | Black Metal | Norway
Twisting, churning black metal from this Norwegian horde. Katechon has been known to break molds, and this aggressive bout of unorthodox black metal shows Katechon’s vision remains steadfast.


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