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If you’re reading this, then I am already back at work in full recovery-mode. Celebrating America’s birthday is hard on the systems, y’all. Hopefully I didn’t blow up my hands or anything. I’m keeping my thoughts on this one kind of brief, as this was turned in last Wednesday in the midst of packing to go out of town for a long weekend. I’ll be back to my wordy self next week!

Here’s a bunch of stuff which comes out between July 5th and 11th. Did I miss something? Is there an opinion espoused within which rustled your jimmies? Did I say something wrong? Does anybody really know what time it is? Does anybody really care? American readers: did you do anything dumb to commemorate the 4th of July? Tell me in the comments!

—Jon Rosenthal

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ANTICIPATED RELEASES

Undergang - Døden Læger Alle Sår | Dark Descent Records | Death Metal | Norway

Foul, guttural death metal from Norway. A time machine back to the olden days, when Incantation’s sound was fresh and horrifying, but armed with the benefit of the new century’s studio magic. Heavy, vile, and focused, Døden Læger Alle Sår is a violent reminder that "old school" doesn’t have to mean "watered down." A point of contention for those who prefer their death metal cavernous and hollow, frontperson David Mikkelsen’s voice resembles a toilet - a deep, bilous burbling which echoes those found in Demilich and Dead Infection.

The Clearing Path - Watershed Between Earth and Firmament | Independent/Avantgarde Music | Black Metal/Hardcore | Italy

Another dark horse, The Clearing Path was vaguely in my peripherals until the half hour before I drafted this article. Most of the time, I could take or leave black metal/hardcore hybrid bands, as they just sort of sound like old Converge through a harsher distortion (I’m looking at you, The Secret), but The Clearing Path is different. A clear, precise attack, Watershed[...] alternates between lush atmosphere and pummeling, riff-fueled hardcore mayhem. It is truly the best of both worlds and there is nary a dull moment. I’m actually pretty excited to see what this one-man band has in store for us for future releases.

Cetus - The Remnant Mass | Dullest Records | Experimental Metalcore | United States

It’s a shame "metalcore" is such a dirty word, because all the genre’s detractors are really missing out. I mean, it’s not just the shitty, swoopy-haired crab dancing of the mid 2000s. Of course not. I mean, would you guys believe me if I told you a metalcore band’s guitarist has recorded multiple sessions with avant jazz legend John Zorn? Do I have your attention now? Cetus’s frantic mash of discordance and concordance, odd time signatures and head-bobbing rock, harsh bellows and the occasional melodic vocal line - this (aside from guitarist Matt Hollenburg’s other band Cleric) is the pinnacle of forward thinking hardcore.

Hell - Hell | Lower Your Head | Sludge/Drone/Doom Metal | United States

The Pacific Northwest’s heaviest child’s first new material since the their split with Amarok some two or so years ago, and, let me tell you, this is suffocatingly heavy. A-side (this is a 7" EP) "Sub Odin" is a slack-tuned kick to the gut, featuring the first vocal performance of member TAS, who hadn’t worked with Hell since I back in 2009, whereas B-side "Inscriptus" features a sharper, shorter version of the mournful-meats-devastatingly heavy sound songwriter MSW perfected with III (detecting a theme with full-length titles here?). It is a shame that we will likely never see another full-length from the Hell camp, but the splits and EPs which have followed have never skimped on quality.

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OF NOTE

Khemmis - Absolution | 20 Buck Spin | Doom/Stoner/Sludge Metal | United States
God, I was so worried this was going to be another throwback doom album. Even though this band shares a drummer with the legendary and reclusive Vasaeleth, I still kept it at arm’s length. I guess I kind of forgot that more traditionally-bent doom can be incredibly heavy and catchy all the same (see: Yob). Khemmis’s sound is something I can get behind, reverent enough to the tenets of the "doom metal" style (see: clear, catchy vocal lines, psychedelic guitar solos) but not a complete ripoff (see: way too many new bands). I sincerely hope the new wave of old school doom moves more in this heavier, epic, much more original direction. Please, please make that happen.

Majestic Downfall - ...When Dead | Pulverised Records | Death/Doom Metal | Mexico
Majestic Downfall was one of those bands I avoided for years. Having been praised as a continuation of the "British three" school of death/doom metal sound, I often found the comparisons to be an excuse to just listen to Paradise Lost, Anathema, and My Dying Bride’s early work and congratulate myself on saving hard drive space. Well, here I am, listening to Majestic Downfall… and it is quite nice. I do enjoy the lengthy black metal sections, which is a neat departure from the traditional, slow-and-romantic sound utilized by most death/doom bands. I don’t know if I’ll dig deeper, but I tried and didn’t mind.

blackQueen - The Directress | Independent/Digital | "Witch Metal" (Atmospheric/Progressive Black Metal) | United States
Bizarre, cinematic "witch metal" from the man who gifted the world Oakhelm (oh, and Assuck, too). The Directress slinks through bizarre, dark corridors, channeling Fulci and Argento’s most twisted moments. blackQueen has been at it for a while, and their masterful musicianship and songcraft is evidence of that. Heady and thoughtful without sacrificing catchiness and coherence.

Hail - Bestial Storms of the Abyssic Pit | Ahdisutken Aihio Productions | Black/Death Metal | Finland
Finnish weirdo "Dirtmaster" (also of Legacies Unchain and WORMPHLEGM!) has been quiet for some time, as evidenced by twelve years of silence after the mammoth Inheritance of Evilness album. Though this isn’t new material, as it was initially "released" on a few home-burned CDrs in 2001, this is the first time the public gets to hear this early Hail material. Apparently Inheritance of Evilness’s vinyl-only bonus tracks are getting the physical format treatment, too! Now if only he’ll make new music.

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FOR THE ADVENTUROUS

that means things which aren’t metal

Surachai - Heavy Mask | Independent | Industrial | United States
Harsh industrial electronics paired with tasty beats performed by percussion master Charlie Werber (Guzzlemug, Murmur)? I’ll take it! To those of you who got into Surachai’s music by way of his black metal trilogy, enter this without any of those expectations.

Pan Gu - The People Are Panthers | Ujikaji | Ambient Post-Rock/Noise | Singapore/Norway
Singaporean guitarist Leslie Low and Norwegian noise master Lasse Marhaug pair up once more, pitting Marhaug’s brittle noise haze against Low’s lush, heavily effected guitar. A beautiful duality, invoking images of pointillistic paintings and delicate fog.

Good Willsmith - Snake Person Generation | Hausu Mountain | "Zones" (Psychedelic Drone) | United States
The "zones" masters return, armed with a tape packed with the sun-baked, nostalgic sound I’ve sorely missed this summer. A breath-taking, meditative album deserving of your attention.

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OTHER RELEASES

Svärta - SepultusA Sad Sadness Song (Aeternitas Tenebrarum Musicae Fundamentum) | Black Metal | Sweden
Raw black metal in the old way. Melodic and infectious, but sometimes the distorted vocals get in the way.

The Negation - Memento Mori | Kaotoxin Records | Black Metal | France
Intense, blasting black metal. "Orthodox" is an understatement.

Claret Ash - The Cleansing | Independent | Progressive Black Metal | Australia
Bleak, blasting black metal with a strong pair of gnashing teeth. I might be better versed in Australia’s underground/raw black metal scene, but this is a nice contender for the genre’s more polished side.

Cradle of Filth - Hammer of the Witches | Nuclear Blast Records | Extreme Gothic Metal | United Kingdom
Welp, they certainly have a new album. Really awesome if you like leather and lace and stuff.

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FROM THE GRAVE

Stilla - Einsamhetens andar | Eisenwald Tonschmiede | Black Metal | Sweden
Skogen - I Döden | Eisenwald Tonschmiede | Black Metal | Sweden
This duo of folky, nostalgic black metal releases, originally released on Nordvis, are given new life on the prolific Eisenwald label.

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