Welcome to The Listening Chaos, a monthly column where I’ll highlight the best of the previous month’s new releases.
January’s Albums of the Month:
I’ve been hearing a lot about Montreal’s Chthe’ilist over the last few months, and it only took about half a listen of their debut full-length Le Dernier Crépuscule to understand why—this album is pretty remarkable. There are a lot of elements of so-called ‘cavernous’ death metal (which I generally think sounds like I imagine it would feel to be suffocated with Saran wrap) in Chthe’ilist’s sound, but with some more progressive elements—slap bass, some jazzy drum patterns, guitar solos that wouldn’t sound out of place on a tech-death record—that elevates them above most of their peers. The songs are dense but memorable, making for a record that reveals itself slowly over several listens. This one is likely to remain on heavy rotation for the rest of the year. Bonus nerd points for closing track “Tales of the Majora Mythos Part I,” which draws its lyrical inspiration from The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask.
Naðra – Allir vegir til glötunar (Vánagandr)
Unlike Chthe’ilist, Iceland’s Naðra wasn’t even on my radar until something popped up in my news feed about Allir vegir til glötunar being released early as a ‘name your price’ download via Bandcamp in response to the album having leaked. Essentially Misþyrming (whose debut album Söngvar elds og óreiðu deserves every last ounce of hype it got last year) with a different vocalist, Naðra is grounded in the same second-wave black metal tradition as Misþyrming, but their arrangements are much more expansive. Sure, there’s still tremolo-picking and blast beats aplenty, but the overall arrangements owe more to Bathory’s Blood Fire Death than they do to Darkthrone or Burzum, and vocalist Ö’s style is more akin to the tortured wailing of Shining’s Niklas Kvarforth than the traditional black metal rasp. Highly recommended.
Abbath – Abbath (Season of Mist)
He may not be traversing the grim and frostbitten landscapes of Blashyrk anymore, but rest assured Immortal fans: Abbath is exactly the album you were hoping it would be. Chock full of galloping riffs and that trademark croak we all know and love, Abbath isn’t doing anything here that he hasn’t done before, but would we really want it any other way?
Agoraphobic Nosebleed – Arc (Relapse)
The first installment of ANb’s planned 4-EP series, Arc finds Scott Hull and Kat Katz creating the sort of harrowing doom that has more in common with Katz’s former band Salome than with Frozen Corpse Stuffed With Dope. Inspired by Katz’s experience providing hospice care for her schizophrenic mother while she was dying of cancer, Arc is a dark and emotionally difficult listen, but well worth the experience. Katz is one of the strongest, most expressive vocalists in all of extreme metal, and she truly shines on this one.
Bloodiest – Bloodiest (Relapse)
Bruce Lamont has to be the hardest-working man in Chicago metal. In addition to his main gig as vocalist/saxophonist with avant-garde collective Yakuza, he’s also in Circle of Animals (alongside producer extraordinaire Sanford Parker) and Corrections House (with Parker, Eyehategod’s Mike IX Williams, and Scott Kelly of Neurosis). I’ll admit that I was kind of lukewarm on Bloodiest’s first record, 2011’s Descent, but I really like this new record, which seems to walk a middle path between the atmospheric post-metal of Neurosis and the repetitive, tribal aspects of the last couple of Swans records, topped off with Lamont’s distinctive voice. My only complaint is that he doesn’t also play sax in this band.
By the way: Bloodiest is going to be at the 5Th Quarter Lounge on March 10, along with Electric Hawk and Sweet Cobra. Should be a great show.
Lycus – Chasms (Relapse)
I’m probably one of the very few people who was underwhelmed by Tempest, the 2013 debut from Oakland’s Lycus. Chasms hits all of my sweet spots, though, which it comes to funeral doom: it’s crushing with occasional flashes of melody, and it’s despondent as fuck. As an added bonus, the always amazing Jackie Perez Gratz (of the late, great Giant Squid and Grayceon) adds her mournful cello to a couple of tracks. This sets the bar pretty high for doom in 2016.
Wildernessking – Mystical Future (Self-Released)
Some really solid post-black metal from South Africa. RIYL: Deafheaven.
The Best of the Rest:
Conan – Revengeance (Napalm)
Dream Theater – The Astonishing (Roadrunner)
Ketzer – Starless (Metal Blade)
Krallice – Hyperion (Self-Released)