So here we are at the beginning or April, one-quarter of the way through 2016. A lot of good stuff came out this month, so let’s get to it…
March’s Albums of the Month
Church of Misery – And Then There Were None (Rise Above Records)
I’ve been aware of Church of Misery for a while, but never gave them a chance previous to this album. I’ll admit it was because I thought they were a gimmick band. Sabbath-worshipping Japanese dudes who sing exclusively about serial killers? But when I read that Scott Carlson (Repulsion, ex-Cathedral) would be handling vocals on the new album, my curiosity was piqued enough to give this a spin, and I found myself pleasantly surprised by what I heard. Yeah, the Sabbath worship is in full effect, and serial killers are still the theme, but this album is a crazy fun listen. The riffs are excellent and Carlson sounds like he’s having a blast. If stoner/doom is your thing, you are going to love this album.
Cobalt – Slow Forever (Profound Lore)
Where to begin with this record? I absolutely loved the last Cobalt album, 2009’s Gin, and was really skeptical about how Erik Wunder would be able to carry on as Cobalt without Phil McSorley in the fold. When I heard that he’d recruited Charlie Fell (ex-Lord Mantis, ex-Abigail Williams, ex-Nachtmystium) to do vocals, some of my skepticism faded, but never in my wildest dreams did I expect Slow Forever to be this fucking good. Part of the reason for that is that Wunder didn’t try to make another album like Gin. The black metal elements are almost completely gone on Slow Forever; instead, the songs push more towards the slower, more tribal-sounding territory mined by latter-day Neurosis. And Fell’s vocal performance is positively harrowing, like a graduate-level course in addiction, sexual frustration, and self-loathing. Clocking in at nearly 85 minutes, this is an exhausting listen, but it’s also the first album I’ve heard this year that I’d consider a serious contender for album of the year. So. Fucking. Good.
Inverloch – Distance|Collapsed (Relapse)
Chances are that if you know of Inverloch, it’s because two of their members are from the legendary Australian death/doom outfit dISEMBOWELMENT, whose sole full-length record, 1993’s Transcendence Into the Periphery, is a landmark of the genre. It took a couple of listens for Distance|Collapsed to really click with me, but now that it has I think that what I appreciate most about it is how well Inverloch balances the death and the doom, the fast and the slow. And even when it’s at its prettiest (relatively speaking), it’s still unrelentingly heavy. The highlight for me is easily ‘From the Eventide Pool,’ and the way it layers a mournful, clean-guitar lines over the heavy riffs.
(As an aside, is Relapse just crushing it so far this year, or what? Agoraphobic Nosebleed, Bloodiest, Lycus, Magrudergrind, this Inverloch record, Obscura, Gadget, the Graves at Sea record that I’ll likely be talking about in next month’s column…)
Wormed – Krighsu (Season of Mist)
Batshit-crazy sci-fi tech-death, but what else did you expect? It’s fucking Wormed, which means that it’s completely over the top and absolutely glorious. There won’t be a better tech-death album released this year. Bonus points for not taking 10 years between records this time.
Begrime Exemious – The Enslavement Conquest (Dark Descent)
This record was a really nice surprise. I admit to not being overly-familiar with Edmonton’s Begrime Exemious, but I remember their 2014 EP Primeval Satellite as being an enjoyable example of the type of ‘cavernous’ death metal that Dark Decent is increasingly becoming known for (Adversarial, Blood Incantation, Spectral Voice, Ritual Necromancy, Corpsessed, Lvcifyre, Sempiternal Dusk, etc.). This album leaves behind the caverns in favor of a more blackened thrash approach, revealing some surprisingly strong songwriting. This is a band worth keeping an eye on.
If misanthropy had a sound, it would be Primitive Man. Is it just me, or do they get even uglier-sounding with each release? The two splits they dropped in March continue to mine that miserable, spiteful sludge/doom vein to great effect. Their side of the split with Northless (who also released a pretty enjoyable EP this month) is a particularly crusty, nasty affair that will leave you in need of a tetanus shot. I’ve got a ticket to see them in Chicago with Dragged Into Sunlight later this summer, and I can’t wait to see how these new songs translate live.
Fun and furious death-thrash—I don’t know if there’s ever been a more appropriately named band than Chile’s Ripper. If Beneath the Remains is your favorite Sepultura record, then Ripper is your new favorite band.
Rotten Sound – Abuse to Suffer (Season of Mist)
Has Rotten Sound ever put out a bad record? Abuse to Suffer is the seventh full-length from Finland’s angriest export, and it’s another ferocious slab of world-class grind. Highly recommended.
Waldgeflüster/Panopticon – Split (Nordvis)
This was my first exposure to Waldgeflüster, and they do the pagan-esque black metal thing quite well, but I’m mostly here for the Panopticon tracks. I realize I’m in the minority here, but I found Autumn Eternal to be something of a letdown, but the new tracks are just outstanding. ‘Håkan’s Song’ might be my favorite thing Austin Lunn done since Kentucky and basically makes this a must-own for Panopticon fans, or fans of atmospheric/folk black metal in general.
The Best of the Rest
Gadget – The Great Destroyer (Relapse)
Northess – Cold Migration (Triple Eye Industries)