I’ll tell you, two weeks into July and I thought this month was going to be a dud for new releases. I suppose it isn’t surprising that not much came out over the Independence Day weekend, but not much came out the following week, either. In fact, halfway through the month I was wondering if I could get away with having a screamo record (Frameworks’ Smother, which is really fucking good) as the Album of the Month. But then the floodgates opened, and this might have been the best month yet in terms of how many quality albums were released, particularly in terms of all things black and blackened.
So without any further ado…
Albums of the Month
Dust Moth – Scale
I’m a bit late to the Dust Moth parade; most of the metal blogosphere raved about their 2014 EP Dragon Mouth, but it didn’t do a whole lot for me. With Scale, I totally get now why there’s such a buzz around this band. This record is absolutely gorgeous. If you appreciate the shimmery, more atmospheric parts of the last couple of Deftones records but wished that Chino sounded just a little more engaged, Dust Moth is your new jam. Guitarist Ryan Frederiksen (formerly of These Arms are Snakes) brings the texture and vocalist Irene Barber brings the feels. Not the heaviest album that came out this month, but definitely one of the most engaging.
Handsome Prick – Enlarged to Show Texture
2016 has already been a great year for grind/powerviolence albums, with Nails, Magrudergrind, Wake, and Weekend Nachos all releasing outstanding albums. If there’s a common thread between those records, though, is that none of them are very much fun. Enter Dyer, IN (nope, I have no idea where it is, either) quartet Handsome Prick, whose gloriously offensive (“Wet Mouth and a Paycheck,” “Abhor a Gory Phallus”), sophomoric (“Chlamydia Home Remedies,” “Plus Size Model Citizen”), and just fucking weird (“Cimmerian Night Frolic,” “Pamplemousse Bouquet”) debut full-length is a welcome throwback to albums like Agoraphobic Nosebleed’s Frozen Corpse Stuffed With Dope and Anal Cunt’s I Like it When You Die. It’s serious grind that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and it’s a fucking blast from first note to last. I’ve seen these guys a couple of times in Valpo, and Enlarged to Show Texture does a really nice job of capturing the energy of their live show. Someone needs to bring them to Indy.
Numenorean – Home
A disproportionate amount of what I’ve read concerning the debut album from Calgary’s Numenorean—including almost all of the tepid review the album garnered in a recent issue of Decibel—has focused on uncensored version of the album’s cover art, which appears to be a real crime lab photo of a female toddler’s corpse. Yes, the image is upsetting and provocative in a way that’s likely unnecessary, but I don’t think it’s quite fair to completely dismiss the record because of it. Home is a really excellent post-black metal that takes the template that Deafheaven created with Sunbather and actually does something different with it (unlike Ghost Bath, whose “Golden Number” is so similar to “Dream House” that they probably owe Kerry McCoy a songwriting credit). What makes this record really stand is the melodic interplay between guitarists Byron Lemley and Roger LeBlanc, particularly during the clean passages that dominate the album. This is a really lovely album, and with a tight 45-minute run time it doesn’t overstay its welcome.
Vanhelgd – Temple of Phobos
I really dug Swedish death metallers Vanhelgd’s last album, 2014’s Relics of Sulphur Salvation, so I had pretty high expectations for this one. The thing I like about Vanhelgd is that they don’t fit very neatly into any of the current death metal sub-genres; even though they’re from Sweden, they’re not one of those HM-2 worshipping bands, and they’re not particularly cavernous, either. Temple of Phobos might tend a bit more towards death/doom than previous records, but that just means that the riffs have a little more room to breathe. This is easily one of the best death metal albums to come out this year.
Baptism: V: The Devil’s Fire
The long-running one-man Finnish outfit makes the leap to Season of Mist for their fifth album, and it’s another absolutely furious album of orthodox black metal. The tropes may be familiar, but the execution is top-notch.
Castle – Welcome to the Graveyard
This is the fourth record from the SF-based occult doomsters, and it might be their strongest collection of songs yet. After seeing them live, though, the production here sounds a bit flat to me. Even the worst production couldn’t spoil Liz Blackwell’s vocals, though, which are particularly strong throughout—especially on album highlight “Down in the Cauldron Bog.”
ColdWorld – Autumn
I wasn’t familiar with Georg Börner’s one-man ambient/depressive black metal outfit ColdWorld prior to Autumn, but this record is beautiful in its despondency—lush, textured compositions with the occasional violin accents (and I’m a total sucker for violins in metal). I expect that if I’d spent a bit more time with it this month, it may well have gotten an album of the month nod.
Deny the Cross – Alpha Ghoul
And this month in Municipal Waste side projects, we have Deny the Cross. Actually, I was pretty excited about this one because it’s MW drummer Dave Witte going back to his grindcore roots. For those who may not remember, Witte was in Discordance Axis, a band that was years ahead of their time in their almost progressive, artsy approach to playing grind (a form which vocalist Jon Chang eventually mastered years later with Gridlink, whose three records are pretty much essential listening). There’s nothing artsy or progressive about Deny the Cross, which also features former members of Black Army Jacket and Spazz. This is old-school fastcore/grind—eighteen tracks, twelve minutes, and at the end you’ll be picking yourself up and asking if anyone got the license plate number of the truck that just ran you the fuck over.
Harakiri For the Sky – III: Trauma
Austrian outfit Harakiri for the Sky play a sort of folkish post-black metal that reminds me more than a little bit of Falls of Rauros, who I just love. I’d like this album a bit more if it were about two songs shorter; its 75-minute run time is a lot to take in, especially when there isn’t a ton of variety from one song to the next.
Horseburner – Dead Seeds, Barren Soil
Super tasty stoner metal from West Virginia, these dudes are quickly becoming a favorite among the IMS staff. Can’t wait to see them live at the Doomed and Stoned Fest in November. They did a pretty great interview with Bryan a couple of weeks back, which you can read here.
Ringworm – Snake Church
Has there ever been a more appropriately named lead singer than Ringworm’s Human Furnace? And HF is in fine form on Snake Church, which is another relentless platter of metallic hardcore from the long-running Cleveland act. There’s not a whole lot of variety from song to song here, but you don’t listen to Ringworm for nuance—you’re here to have your face blasted off, and Snake Church delivers in spades. I thought the band had likely peaked with 2014’s stellar Hammer of the Witch, but this album might actually be even better.