So another month is in the books, and what a month it was. I genuinely had a hard time limiting myself to just five Albums of the Month, and didn’t get to spend anywhere near as much time with some of these records as I would have liked. A lot of stuff to get to here, so without any further ado…
September’s Albums of the Month
Brain Tentacles – Brain Tentacles
As I mentioned back in the very first installment of this column when talking about Bloodiest’s self-titled record, I am a fan of pretty much everything Bruce Lamont (Yakuza, Bloodiest, Corrections House) does. When Bloodiest played the 5th Quarter earlier this year, IMS boss Big B and I were talking with Lamont at the merch table after their set, and he spent most of the conversation talking about how excited he was for this album to come out. It didn’t take long to hear why. With Brain Tentacles, which also includes Dave Witte (Municipal Waste, ex-Discordance Axis, ex-Burnt By the Sun, etc.) on drums and Keelhaul’s Aaron Dallison on bass/synths/vocals, Lamont’s sax is front and center on what has to be one of the strangest, most difficult albums he’s ever done. It’s part avant-jazz (think Rashaan Roland Kirk or Ornette Coleman in his free jazz period) and part doom metal, with a heavy dose of sheer what-the-fuckery, this is guaranteed to be totally unlike any metal record you’ve ever heard before. If your tastes tend towards the progressive or the weird, I highly recommend this album.
Every Time I Die – Low Teens
As much as I love Converge, and as much I will totally fight anyone who says that Jane Doe isn’t a stone fucking classic (not really – I’m a total pacifist and kind of a wimp), most of the ‘chaotic hardcore’ or ‘spazz-core’ bands that have followed in their wake just don’t do it for me. Every Time I Die is the exception to that rule, and Low Teens might be my favorite thing they’ve ever done. Granted, there’s nothing as immediately catchy on Low Teens as “Decayin’ With The Boys” from their last record, 2014’s From Parts Unknown, but I think the record as a whole coheres much better that their last record did, and I think the best way to experience ETID is by taking in the entire album and not just individual tracks. Vocalist Keith Buckley is in fine form on this one, with his cleans sounding particularly strong this time around, which in turn makes some of his screams sound even more unhinged.
Neurosis – Fires Within Fires
Since this record has only been out for a couple of weeks, I haven’t yet been able to give it the kind of attention it deserves. I mean, it’s a Neurosis record – it probably requires at least 20 listens to fully unpack everything that’s going on here. My impressions of it right now are that I think it starts off a bit slowly, but the closing pair of “Broken Ground” and “Reach” rank right up there among the best 20-minute stretches of music the band has ever done. As far as their more recent output, I’d say it’s better than Given to the Rising, but maybe not quite as strong as Honor Found in Decay. It’s also a surprisingly short record, clocking in at just over 40 minutes. Still, it’s fucking Neurosis, and they can basically do no wrong.
Oathbreaker – Rheia
I first got hip to Belgium’s Oathbreaker with their last record, 2013’s Eros|Anteros, which was a very well executed slice of blackened post-hardcore. Even so, I was not prepared for the skull-fucking awesomeness that is Rheia. The key is in the way the band has mastered the art of shifting dynamics: acoustic sections, ambient noise, clean passages, blastbeats – they’re all here, and they all flow together seamlessly. Vocalist Caro Tanghe also gives one hell of a performance on this record. Her screams were always impressive, but she’s using her cleans much more often and to much greater effect on Rheia, and those screams are all the more effective when they follow a more vulnerable-sounding passage. I’m probably not doing the record justice here, but that’s because it really needs to be heard to be appreciated. It’s a strong contender for Album of the Year.
Emma Ruth Rundle – Marked for Death
Okay…this isn’t a metal record, but I’m including it anyway because some of ERR’s other bands, Marriages and Red Sparowes, give her some cache among the post-metal crowd. From a purely emotional perspective, it’s also probably the heaviest album that came out in September. I guess the record is broadly drawing from the same doom/folk well as some of her label-mate Chelsea Wolfe’s earlier records, but whereas Wolfe’s music has always had dark industrial undertones (which have gotten progressively less ‘under’ with each successive album), Rundle draws heavily from dream pop, which adds a degree of shimmer to her sad. That might sound incongruous, but one listen to the album’s title track, which she described to The FADER as “a defeated love song of sorts: from the self loathing alcoholic in flames to her one time truly broken, lost and mentally ill friend,” and it will make sense. The standout here for me is the album’s last track, the acoustic “Real Big Sky,” which manages to somehow be both haunting and uplifting. This album will break your heart in all the best possible ways.
Dysrhythmia – The Veil of Control
Kevin Hufnagel (Gorguts, Sabbath Assembly, Vaura) and Colin Marston (Gorguts, Behold the Arctopus, Krallice, Withered) playing techy, dissonant instru-metal. Do you really need to know anything else?
Goblin Cock – Necrodonkeykongimicon
And this month’s entry in the “Bands I Almost Didn’t Listen to Because of Their Name” sweepstakes, San Diego septet Goblin Cock is back with their first new record in seven years, and it’s actually pretty damn delightful. With a name like Goblin Cock, I suppose I was expecting something thrashy, but this is poppy doom with a serious 90’s alt-metal influence.
Helms Alee – Stillicide
For some reason, Helms Alee never really clicked with me, but I am digging the hell out of this record. I think that might be because Stillicide sounds a little more focused than I remember them being on their earlier records, and a more focused Helms Alee reminds me more than a little bit of Kylesa: kind of Southern, a little sludgy, sort of poppy. Makes me wonder if I unfairly dismissed their earlier stuff
Opeth – Sorceress
Opeth is no longer a death metal band, and I doubt they will be again. They are, however, still a top-notch prog-rock band. This is another record I didn’t get to spend as much time with as I wanted to, but my impression thus far is that it’s not quite as strong an effort as Pale Communion, but it’s still better than pretty much every other album of its ilk that’s come out this year.
Rebel Wizard – Triumph of Gloom
This record kind of came out of nowhere for me, even though I’m familiar with NKSV’s other project, the more traditionally atmospheric/ambient black metal outfit Nekrasov. I’m not really all that into Nekrasov, but right from the opening sample of “On the Unknown Self they Weep”– a recording of lecture by the late American Adviata Vedanta teacher Robert Adams that begins “There is no real purpose for you being alive” – I’m totally hooked by Rebel Wizard. Musically, Triumph of Gloom is a unique mix of lo-fi black metal and more traditional heavy metal, which means it’s both totally scuzzy and super melodic. It’s also surprisingly fun despite its overt misanthropy.
Sumerlands – Sumerlands
This record is getting a lot of love from a lot of different corners of the metal blogosphere, but I’m not as completely blown away by it as most people seem to be. Musically, it’s excellent – it’s the kind of traditional heavy metal that I grew up listening to in the 80s. I don’t love the vocals, though they do bother me less with each successive listen.
Touché Amoré – Stage Four
Make fun of me all you want, I fucking love Touché Amoré. At their best, they remind me of the Rites of Spring (Guy Picciotto’s pre-Fugazi band), especially as they grow more emotive and less hardcore with each successive album. Stage Four is a concept album of sorts, centered on the death of frontman Jeremy Bolm’s mother from cancer (a topic which hits close to home for me, since I lost my own mother to cancer a little over two years ago). Given the subject matter, one might expect the record to be a real downer, but it isn’t. In fact, there’s a lot of hope here as Bolm moves through the various stages of grief, culminating with the stunning album closer “Skyscraper,” featuring guest vocals from Julien Baker.
Trap Them – Crown Feral
Feral just about sums it up on Trap Them’s fifth full-length. If you want nuance, look elsewhere – this is 32 minutes of unadulterated rage. I liked their last record, Blissfucker, but I know a lot of people were disappointed by it. Those people should consider this very nice a return to form.
Unyielding Love – The Sweat of Our Augury
Here’s another record that came out of nowhere this month. The debut EP from Belfast’s Unyielding Love is blackened noise/grind of the highest order, not unlike last year’s fantastic Dendritic Arbor record. I particularly like the way this record builds, starting with a series of shorter, gnarlier tracks and culminating in the one-two punch of the noise track “The Pregnant Hurt” and harrowing closer “Sweated Augury.” Hopefully a full-length won’t be too far behind.