October was a huge month for new music, so let’s skip the preamble and get right to it. Does anybody actually read these intros, anyway?
Albums of the Month
Anagnorisis – Peripeteia
Louisville’s Anagnorisis may well have crafted the most unsettling black metal album of 2016 with Peripeteia. A concept album of sorts based on the childhood of vocalist Zachary Kerr, the narrative remains oblique enough that it’s unclear exactly what happened, though that does nothing to blunt the emotional weight. The mystery is deepened by the inclusion of recordings of interviews conducted with a 4-year-old Kerr by an unidentified adult for reasons that are never explained. Musically, the band covers almost the entire black metal spectrum, equally comfortable playing the more majestic-sounding black metal of a band like Winterfylleth, the scuzzy, misanthropic style of a band like Krieg, or even the post-black metal of Deafheaven. The occasional keyboard flourishes are also a nice touch.
Khemmis – Hunted
Khemmis’s first record Absolution was one of my favorite albums last year, so I had pretty high expectations for Hunted. I have to be honest, though – I was pretty disappointed with this after the first listen. With successive listens, though, it’s definitely grown on me. I think part of the reason it didn’t click for me at first is that they really doubled down on the melody on this record, particularly in terms of the vocals. Only one track prominently features growls, and the clean vocals are so high in the mix that they frequently distract from the guitars. It wasn’t until I listened to it on headphones that I was able to pick out the Maiden-esque guitar harmonies that made the first album so enjoyable. There’s nothing as memorable as “The Bereaved” on Hunted, but it’s still a really solid follow-up to one of the best melodic doom debuts in recent memory.
Krypts – Remnants of Expansion
I don’t know he does it, but damn near everything Dark Descent Records releases is essential listening. This month’s gem is the sophomore album from Finnish death/doom outfit Krypts. Striking a perfect balance between memorable riffs and eldritch atmosphere, epic opening track “Arrow of Entropy” perfectly sets the tone for Remnants of Expansion: claustrophobic, dirge-like passages alternate with equally claustrophobic blast-driven sections, all anchored by Antti Kotiranta’s subterranean growl. Fans of Incantation and Immolation will find plenty to love about this record, as will anyone who digs the new Blood Incantation.
Waldgeflüster – Ruinen
Speaking of labels that can do no wrong, Bindrune Recordings have quietly amassed a pretty impressive roster of atmospheric/folk black metal artists, including my two favorite practitioners of the genre, Panopticon and Falls of Rauros. They also handle the U.S. release for a number of Nordvis Produktion bands, including Waldgeflüster, who follow-up their very enjoyable split with Panopticon from earlier this year with the excellent Ruinen. Regular readers of this column already know that I’m a sucker for ‘pretty’ black metal, and the Munich-based band, whose name translates as “forest whispers,” excel at the style. Acoustic passages blend seamlessly with the more aggressive black metal sections, and vocalist Winterherz (who also handles drum programming duties) sounds just as comfortable with the occasional clean vocal passages as he does with the more traditional black metal rasps and shrieks.
Wormrot – Voices
Five years after their last full-length, Singapore’s finest export is finally back! Voices picks up right where 2011’s Dirge left off: it’s 20 tracks of blistering grind in about 25 minutes, punctuated by the almost inhuman barks and growls of frontman Arif. There have been a lot of great grind records this year, including the fantastic comeback album from Magrudergrind, but Wormrot tops them all. Best grind band on the planet, no doubt.
Anaal Nathrakh – The Whole of the Law
Count me among those who are a bit disappointed by Anaal Nathrakh’s last record, 2014’s Desideratum. New record The Whole of the Law is a nice return to form for the British industrial blackened grind duo. As with the rest of their discography, chaos is the defining trait here, with singer V.I.T.R.I.O.L. sounding particularly unhinged, especially on the clean vocal passages. With song titles like “Hold Your Children Close and Pray for Oblivion” and “We Will Fucking Kill You,” they’re also just as angry as ever
Anciients – Voice of the Void
I really liked progressive metal outfit Anciients first album, 2014’s Heart of Oak, but if I had one complaint with that record it would be that the band sounded much more convincing on the prog sections than they did on the metal ones. That balance is much better on Voices of the Void, and the album might be even better overall than their debut. Opeth fans who wish the band still played death metal would do well to check this record out.
Black Table – Obelisk
I first got hip to post-black outfit Black Table back when their debut EP Sentinel came out back in 2012. That EP really reminded me of the psychedelic black metal of The Atlas Moth, particularly Mers Sumida’s vocals. On their debut full-length Obelisk, she still sounds a lot like Stavros, but the band has clearly grown as songwriters in the few years since Sentinel came out. Thicker and sludgier than its predecessor, Black Table sounds a lot more confident on this record. I actually interviewed the band back around the time their EP came out for another site I used to run, and they seemed like hella good people as well as talented musicians, so I hope this record gets them the attention they deserve.
Darkthrone – Arctic Thunde
Because it’s fucking Darkthrone. That’s why. Actually, as much as I enjoy pretty much anything Darkthrone does, I have to admit that their last couple of albums have been a little uneven, probably because the differences between the Fenriz songs and the Nocturno Culto songs were so pronounced that they almost sounded like two different bands. Nocturno Culto handles all of the vocals for the first time since 2003’s Hate Them, and that alone makes the album seem more cohesive. The songwriting is a lot stronger on Arctic Thunder as well, drawing from pretty much all of the different eras of the band, including some actual black metal.
Death Fetishist – Clandestine Sacrament
One of Matron Thorn of Ævangelist’s many other projects, I actually like this record more than I have the last couple of efforts from his main gig. I think that’s because starting around the time of Writhes in the Murk, Ævangelist just got a little too…well, murky for me. Way too heavy on oppressive atmosphere, to the point where the instruments all sort of blended into each other and everything started to kind of sound the same. With Death Fetishist, Thorn dials back on the atmosphere just enough so that the riffs are more memorable and the vocals are a little clearer in the mix.
Gatecreeper – Sonoran Deprivation
These Arizona-based newcomers totally hit my death metal sweet spot with Sonoran Deprivation. This is HM-2 worship done right – awesome riffs, killer solos, and at a tight 33 minutes it doesn’t overstay its welcome. Mixed by Kurt Ballou, it’s also got that trademark God City feel, so you know it sounds fucking fantastic. Fans of Black Breath, Baptists, or Horrendous should dig the hell out of this.
Homewrecker – Extinction by Design
When did Homewrecker start playing death metal? Their last album, Circle of Death, was a pretty solid hardcore record, but I think I like this EP even better. It is still kind of moshy, but definitely not deathcore. I’ll be curious as to what their next full-length sounds like.
Mustard Gas and Roses – Becoming
Moody instru-metal from former Isis (the post-metal band, not the other Isis) member Mike Gallagher, MGR was a one-man side project while Isis was still active, but has evolved into a full band on Becoming. As one might expect, comparisons can be drawn between this record and Gallagher’s former outfit. There are also the expected similarities to genre titans Pelican and Russian Circles. What makes this record stand out, though, is that it draws from a much wider emotional palatte than other records of its like. Still, chances are if you’re a fan of any of the aforementioned bands, you’ll like MGR.
Seputus – Man Does Not Give
Three of the four members of the excellent dissonant tech death outfit Pyrrhon (only guitarist Dylan DiLella is absent) also play together as Seputus, who have been around longer than Pyrrhon but are just now releasing their first album. Honestly, this band sounds so much like Pyrrhon that I kind of wonder why they’re two separate things. If there’s any difference, it’s that Seputus writes shorter, slightly more focused songs. There’s no mistaking vocalist Doug Moore for anyone else, though, and his approach is essentially identical with both bands. Still, I really dig Pyrrhon, so I’m not going to complain about more music from essentially the same group of guys, regardless of what name they release it under.
Serpentine Dominion – Serpentine Dominion
The term ‘supergroup’ gets tossed around fairly loosely, but Serpentine Dominion—a collaboration between Adam D. (Killswitch Engage), Shannon Lucas (ex-The Black Dahlia Murder), and George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher (Cannibal Corpse)—actually deserves the designation. It’s been about a decade since I last cared about anything Killswitch released, so I was a bit skeptical about this one going in. It’s surprisingly good, though – much better than it really needed to be. It does lean a bit more on the melodic side, and there are some clean vocals that might turn off some listeners, but anyone who has ever wondered what it might sound like if Corpsegrinder fronted In Flames will find plenty to like here.
Ulcerate – Shrines of Paralysis
Speaking of dissonant tech death, New Zealand’s Ulcerate are back with their fifth full-length. I was a little underwhelmed by their last record, 2013’s Vermis, but I’m really digging Shrines. Drummer Jamie Saint Merat in particular is a fucking beast on this record. His playing is so chaotic that I never have any idea what time signature he’s in, yet he somehow still manages to keep the proceedings from completely running off the rails. I’m going to make a point to see this band next time they come through the area, because I would love to see how he pulls it off live.
Vermin Womb – Decline
I know I said this a couple of months back when talking about Withered’s Grief Relic, but it bears repeating: regardless of which band he happens to be fronting, Ethan McCarthy has the most purely misanthropic voice in all of metal. The dude straight-up sounds like spite personified, and of all his current projects (which include Withered and the paint-peelingly caustic death/doom outfit Primitive Man), blackened grinders Vermin Womb might be the most hateful. There’s absolutely no letup at any point during Decline’s 23-minute run-time. So fucking good.
Whores. – Gold.
It seems like I’ve been hearing about noise rock/sludge metal trio Whores. for years, but Gold. is somehow only their first full-length release. For some reason, this band never really clicked for me before, but I like this record quite a bit – it has a nice AmRep-era Helmet vibe to it. Also, “Mental Illness As Mating Ritual” might be the best song title ever.