So the year is winding down, which means fewer and fewer new albums are coming out each week. It’s a fairly short column this month, but the two Albums of the Month are among my favorite records this year – you’ll definitely be hearing about both of them again in a couple of weeks when we start counting down The Listening Chaos’s Top 25 Albums of 2016. Until then, lets talk about November’s best releases.
Albums of the Month
Cultes Des Ghoules – Coven, or Evil Ways Instead of Love
I got hip to Polish black metal outfit Cultes des Ghoules around the time of their last full-length, 2013’s Henbane. I liked that record well enough, but Coven is a different sort of animal entirely. Clocking in at nearly 100 minutes, the album is a full-fledged black metal operetta told in five acts across five massive tracks, and it’s almost fucking Shakespearian in its scope and damn near flawless in its execution. Like a traditional play, Coven has a full dramatis personae, and vocalist Mark of the Devil brings a different style to each character so that they each have a distinctive voice of their own, from the traditional black metal rasps and shrieks to more dramatic clean vocals. Musically, pretty much every style of black metal from the last 30 years (except maybe blackgaze) is represented at some point – each act has enough shifts in style and tempo that they almost feel like full albums in and of themselves, but they also coalesce in order to maintain the dramatic tension throughout the entirety of the record. This album is really stunning.
A note about the release: only the 2-CD digibook version is available right now. It won’t be available for purchase digitally until next February, and there’s a 3xLP version of it coming at some point as well.
Drude – Drude
Anyone who regularly reads this site is probably already well aware of how much the IMS crew loves Drude. That being said, I still wasn’t prepared for how fucking good this new album is. On pretty much every level, they’ve improved since The Tide to Sink the Summit (which was already pretty goddamn good): there are more risks in the songwriting (like the hardcore punk section in the middle of “Drude”), the playing is tighter, the vocals sound much more confident, and the recording sounds fantastic. At the moment, it loosk like this is only available on CD from the band (my copy was procured for me at D&S Fest), but hopefully they’ll have it up on their Bandcamp page soon. I need to see these guys again soon – I can’t wait to hear these new songs live.
Bastard Noise & Sickness – Death’s Door
For some reason, I really haven’t listened to anywhere near as much harsh noise/power electronics this year as I generally do. In fact, this might be the first new noise record that’s really caught my attention since Prurient’s Frozen Niagara Falls came out last year. If you know anything about the American noise scene, you know that Bastard Noise generally means quality, and Death’s Door, a collaborative effort with the equally long running one man project Sickness, is another solid entry in their discograph
Downfall of Gaia – Atrophy
For some reason, this band had never really clicked with me before, even tough I’m generally a fan of post-black metal. I think what makes this one work is that it seems a little less post- and considerably blacker than what I’ve heard from them in the past.
Mavradoxa – Sojourners
Their logo looks remarkably like Moonsorrow’s and their album cover is more than a little reminiscent of Agalloch’s The Mantle. Since I happen to rather like both of those bands, this album totally works for me. Mavradoxa actually draws from a much wider range of influences, including some definite post-punk tinges in the drumming and some very lyrical accents from what sounds like fretless bass. If you dig Agalloch, Waldgeflüster or Falls of Rauros, definitely check this one out.
Mortualia – Wild, Wild Misery
The solo project of prolific Finn Shatraug (also of Nightbringer, Horna, Sargeist), Mortualia is black metal exactly the way I like it: pretty and sad. Once the first snowfall hits northern Indiana, this record will undoubtedly go into heavy rotation.
Saor – Guardians
Really solid atmospheric folk/black metal from the UK. I liked their last record Aura a bit more since the incomparable Austin Lunn of Panopticon played drums on it, but that’s about the only complaint I have with it. If you’re into Panopticon or Waldgeflüster, you’ll like this, too.
Trees of Eternity – Hour of the Nightingale
If you’ve ever wondered what Swallow the Sun might sound like with a female vocalist, then this is the album for you. Trees of Eternity is StS guitarist Juha Raivio along with ex-StS drummer Kai Hahto and members of October Tide, and there are a lot of stylistic similarities between two bands. It’s Aleah Stanbridge’s haunting voice, though, that really makes the album something special. Sadly, Stanbridge passed away from cancer shortly before the album’s release, which only deepens the album’s pervading sense of melancholy.