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The Listening Chaos – January 2017

The Listening Chaos – January 2017

So here we are, starting the second year in the life of The Listening Chaos. I’ll have to admit, part of me is a little surprised that I’m still writing this column a year later, but that’s a testament to those of you who come back month after month to read my ramblings on the best new metal from the previous month. And if this is your first time checking out TLC, I’m glad to have you aboard.

Just a quick note: the format of this column is going to change a little bit this year. You’ve probably noticed that Indy Metal Vault has brought a few new scribes on board and we’re covering a lot more new music than we have in the past. In the cases where we’ve already run a full review of an album, I’m going to pull from those reviews for this column (particularly for the albums I’ve already written about). As such, this is going to probably be more of a monthly roundup column than it was last year, though I expect there will be at least one or two albums in it each month that we haven’t already covered.

Traditionally, January has been a slower month for new releases, but that certainly wasn’t this case this year. A lot of good music came out this month, including an early contender for album of the year. So without any further ado…

Albums of the Month

Dumal – The Lesser God

Quietly self-released on the first Friday of 2017, Dumal’s The Lesser God likely wouldn’t have even been on my radar had I not been asked to cover it as part of a fill-in new releases column I was writing for another site. To say that the Pennsylvania trio keeps a low profile would be kind of an understatement – aside from a Bandcamp page and a Metal Archives entry, their web presence is essentially non-existent. However, word about The Lesser God must be starting to spread because they were included in Pitchfork’s brand-new monthly metal roundup column. The accolade is well-deserved, because Dumal’s take on black metal is just about as good as it gets, particularly for winter listening (which everyone knows is the best time for black metal). The galloping tempos and strong sense of melody are a perfect remedy for the endless days of Midwestern greys, and they throw in just enough unexpected moments—like the synth-driven instrumental “The Wind Demon,” and the folky violin outro to “Ukrania”—to stay engaging throughout the entirety of its 50+ minute run time. They actually remind me a bit of Drudkh in places, which is never a bad thing.

The Great Old Ones – EOD: A Tale of Dark Legacy

EOD is another predictably fantastic platter of Lovecraft-inspired black metal from the eldritch Frenchmen. I didn’t think they were going to be able to top their last album, 2014’s Tekeli-li, but I’m very happy to report that I was wrong. The Great Old Ones aren’t the only metal band flying the Lovecraft flag, but they’re undoubtedly the best.

Here’s what Goniloc had to say about it in his review:

“There is a lot going on in this release, and every facet locks together to make a web of sound that is continuously progressing. It’s tight and well written structurally, and still the music has a way of pulsing; the guitar will come to the forefront of the mix and then fluidly fade to the background. There’s not a lot of perfect consistency to what you hear on A Tale of Dark Legacy, and it has the effect of making the songs surround you, and even feel like living entities themselves. The atmosphere is absolutely the most striking aspect and it pulls the listener into the experience.”

Lo-Pan – In Tensions

From my review of the record, which is definitely an early contender for Album of the Year:

“For the past decade, the Columbus, OH-based outfit has done nothing but release one banger after another, each one chock full of tasty riffs and arguably the best melodic vocals of any band out there, and their new EP In Tensions continues their remarkable winning streak.

Perhaps Lo-Pan is still flying under the radar, releasing albums on tiny indies while many of their more derivative and considerably less awesome peers end up with bigger deals and wider exposure, because they draw from a slightly less fashionable palate of influences than other bands of their ilk. There’s not a whole lot of Sabbath in their sound; instead, their songs combine the stomp-and-swagger of a band like Humble Pie with the more AOR-like tendencies of someone like Bad Company. The end result is upbeat, relentlessly catchy music that has a higher ratio of earworms-per-minute than anyone else going today.”

The Ominous Circle – Appalling Ascension

From my review of the record:

“On their debut full-length Appalling Ascension, the mysterious Portuguese outfit lead the listener down a darkened (left-hand) path of sinuous riffs, shifting tempos, and suffocating atmosphere that sets a very high bar for death metal in 2017. What I find particularly enjoyable about the record is that they manage to create that atmosphere without resorting to the ‘bottom of a well’ layers of reverb a lot of bands use to cover for lackluster riffs. The production here sounds very natural, meaning the band achieves the sense of dread that permeates the album much more organically. The riffs on Appalling Ascension sound fucking evil because they are fucking evil.”

 

Honorable Mention

Ashenspire – Speak Not of the Laudanum Quandary

From my review of the record:

“Even though Ashenspire is working with familiar elements on Speak Not of the Laudanum Quandary, the end result is really unlike anything I’ve heard before, to the point where listening to the album is almost a synesthetic experience – through the music, I can practically feel the chill of an evening fog on my skin or smell the sickness in the air in the dens of ill-repute.”

Au Champ Des Morts – Dans la joie

The debut full-length from French black metallers Au Champ Des Morts is a perfect distillation of everything I love about that country’s take on the genre: highly melodic yet capable of ferocity when necessary and almost cinematic in its scope. The band is particularly good in their use of shifting dynamics to create drama and tension in each song. This is really solid stuff.

 

Black Anvil – As Was

From my review of the record:

“As Was is a record that rewards patience. I didn’t quite know what to make of a lot of it after the first or even second listen, but enough bits of riffs or snippets of melodies would get stuck in my head to keep bringing be back to spin it again, to the point where I now think it’s probably the best thing they’ve ever done. It’s also one of the more unique black metal records that’s likely to come out this year.”

The Drip – The Haunting Fear of Inevitability

From my review of the record:

“The upside of slowing down the tempos a bit is that the riffs are a lot more discernable, and there are a ton of great ones on this one, from the syncopated stop-start riffing of opener “Blackest Invocation” to the deathgrind of “Gruesome Poetics” to the dissonance of my favorite track on the album, “Covered in Red.” There’s also enough variation from track to track that the album isn’t one long blur of distortion and blasts; there was clearly some care taken in the songwriting here to make sure that each track is distinct enough to stand on its own. Joel Grind’s production also deserves a mention. Everything sounds fantastic – particularly the drums, which isn’t always the case with grind.”

The Flight of Sleipnir – Skadi

I have a soft spot for bands that don’t fit neatly into one genre, so The Flight of Slepinir’s blackened folk/doom is totally in my wheelhouse. Most Indy metalheads probably know of The Flight of Sleipnir because of the split they did with local heroes Apostle of Solitude.

Here’s what Chris had to say about it:

“[…] each instrument still bends over backward to accommodate every style shift on display. The guitar ranges from acoustic strums to hazy tremolo picking and occasional doom chords, the drums deliver a mix of tribal beats, slow motion blasts and waltz tempos, and the vocals are largely delivered with a drowned out shriek with occasional layer chanting. With the exception of “Voices” serving as a mellow instrumental, each song gradually oozes through its movements like some kind of blackened doom Opeth.”

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