2015 Second Quarter Review: The Top 5 Albums From Around The Bowl
“Did I request thee, Maker, from my clay
To mould me Man, did I solicit thee
From darkness to promote me?”
John Milton’s Paradise Lost / Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein
We have been down this road before, and the Toilet Ov Hell ain’t playing this year.
Pyrrhon | Growth Without End
Handshake, Inc. | June 2nd, 2015
On Growth Without End, Pyrrhon filter the vile and menace of The Mother of Virtues through five tracks on an almost punk-like EP. The band traded their exacting writing process for levity. While the nauseating noise rock is still there, extended passages of it have been replaced by sprints of Botch-esque math. The lyrics cover a range of topics through the omnipresent cancerous theme: Alan Turing, mental illness, and how misinformation spreads on the Internet are all present. In fifteen minutes, Pyrrhon have done better than many bands do in their whole careers. The only drawback of Growth Without End is the wait we’ll have to suffer while they write their next leap into the future. Stab here in case you missed Toilet Ov Hell’s interview with vocalist Doug Moore.
Blurring | Blurring
Handshake, Inc. | April 28th, 2015
Celtic Frosty prepped us for Blurring earlier this year, but this isn’t exactly a thing you can be prepared for. Musically, this is blood soaked carnage. It’s pressing your limbs against an industrial sander with diamond grains. It’s being struck over and over and over with canned goods a la Killer Joe – you just want it to end (in the best possible way). Blurring is street level violence, and song titles like “The Devil I Know”, “Rape Van”, and “Uco’s Got A Gun” point at a society completely lost and corrupted. Is it any surprise that a band with members whose pedigrees include Brutal Truth, Anthrax, Saluco, and Sick Of It All would release one of 2015’s filthiest grind records?
Genocide Shrines – Manipura Imperial Deathevokovil (Scriptures Of Reversed Puraana Dharmurder)
Vault of Dried Bones | March 16th, 2015
Did you miss Simon Phoenix’s brief but stellar review of Genocide Shrines’ latest offering? For shame. I missed this record’s release in March, but it leaped into a place here the first time I played it. If Blurring is street level violence, then Manipura Imperial Deathevokovil is the very essence of violence manifested in reality. A military drum brings anti-Dharmic tidings of war on the intro “Pillar 1 (Deimetrical Satanic Dasayoga)”. Growled vocals come straight from a Sri Lankan purgatory. Respite from the guitar and drum battering comes in the form of audio sampled sexual assault. This is serious shit. As Simon pointed out, this black/death amalgamation is littered with melodies like casualties; for my money, it’s the intro to “Hurl Burning Spears To Exhume The Raavanic Throne Of Sivvhela Retaliation”.
The Vomit Arsonist | Only Red
Malignant Records | June 17th, 2015
My fandom of The Vomit Arsonist is a product of this very site, and Only Red has been one of my most anticipated albums of 2015. Only Red doesn’t explode so much as it broods. Wanton destruction is replaced with frustration, anxiety, and disappointment. It’s moody and deliberate. A slow steady pace combines with its architect’s psyche laid bare. Only Red’s construction and structure is leaps ahead of most albums in the broad noise family. Everything is tightly controlled, nothing seems missed or out of place. The vocal work is raw and pained. It matches the atmosphere perfectly. I agree with our pal Christian – this is The Vomit Arsonist’s finest moment. You can read his full review of Only Red on the Toilet Ov Hell here.
False | Untitled
Gilead Media | June 16th, 2015
What’s in a name? On their new album Untitled, False prefer to let their music do the talking. What they have to say might surprise you: one of the finest black metal records released in 2015 comes from the state of Minnesota. False run through nearly an hour of music in five expansive tracks. The trademarks of black metal are here: lightning fast tremolo picking, blast beats, and almost constant growls from Rachel, the band’s vocalist. False also pile on memorable riffs when they slow things down, but don’t expect them to slow down often. Their playing is complex without ever straying too far from black metal’s orthodoxy. The production here does stand outside tradition. This record is presented masterfully. Each growl, string, drum, and strike on the keys can be heard. Many of my favorite albums this year have been around thirty minutes, or less. Untitled kept me at rapt attention for an hour, and the finale of “Hedgecraft” left me speechless.
Katatonia – Sanctitude
Kscope – March 30th, 2015
Even when it’s a live recording, Katatonia’s Sanctitude is truly an experience to revive over and over. It’s incredible sensitive, it’s delicate, fragile, yet full of soul. This acoustic side of the band is growing more as a new form of expression to the moving aspect of their music. You don’t hear intromissions here, it’s just the band playing this acoustic set, with the guitars gently moving the breeze, the percussion carrying the heaviness and the shaking sincerity on the voice of Jonas Renkse; all these elements made this a delightful moment. Colors: blue, black, gray, white.
Monolord – Vænir
Riding Easy Records – April 28, 2015
Aside from the devastating production in which the guitars and the bass compliments as bombs of annihilation, I think last Monolord record, Vænir, must be the weird record in the stellar lineup of doom metal this year. Meanwhile the other bands use the usual guideline of esoteric or drug use themes, Monolord brings once again the word Doom into their overall aesthetic. The echoing vocals makes you float in the nothingness, and the gigantic riffing reminds how little we are. The only hope with this post-apocalyptic journey comes in The Cosmic Silence. Colors: black, white, red.
The epicness in power metal returns once again to the glory days; this is been a year in which the iconic genre of fantasy shines since centuries of slumber. Norwegian band Guardian of Time carry the torch with the might of Rage and Fire. This is an offering to the speed and the soaring vocals; this is a record for bloodthirst warriors that are guided by honor, yet fight until the end. The drumming in Rage and Fire is superb, it pushes the speed and the punching chorus, guiding the riffs and the solos to victory. A good, pumpíng, energetic album that doesn’t loss the melodies for the sake of speed. Colors: red, burgundy, yellow, green.
Pyramaze – Disciples of the Sun
Inner Wound Recording – May 26, 2015
In the melodic reflection of the Power Metal a lot of bands are fighting to get recognized. In this case, Pyramaze have a beast that slayed them all with precise songwriting and energetic sentiments called Disciples of the Sun. With a new vocalist, this band is conquering the skies over a exquisite base made of keyboards to paint textures and piercing melodic riffing. Terje’s voice really shines in the catchiness of the elevated choruses (and even in the most aggresive takes) and the band push the uplifting atmosphere acting as an unit prepared to fly away. Colors: orange, yellow, green, white.
Paradise Lost – The Plague Within
Century Media Records – June 1st, 2015
The Shadowkings finally return to their doom coffin. The recent ventures of Old Nick and Greg Mackintosh in the oozing waters of the death revivalist cults have re-teached them a pair of old tricks. The Plague Within is not an strict doom/death album, it’s a recollection of every organ and flesh that is Paradise Lost. Along the music, the thematic concept on this record is the culmination of the entire career of the english gentlemen: chorus, melodies, sentiment, melancholia, desperation, orchestras; even some light in the darkness based on reconciliation. This is the definite Paradise Lost album. Colors: brown, black, grey, blue.
I’ll go ahead and call this the best stoner sludge release of the year so far. This record is nothing short of spectacular, and is one of those LPs I don’t need to be in the mood for. Whenever I press play, I get in the mood. The strings are gnarly, producing the thickest guitar and bass tone I’ve heard in 2015; despite all the girth and rumbling low end, the higher frequencies shine through in the form of incendiary licks and solos. The vitriolic vocals are as vile as the filthy lyrics. A lot of the violence and negativity in metal music feels contrived or forced. This is not the case here. Listen to “Scum Fuck Blues”. It’s all you need. It takes balls to name your band after Electric Wizard‘s best album, and Dopethrone’s music more than backs it up.
A$AP Rocky – At.Long.Last.A$AP
RCA Records | May 26, 2015
I’ve been following the A$AP crew since the video for Purple Swag dropped four years ago. This year, the most famous member of the crew released the best record of his young career so far. Cohesive in a way that most rap LPs are not, ALLA delivers a wide variety of sounds and emotions connected by overarching themes of lysergic experimentation, love, sex, money and their perils. The best rap to come out in 2015 are all blends of old and new. This album is no different, dichotomic in the sense that what’s old in age is new for Rocky – like the 60s psychedelic music that permeates a lot of ALLA, mashed together with his previous palette of influences, like Houston rap. Any record that features a Pimp C verse is guaranteed to make me smile.
Strangely alluring record, this one. Listening to it for the first time made me feel the same way I felt when I first pressed play on My War. Its driving, almost stubborn songs are perfectly coupled with lyrics and vocal delivery filled with some sort of angst or anguish I can only describe as psychiatric. As I type these words I realize that this could have been a terribly annoying record, but thanks to the Steve Albini production and the band’s stellar songwriting it becomes an intense foray into recurring conflicts and feelings of our modern lives. I guess I see bits of myself in Success‘ name, cover and sound. Doesn’t he look on the verge of entering Kill Everyone Now Mode?
High On Fire – Luminiferous
E1 Music | June 16, 2015
Another stellar effort from the High On Fire camp. Everyone and their mother’s are saying this, and I have to agree: this is the most dynamic record the Oakland trio has ever put out, a welcome change of pace for the band and for Kurt Ballou as well. Please, don’t get me wrong. This doesn’t mean HoF has lost its punch nor its heaviness. What it means is that instead of bludgeoning to death at different speeds from start to finish, like De Vermis Mysteriis did, they now lick you up before mauling with fury like a predator savouring a hearty meal. The greatest example of this method comes at the end of the album when the introspective “The Cave” is followed by the title track and “The Lethal Chamber”, two of the hardest hitting tracks in the LP.
The world needs anthems. Tau Cross provides plenty in their s/t debut. From the bells that ring on “Lazarus” to the last acoustic plucks of “The Devil Knows His Own”, urgency weighs heavily on every moment of the album. If there was ever a line-up capable of carrying such burden, it’s this. I mean, excuse my Amebix fanboyism but it just feels great to hear The Baron’s gravely voice again. Away (of Voivod) behind the kit definitely does not hurt. Albeit lesser known, both guitarists prove more than capable of hanging around the other guys – the solos are epic and tasteful, the riffs will make you pump your fists as you sing along to the extremely catchy choruses. What more could you ask for?
House of Atreus | The Spear and the Ichor That Follows
Dark Descent Records | May 5th, 2015
How is it that songs about torture, murder, and overall historical decadence come off as completely upbeat and triumphant? Well, when you’re Minnesota quartet House of Atreus, you have the knowledge of the darker corners of history and the skills to craft the sweet riffs to back it up. One of two bands on this list that made a fantastic EP and have now blown this criminal maniac’s mind with their full-length followup. The first meaty riff that opens “Trenches of Fortune” already lets you know what you’re in for; a record that takes nearly ever melodic death metal record of the past few years and stomps them into the pavement with a refreshing sense of energy and much greater mastery of melodic riffs and solos for days. Two tracks from the demo were rerecorded for this release and of the two “The River Black” shows the band’s exponential improvement in the mixing department. The albums pristine production gives this song a boost in utter menace and makes it the perfect track to close off this nine song riff-fest.
Genocide Shrines – Manipura Imperial Deathevokovil (Scriptures Of Reversed Puraana Dharmurder)
Vault of Dried Bones | March 16th, 2015
Genocide Shrines. What can I say about this album that I already haven’t in my mini-review? Well other than being one of the most vicious and unrelenting albums I’ve heard in some time, Genocide Shrines have taken the atmosphere they had on their EP and expanded upon it in great numbers here, both in the production and in the songwriting. Diocletian and Sarcocurse expanded upon the war metal template by employing clear production that doesn’t impede on their raw audio violence. Genocide Shrines went in the opposite direction and got even filthier. You can practically feel the grime seeping into your ears as they are pummeled to nothing. Nowhere is this more evident than mid point 6+ minute track “Hurl Burning Spears To Exhume The Raavanic Throne Of Sivvhela Retaliation” Even though it crawls at a much slower pace compared to the chaos of the rest of the record, the grime ridden intensity remains the same. In fact the slower tempo that prevails over most of the song allows you to hear the riffs and also allows vocalist Tridenterrorcult to crush your very being. Buy this album now and be consumed.
Sacral Rage | Illusions in Infinite Void
Cruz del Sur Music | March 20th, 2015
The past couple of years have seen a great resurgence in traditional metal played by eager young bucks who have worn out all of their copies of Cirith Ungol’s King of the Dead and can likely play every note off of Melissa with their eyes. Greece’s Sacral Rage have very quickly climbed to the top of the hill of modern Trad-metal goodness. Their infectious blend of hook heavy trad and speed metal is accented with a slight proggy touch that doesn’t come off as hokey or mere showiness. Opener “En Cima Del Mal” fires off with both guns blazing on some speed metal goodness as front-man Dimitris. K screams his heart out about ancient technology and magic, sounding like a cross between John Cyriis and Midnight of Crimson Glory. Then the song slows down for some sweet, spidery chords. The rest of the album follows this pattern sometimes coming with the heaviness (“A Tyrannical Revolt”), other times letting the fret flag fly freely (“Waltz in Madness”). If you are looking for metal that doesn’t rely on blasting endlessly or ridiculous overdone noodling but instead just want to headbang violently, you have many choices to choose from, but I highly recommend putting Illusions in Infinite Void at the top of the list.
Embrace of Thorns | Darkness Impenetrable
Nuclear War Now! | April 30th, 2015
War metal seems to be on a grand up-rise within the past two to three years. While Genocide Shrines goes further into the muck that would make Sacrofago and Revenge proud, Greek quintet Embrace of Thorns follow the path established by the aforementioned Diocletian and Sacrocurse by adding more pristine production and generous helpings of pure creepiness to their template. This combined with a lineup change makes for a slightly different sounding outfit than the one that made Pray for Absolution. The raw goatkulthailsatan mentality still remains, but now there is a more ghastly undercurrent to it. I really can’t imagine a song like “Sons of Fire and Brimstone Levitate” fitting on previous albums, but it works just fine here and has no issue with crushing poser skulls any more than their old songs. Like with Genocide Shrines, I am eager to see which direction Embrace decides to take war metal with future endeavors, but for now get on this ode to absolute carnage. Side note: Its interesting that two of the bands on my list are not only from Greece but are connected to one another (Embrace drummer Nuctemeron Bestial Ravisher of the Divine Harmony also drums for Sacral Rage.)
Shape of Despair | Monotony Fields
Season of Mist | June 16th, 2015
Talk about out of nowhere. Shape of Despair was the first funeral doom band I ever listened to, and to this day remains my favorite band in the hallowed subgenre. That’s right, I like SoD more than Skepticism, Esoteric, and the like. So when I heard they were finally releasing a new album eleven years after the fantastic Illusion’s Play, I was delighted to the point that I released the rich family that I was holding hostage at the time for millions of dollars with no prejudice. Sitting down and listening to this behemoth, you’ll notice right away that the band hasn’t skipped a beat. The only real difference is that current vocalist Henri Koivula has a deeper more unearthly growl and enunciates less than former front-man Pasi Koskinen. Otherwise it’s every bit as melancholy and crushing as their earlier work, and still has a healthy dose of melody blended into the collection of iron weight level riffs. SoD has always had that balance between absolute nothingness and fleeting hope that helps them stand out from amongst the glut of funeral doom brethren. Part of this is because of the chords; another reason is the haunting wails of Natalie Koskinen that complements Koivula’s roar so well. Great evidence of this can be heard in 10 plus minute opener “Reaching the Innermost” or on personal favorite, the album closer “Written in My Scars” which was expertly re-recorded from the 2011 EP of the same name and brought to absolutely majestic levels with a bigger production and more bells and whistles. Will this top the band’s classic 2001 full-length Angels of Distress? Time will tell, but for now this record shall inhabit my music player for quite some time and needs to be heard by anyone who truly wishes to feel the void.
We told you a couple weeks ago to Get Prep’d for the new Czarface album. If you have reservations about listening to hip hop then cast them aside just this one time and give Every Hero Needs A Villain a spin. MCs Inspecta Deck (of the Wu Tang Clan) and Esoteric do not fall into the stereotypical hip hop trappings. There’s no talk here of dick size, the rims on the cars, sexual escapades with women and how much money they flaunt. What you have here are two rappers just shooting the shit over some phenomenal beats provided by producer 7L. Plainly put, this album is fun. You can get smacked in the face real hard five times and the person who did it still won’t be able to wipe the smile off your face because the enjoyment this album brings is second to none. There’s a ton of samples over the beats that range from wrestlers talking shit to sports commentators to old superhero cartoons that are littered throughout the album’s 15 tracks. Furthermore Inspecta Deck and Esoteric waste no time getting down to business. Instead of running their mouths for the opening of a track, they introduce the beat and get right to it, keeping the song lengths reasonable. The only song that runs long is “Escape From Czarkham Asylum” which is 8+ minutes of Inspecta Deck and Esoteric trading off verses like Jeff Hanneman and Kerry King playing solos while 7L switches up the beats. It’s a tour de force of lyrical word play that is non stop entertainment. And check this list of guest spots – Method Man, Meyhem Lauren, MF Doom, Large Professor, Juju of the Beatnuts, GZA and R.A. The Rugged Man. All of them shine on the tracks they appear on. I’ll ask you again one last time while quoting Dudley Moore from the movie Arthur – “Isn’t fun the best thing to have?” If you are puzzled by what the answer to that question is then just quietly walk away with your head down.
To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much from the new Maruta album based on the tracks that were advertised prior to release. I knew it would be good and instead of just being good they made this album a highlight reel of all the things that make them a joy to listen to. When expectations are far exceeded it causes one to take note. This is by far Maruta’s best album as they bombard you with their freshly minted style of skronky death grind. At times they are clearly channeling Discordance Axis‘ The Inalienable Dreamless while simultaneously infusing the catchy riff arrangements that make the Pig Destroyer fans go crazy. And to top it all off, there’s guest appearances from Tomas Lindburg of At The Gates and the aforementioned Pig Destroyer’s J.R. Hayes, who make their presence felt on the tracks they appear on. The dichotomy of the vocal arrangements propel Remain Dystopian to new heights as they seem to know exactly when to abandon death metal growls in favor of high pitched screams. It’s a delicate balancing act that Maruta goes back and forth on without tipping the scales in favor of one side of the seesaw. This one just rips through you like a surgeon’s freshly sharpened scalpel and the cuts are so deep that stitches aren’t enough to sew up the wound.
Mike Patton and company return after a seventeen year hiatus to deliver an album that only Faith No More could deliver. This album could’ve followed up 1997’s Album Of The Year a few years later and the result would’ve been the same. And that’s the beauty of a band like FNM, they transcend time because they play in their own sandbox. Their music doesn’t have to cater to current trends, they can just go out there and do their thing. Perhaps the most rewarding aspect of this album is that it doesn’t grab you initially but the more you listen to it, the more it grows on you. Albums that do that tend to have a lasting effect and Sol Invictus is one of those albums. Despite the long wait, I don’t think you’ll find too many FNM fans that would say it wasn’t worth it.
If the year were to end today, Rust would be the album of the year for me. It’s a near perfect album that is enjoyable throughout with no filler. Sure it’s beatdown hardcore at the heart of it all but there’s enough experimentation and innovation here to take it outside of that realm.The recording is a jaw dropping achievement in audio as the buzzaw guitars sound like the blades are made of diamonds, the drums and bass fortify a mammoth sounding rhythm section that punches right through you at every turn. The vocal performance seethes with rage and serves to amplify the intense moments that are provided by the supporting cast. There are elements of Godflesh that are used tactfully but never overtake the viciousness that the album prides itself on. Repeated listens reveal clever nuances sprinkled throughout that tie everything together. For example, the album opener “Infestation” features a chug-style breakdown towards the end of the song. Where most bands would’ve let it play out in typical hardcore fashion, Harms Way choose to add in some clever use of feedback and sound effects to give it some extra flavor. Its attention to detail like this that you’ll hear on every track and it makes for a very gratifying listening experience. Harms Way show you that this is not amateur hour, this here is the work of professionals who have finely honed their craft.
Will Haven get unfairly pigeon holed as a hardcore band quite a bit and while that’s the demographic that typically enjoys them, there’s a fair amount of sludge and some industrial elements within their sound. Open The Mind To Discomfort is an EP that turns out to be a perfect format for Will Haven as their full lengths tend to have some throw away tracks that diminish the quality of their albums. Permeating throughout is a layer of atmospheric fog that hangs around each track that serves as a nice aesthetic to compliment the aggressive nature of the songs. Although the EP is paced at a rhythmic pounding in which the tempos do not change much, the songs are crafted in a way that steers clear of repetition and keeps you engaged. It’s a difficult balance to pull off yet Will Haven succeed in hypnotizing you into a head nodding trance.
Cover image via