Don’t Miss This! Vol. 2
Before returning to the crypt, our undead friend Stockhausen clasped my shoulder, sat me down, and said, “W., it’s your job now to carry on the legacy of ‘Don’t Miss This!’ The people must know. Do not fail me in this, or my undying vengeance will unleash the manifold curses of Hamunaptra upon you.” I quickly acquiesced before sealing his corpse within the catacombs.
So, in compliance with Stockhausen’s latest dying wish, I’m here to bring you the latest edition of “Don’t Miss This!” I get it. You’ve had a busy year. Some of you are grown men and women with jobs and young humans and other distractions. Music isn’t always your top priority. That’s where the zombie composer’s wishes come into play. As long as you stay on top of the editions of “Don’t Miss This,” we’re certain that the really good music of 2014 won’t slip under your nose. So put on your best comfy shorts and hiking boots, because we’re about to go on an expedition into metal albums you might have missed.
I’ve wanted to write about this band for quite some time, but that bum Jack Bauer kept telling me he was going to cover them. But then he didn’t, so here I am left holding the bag like some fool after a night of snipe hunting. But I’ll be his fool no more. Ageless Oblivion’s album Penthos is easily one of my favorite death metal releases of 2014. Straddling the line somewhere between the more reserved quadrants of tech death and the less skronky side of dissonant death, Penthos is an icy slab of cutting edge, proggy death metal. Each song has a unique character and style all its own, from the surging fiery hatred of “Furnace” to the arctic melancholy of “Glacial Blood.” However, what stood out most to me on this album was the emotional heft at display amid all the compositional proficiency. This is expertly crafted death metal with a very human heart at its core. Standout track “Where Wasps Now Nest” is brooding, pummeling, and vulnerable all in the course of one track. If you like heady death metal with emotional resonance, make sure you don’t sleep on Ageless Oblivion.
If Ageless Oblivion is an expressionist painter using light and shadow to capture a dynamic range of human thought and emotion, Plebeian Grandstand is an irate troglodyte using his own fecal matter to finger paint on your corpse. This is brutal, ugly crust infused with faulty genes from the death and black metal family trees. Rampaging blasts and tormented shrieks give way to claustrophobic swaths of reverberating distortion that coalesce and choke you like a noxious fume. If you enjoy being bludgeoned by your music, this is a perfect choice. Listening to Lowgazers conjures an image of being dragged into the murky water of the New York sewers and drowned while the Flukeman feeds on your blood. Brutal, nasty, and utterly enthralling.
Morphinist are still a bit of a mystery to me, but I’m glad to have peered behind the shroud to take in The Euphoria Session. This album gestated in 2013 but didn’t reach unholy completion until earlier this year. The brainchild of Argwohn, The Euphoria Session is a further glimpse into the pain and ecstasy of the human condition, and this voyage across perilous peaks and daunting troughs is an engaging and emotive experience. You could argue that the term “atmospheric” is overused in black metal today, but the term is most definitely applicable here. There’s a human element at work here that invites you in and engulfs you in the divine drama of life itself. But don’t worry, there is still plenty of heavy on display.
2014 has been a stellar year for extreme music, but unfortunately this next selection seems to have been tragically overlooked by many. There has been no dearth of quality black metal this year, but I’d like to draw your attention to one more unholy album. If you haven’t yet explored the labyrinthine, sprawling expanse of Schammasch’s arcane testament Contradiction, hesitate no longer! Although the word “epic” is another one of those terms flaunted too flagrantly today, if ever an album was worthy of the appellation, it is Contradiction. Building upon the cornerstone of monumental black metal established by the likes of Keep of Kalessin, Schammasch carry on the tradition with an exploration of occult and mystical themes woven together in a rich tapestry of searing black metal, delicate acoustic passages, and Eastern modes. This album is a thrilling ride from start to finish, commanding your attention for the entire duration of this two disc affair. Submit to the glory of these Swiss black metal maestros.
I almost missed this release last week. I initially skipped over it because, in my folly, I believed the name belonged to a wanky tech death band or just another slam unit, although I should have been tipped off to its excellence by the mention of the band’s label, Willowtip. Oh, how wrong I was! Forgive me, Archbauer. Continuum of Absence is dissonant death metal cranked up until the crushing notes register beyond the Richter scale. This music is pulverizing, jarring, and demanding, loaded with syncopation and off-kilter riffs. If I had to compare Ingurgitating Oblivion to anyone, it would be Gorguts’s Obscura-era violence and incongruity. This release is more challenging than the music espoused by label-mates Baring Teeth, but I promise the release is worth a listen. Just be prepared to give it multiple spins; it’s a grower, not a shower. Once you’ve grasped it, however, you’ll attain enlightenment.
Don’t Miss This! is an ongoing feature where each of the ToH writers explores a few releases you may have missed this year.