TovH’s Missed Connections 2019
It’s the Year of Our Lord 2020. We’re officially living in a post-Blade Runner timeline, but without hammy Dutch cyborgs or flying cop cars (although we do have the environmental devastation, so partial credit). With the “Best of” season behind us, it’s appropriate to take some time to appreciate those albums that, although not our favorites from last year, should have received more attention.
Not every album can or should be the best of a given year. But when you’re up against Blood-fucking-Incantation, it can be hard for a band to make the kind of impact they deserve. As such, we present to you some of our writers’ picks for 2019 albums that, whether due to experimentation, consistency, or devotion to craft should have gotten more notice last year.
Twin Victim Recordings | September 1, 2019
Looking at the art design of the album, what would you say this is? Looks to me a lot like forgettable second-wave worship by one of those one-man projects. But while the latter is correct, I would ask you to forget the former assumption right quick and give this a go. You’re in for some very carefully crafted melodic black metal that knows how to surprise and delight again and again. The opening riff should do its part to hook you and hopefully make you stick around to discover some interesting twists and turns in the song structure. Or take “Vampiric Ascension,” which explores mid-tempo ranges before taking you by the hand and soaring off into the skies. Or the jaunty melody of “Eternal Northern Call,” which transforms and comes back at the end of the song. Or the rollicking stroll of the verses in “Possessed by Strength,” or… you get the idea. It’s just damn good.
Lord ov Bork
I, Voidhanger Records | May 24, 2019
There aren’t a ton of records that can claim to radically change the way I think about metal as a whole. Onkos‘ self titled is one of them. Consisting only of layered acoustic guitars, Afro-Cuban percussion, growled vocals, and the rare atmospheric synth, this SF-area band have created something that is entirely its own. Although signed to a metal label and clearly approaching their music from a metal context, the instrumentation, melodies, and rhythms are a singular creation. While non-Western percussion often goes into creating a “tribal” sound (see: Neurosis, Sepultura), here they form the bedrock of the sound, rather than an exotic instrument brought in to provide color. Songs built around shifting, hypnotic chekeré rhythms are punctured by harsh vocals that provide incredibly unique counterpoint to the acoustic instrumentation. Although Onkos didn’t make my Best of 2019 list, it’s the album I’ve found myself returning to the most so far in 2020. Dive in with the propulsive “Hematic” and try not to get dragged down into the depths.
Black Metal Porkins
Янтарные Слезы (Amber Tears) – Когда Нет Троп (When No Trails)
BadMoodMan Music | March 29, 2019
Early Katatonia and My Dying Bride hold a special place in my heart. The way they took relatively simple melodies and wrung every ounce of soul-crushing sorrow out of each note remains a glory to behold. Whenever I hear a new band take up this mantle, I take note. You probably know where I’m going with this. Russian “pagan doom death” band Янтарные Слезы is just such a band. Like the masters before them, Янтарные Слезы is extremely gifted in evoking grief and intense longing through lightly distorted leads phrasing the phuck out of every melody in sight. The tracks move forward with purpose, evolving through each passage while remaining rooted in the main melodic motif of the song. To boot, the production is top notch, with fullness balanced by requisite space for each instrument. If you like this style of doom, give it a spin or five. You won’t be disappointed.
Tvar – Tvar
Independent | May 16, 2019
Based in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Tvar is a young black metal band, who released their first EP in 2019. Ukraine, of course, is home to many great — and sadly, some unsavory — black metal acts, but Tvar don’t quite play traditional black metal, instead throwing in some sludge metal and hardcore punk elements and pulling off this mix nicely. The vocals remind me of Totem Skin, and by extension also Dödsrit; the drumming is quite solid; and the production quality is on the higher side for an independent release. If you’ve read stuff from me in the past, you know, that I’m a sucker for good atmosphere, and Tvar definitely conjure up a nice storm of darkness. These guys deserve more support; give them a try.
Dystopia – Dystopia (Re-Issue)
Tank Crimes | April 19 2019
Dystopia (as defined by Merriam-Webster being Metal af here): an imagined world or society in which people lead wretched, dehumanized, fearful lives. For this band, “imagined” was firmly crossed out. Negativity had a good run in the Nineties with Neurosis and Eyehategod alone – but their squat-playing peers in Dystopia, whose meandering basslines, quieter (still anxiety-riddled) parts, their HC/PV/Crust backbone, and their palette of abject vocals made them very much their own force. Dystopia also use expectedly dire spoken word-samples quite a bit. This stuff holds up incredibly, even on this, their despondent 2008 swan song. German label Skuld did a vinyl re-issue in November (+ 20 page booklet of collage artwork), whereas Tank Crimes, who host Dystopia’s full discography on Bandcamp since April 2019 (at NYP), released a repress of what most consider to be Dystopia’s chef-d’oeuvre, “Human=Garbage”, on vinyl in September.