As you probably know, part of our year-end LISTMANIA series involves re-posting year-end lists of the best metal releases as selected by what I call “big platform” web sites and print zines, i.e., publications that reach numbers of readers vastly in excess of those reached by sites like ours that are more exclusively focused on metal, and in our case the more extreme variants of the genre.
In recent days Stereogum posted its list of “The Best 50 Albums of 2016“. This isn’t a “metal only” list. It’s an impossible comparison of apples to oranges, identifying and ranking albums across a wide range of musical genres. I suppose in that respect it’s like the musical equivalent of the Westminster Dog Show.
As part of our annual NCS LISTMANIA extravaganza we re-publish lists of the year’s best metal that appear on web sites that appeal to vastly larger numbers of readers than we do — not because those readers or the writers have better taste in metal than our community does, but more from a morbid curiosity about what the great unwashed masses are being told is best for them. It’s like opening a window that affords an insight into the way the rest of the world outside our own disease-ridden nooks and crannies perceives the music that is our daily sustenance.
One of those sites is PopMatters. It has been in existence since 1999. In its own words the site “is an international magazine of cultural criticism and analysis” with a scope that “is broadly cast on all things pop culture”, including “music, television, films, books, video games, sports, theatre, the visual arts, travel, and the Internet”. PopMatters boasts an audience of “over 1.4 million unique monthly readers”.
Today is the release date for Incantations Inciting Demise, the debut EP by an anonymous black metal collaborative who have adopted the name Thy Sepulchral Moon. Encompassing five aural “spells”, it’s being released by Signal Rex on black cassette, limited to 66 hand-numbered copies. We give you the opportunity to become ensorceled by them through our premiere of a complete stream of the EP.
I should warn you that these aren’t the kind of spells you might first imagine. They aren’t hypnotic or entrancing in any conventional sense. But for those interested in entering an adrenaline-charged fugue state brought on by unrelenting chaos and bestial violence, they do have their charms.
(Here’s Andy Synn’s review of the new album by Dischordia from Oklahoma City.)
As I’m currently sifting through all the various releases from this year’s crop, in preparation for my annual list-stravaganza, I’ve been able to pick out a few trends and patterns which have developed over the last twelve months.
One in particular has stood out – just how much good Death Metal, both from established names and underground upstarts, that’s been released in 2016.
And that includes Thanatopsis, the second album by Oklahoma triumvirate Dischordia.
Last month we premiered a song from the debut EP Döda Vägar by the mysterious Swedish band Mylingar. At that time I decided to defer my thoughts about the EP as a whole, with the idea of completing a review closer to the release date. That’s one plan I managed to complete, and just in the nick of time, because the EP is being released today by Amor Fati Productions and can now be heard in full.
The music on the EP is a nightmarish hybrid of black and death metal that seems designed with the objective of inflicting torment and terror on a thermonuclear scale. It ignites one violent hurricane of hate after another, each song ravaging the listener’s head with horrendous and even stupefying power. The effect is to produce the kind of adrenaline surge in the listener that I imagine is akin to a near-death experience in a midnight war zone, where you’re surrounded by combatants that aren’t fully human.
As a genre term, “technical death metal” covers a lot of ground. It’s applied to bands ranging from Suffocation to Spawn of Possession, from Cryptopsy to Atheist, from Decapitated to Behold the Arctopus. It has been applied to the band whose new song we’re premiering in this post, but despite the broad landscape of sounds the term has come to encompass, the music of The Replicate still seems out on the fringe of the territory — if it hasn’t crossed over into a new and strange frontier altogether, at least compared to the modern drawing of the boundary lines.
The Replicate is the solo project of an Indian musician named Sandesh Nagaraj. Before moving to Los Angeles where he now lives, Nagaraj was a member of other extreme metal bands in his native land over a decades-long life in music, including Myndsnare, Extinct Reflections, and Stranglehold. On The Replicate’s debut EP A Selfish Dream, he is accompanied by drummer Ray Rojo as well as a trio of vocalists and other “cunning pals”. But Nagaraj is a damned cunning ringleader himself.
Lots of people are starting to make year-end lists, and we’re continuing to gear up for our own LISTMANIA extravaganza (we invited our readers to begin sharing their lists here earlier today), but time hasn’t stood still for all that: New songs and new albums continue to roll out, and I continue to make lists of what I come across.
Here are new songs from seven bands among the many that grabbed me over the last week. I decided to use a different title for this collection than the usual “Seen and Heard” heading, for reasons that will become evident as you listen.
Aksaya are a French band whose new album Kepler will be co-released by Satanath Records (Russia), More Hate Productions (Russia), and The Ritual Productions (The Netherlands) on December 15. Two songs are now available for listening, the first of which is a free download at Bandcamp: “Anomalie, Prélude À La Découverte” and “Non Morietur”.
(We welcome back our guest writer Lonegoat, the Texas-based necroclassical pianist behind Goatcraft, whose latest album Yersinia Pestis was released earlier this year by I, Voidhanger.)
I’ve decided to feature one of my favorite symphonies for my second entry for No Clean Singing. It is metal as far as spirit is concerned, which I will attempt to delineate here. My next entry will be about an actual metal release, so you won’t have to worry about me spamming classical music at everybody here all of the time. I will first talk about Bruckner-the-man before Bruckner-the-composer.
Of Bruckner’s numerous quirks, what struck most people as odd was his obsession with death. He kept a photo of his mother’s corpse, and when Beethoven and Schubert’s graves were exhumed for their remains to be relocated, Bruckner was there to fondle their skulls. Nobody’s quite sure why he was infatuated with death so much, but his music might shed an insight on it, as it often goes from heavenly beauty to demonic predation. Other than this macabre quirk, he would also propose to teenage girls/young women, even while he was elderly. Most men are attracted to younger women so this isn’t that bizarre.
Let’s have a show of hands: How many of you are fans of Stanley Kubrick’s film Full Metal Jacket? Well, quite a lot of you, though I can’t say I’m surprised. Now, raise your hand if you remember the name that Private Gomer Pyle gave his M14 rifle, the one he ultimately used as the instrument of his own destruction. Not quite as many… but those of you who remembered “Charlene” got it right.
The band whose debut EP we’re premiering today remember it, too — the name they chose for themselves, Charlene Beretah, is a tribute to that movie. And their music turns out to be just as dark, depraved, and depressive. In fact, the EP’s name is Depraved / A Very Long Week, which combines the names of the two songs you’ll find there.
We’re now beginning the final month of 2016, and you know what that means: Now begins the final countdown to the end of the year (and the strengthening onslaught of the annual holiday season). In the world of metal, this month we’ll also start seeing more and more lists of the year’s best releases.
Back in 2009, when this site was just a few days old, I wrote a post about year-end lists and why people bother with them. The best reason still seems to be this: Reading someone else’s list of the albums they thought were best is a good way to discover music you missed and might like.
We don’t do an “official” NCS year-end “best albums” list. However, we publish the picks of each of our regular staff writers as well as a large group of guest writers (which we’ll start doing later this month). Every year we also invite our readers to share their lists and we’re doing that again right here, right now.