This time of year there are always a few people who ask whether I’m going to post my own list of the year’s best releases. Again, the answer is no, because making the effort would be too paralyzing. I have enough trouble deciding whether to wash my underoos or let them ferment for another week.
On the other hand, I do kind of feel left out of the year-end LISTMANIA frenzy, so I thought I’d put together a Top 10 list, but one that’s a bit easier for my overtaxed brain to process. These are the 10 best songs I heard for the first time yesterday.
Hey, don’t laugh! It wasn’t that easy — I listened to more than 20 new songs yesterday, so I did have to make some decisions. Of course, I couldn’t be bothered to rank these 10 tracks; there’s a limit to how far I’m going with this.
The first song is “Faceless Queen of Bloodstained Dreams”, which is from an album I’ve been anxiously awaiting — the second full-length by Norway’s Shaarimoth, which is arriving more than a decade after the first one.
(DGR brings us a dual review of two gloomy albums released in April, by Italy’s Novembre and Sweden’s October Tide.)
The month of April has proven to be rather interesting if you are a fan of a very specific, European-flavored branch of melancholic doom metal. Sometimes referred to as melo-doom — for lack of a better short-term genre-naming — and other times described as being ethereal, this branch has seen something of an explosion in recent years. One of the results has been the re-formation of quite a few acts, and April has brought us releases by two of them, one that has effectively been re-formed for some time and one that is returning after a nine-year hiatus.
Coincidentally, both groups also happen to be named after months themselves, with Novembre releasing their come-back album Ursa on April 1st and October Tide released their third post-revival album, Winged Waltz, on April 22nd. Long story short: If you happen to inhabit the incredibly weird niche of being a fan of the prettier side of doom and also a huge fan of months and stupid coincidences, holy shit was April the month for you.
Last week was another one in which I noticed lots of new songs and videos but didn’t have time to round them up, in part because I was writing about a flood of new songs that we were premiering ourselves. So now I’m doing what I failed to do earlier — but because I waited, the round-up has become jumbo-sized. Consequently, I’ve kept my introductions to the music brief and haven’t taken the time to consistently add album art or links as I usually do. When I did something like this last weekend (except with even fewer words), I said I didn’t intend to make a habit of it. I still don’t.
For those who pay attention to such things, I also failed to post Part 3 of the Shades of Black series I began at the start of the week. But I will do that tomorrow. Now, presented in alphabetical order, here are new songs and videos from 17 bands.
On May 1, Xtreem Music will release the new album by Sweden’s Ashcloud. The album’s title tells you a lot of what you need to know about the music: Children of the Chainsaw. Here’s the title track — smoking, tree-felling, crusty Swedish death metal that’s awfully damned sweet.
It looks like it’s going to be yet another one of those crazy weeks where if we snooze for about 5 minutes we’ll miss the debut of at least 5 new things worth getting excited about. For example, everything in this post appeared in just the last few hours of this Monday morning, except the penultimate one, which erupted like a volcano of dementia last night.
These are all videos. Because I really hadn’t planned on trying to inject a round-up into an already full schedule of posts at our site this morning, I don’t have time to write much about them. Of course, I do recommend you give them your time.
Winged Waltz is the name of the fifth album by these beautifully gloomy Swedes, and it will be released by Agonia Records on April 22. Here is the brand new lyric video for the first advance track from the album — “Sleepless Sun”:
Majalis is one of those “after work” side-projects whose debut release leaves such a powerful impression that one can only hope, fervently, that it continues. It began years ago as a songwriting collaboration between two of In Mourning’s guitarists, Tobias Netzell (ex-October Tide) and Björn Pettersson. Eventually, they enlisted vocalist/bassist Daniel Jansson and drummer Jonas Martinsson and recorded Cathodic Black, an EP released earlier this month by Pulverised Records. And together, they’ve created something wonderful.
If you’re familiar with In Mourning, you know that Netzell and Pettersson are experienced in dropping the weight of oceans upon listeners while interweaving melodies that have a way of sticking fast in the memory. They do something similar in the three long songs that make up Cathodic Black, but have stepped outside the realm of dark melodic death metal to do it. This time they’ve moved into the territories of post rock, sludge, and doom.
The weight of the mid-paced music comes via massive, fuzzed-out, doom-drenched riffs and a drum-and-bass duo that can really bring the heavy lumber when they put their minds to it. But the music is also a study in contrasts, and the power and intensity of the passages when Majalis starts to crush is magnified by the softer measures that often precede them — the beautifully somber piano piece that begins the EP, the isolated guitar strumming and echoing percussive sounds within “Rusting Sun”, the contemplative guitar duet in the middle of “Tooth and Bone”, and other similar moments when the band dial back the intensity.
(In this post DGR reviews the new album by Sweden’s October Tide, which is out now via Pulverised Records and available on Bandcamp.)
October Tide can’t seem to catch a break, can they? Even after pulling off the miraculous feat of resurrecting the band and releasing a pretty good comeback disc, they still wind up losing two members in vocalist Tobias Netzell and bassist Pierre Stam. Granted, those two eventually went on to release In Mourning’s The Weight Of Oceans (which was my overall album of the year last year), so all was not lost, but it was a little bit worrying that we might never hear October Tide’s brand of funeral doom again. However, the band pulled off wrangling in two new musicians and now October Tide have returned again – never to be discouraged by their issues with lineup shifts – to release Tunnel Of No Light, a much darker, more melancholic take than its predecessor A Thin Shell.
The moodiness that this album conveys seeps its way into everything, including the artwork – which is probably one of the best representations of the listening experiences of both the group’s most recent discs. Whereas A Thin Shell seemed to find a frail beauty in its depression, Tunnel Of No Light is what happens when more hopeful things that may have been hinted at previously don’t work out. It is a disc so bludgeoning and overbearing in its sadness and gloom that by the end of the album the listener almost feels like the husk portrayed on its cover.
Thanks to tips from DGR, I learned about two attention-grabbing developments this morning — new details about the forthcoming albums by Sweden’s Hypocrisy and October Tide plus new songs from each of them. And then on my very own I found a new single from the next album by Norway’s Vreid. It is a good day to be alive.
Here’s how I progressed toward the new Hypocrisy song: First, I saw the cover art for the new album, End of Disclosure, which was created by Wes Benscoter (Slayer, Kreator, Nile, Vader, and more). I found it pleasing. Kind of a Zen demon. Also, many skulls. Second, I read, and was intrigued by, this quote by Hyporcisy’s main man Peter Tägtgren in the Nuclear Blast write-up on the album:
“This time I wanted to go back to basic, felt like we lost it for the last couple of albums , it’s straight to the point, it’s more Hypocrisy than ever, the fast, the heavy, the epic.. Enjoy!”
And then I listened to an edited version of the album’s title track, “End of Disclosure” — which you are about to hear, too, and which is available for free download.