(In this post Dan Barkasi continues his monthly series recommending music from the month just ended.)
Welcome, welcome, to the March edition of essential entries. February was a decent month, highlighted by stellar releases by Crypt Sermon, Devouring Star, and Sarpanitum. Overall, it wasn’t as solid as January, and I listened to a ton of music for February. There were plenty of strong albums, but also a lot of “decent, but not great” sort of releases. Everything included here, however, is top-notch, of course!
March, however, was loaded with a metric ton of great albums. As a result, there were a few difficult omissions, but that’s a good problem to have. The following turned this guy’s head the most.
Antagoniste – The Myth of Mankind
Hailing from France – the land of oddball experimental metal – is another entry of this sort by Antagoniste. A one-man avant garde black metal project, this is the debut release, and it’s nothing short of beastly. The vocals vary wildly, with a mix of menacing growls and chants. It’s heavy, a bit out there, quite catchy, and all quality.
Eternal Solstice – Remnants of Immortality
A description as-to-the-point as their music: Eternal Solstice is straight Dutch death metal. One knows what one is getting here, and it’s delivered as well as can be expected. Death metal freaks that dig the old school should be all over this like KevinP on a stroop. Dark Descent’s involvement is no shocker.
Infesting Swarm – Desolation Road
This is the kind of black metal that makes me giddy like a kid at a Disney park. Or, rather, me at a Disney park. The most fun places on the planet. Moving on from my obsession of all things Mickey, Infesting Swarm has a gem on their hands. Tons of melody with a bit of a post-metal aesthetic, wrapped in a neat black metal wrapping. Superb songwriting that doesn’t sound like a band who are putting out their first full-length, which hopefully means a long and prosperous future for these Germans. They’ve got yours truly sold.
Invincible Force – Satan Rebellion Metal
The name writes the description for me – these Chileans are indeed an Invincible Force. This is light-speed fast, punishing blackened thrash as it should be. No filler, no messing around, no nonsense of any kind. It’s brief, coming in at under 25 minutes, but it does the job and makes you want a ton more. Let these guys kick your face in. Another Dark Descent miracle! (Cue Seinfeld fans)
Katavasia – Sacrilegious Testament
Very old school black metal done to perfection. A Greek super-group of sorts, featuring members of class acts such as Agos, Aenaon, Varathron, and Hail Spirit Noir. Those bands scream cream of the crop, and no surprise, Katavasia is exactly that. These guys have been featured a lot on NCS, and with good reason – they’ve created sonic gold. If only all black metal was done with this much fervor and craftsmanship. Don’t miss this.
Maladie – …Still…
If something unconventional is what you desire, look no further. Maladie are a nine-piece – yes, you read that correctly – that self describes their sound as “Plague Metal.” Interesting, but it sort of fits, as there’s no better description of their output. Expect a black metal base, not unlike A Forest of Stars, but with a ton of oddball influences, many different instruments, and varying vocal styles. There’s chants, screams, growls, and everything in between. Add a few really well-placed saxophone parts, too. As said previously, unconventional, but it functions to provide an engaging experience.
Nyseius – De Divinatione Daemonum
There must be something in the snails in France, as they continue to be a country on the forefront of excellent metal in the last few years. Nyseius is yet another example, providing a taste of truly bleak and crushing black metal. There are a lot of slower tempos and slow builds in their music, and it adds an impressive level of mystique and texture. This is thinking man’s black metal, with lots to digest, and those who give it the time it deserves will be rewarded.
Porta Nigra – Kaiserschnitt
More off-the-wall black metal this month, brilliantly done by the duo that is Porta Nigra. This is their second album, and the band are continuing their dissonant style of German black metal. So German, you’ll swear you’re in a Biergarten in München. Very unique and unabashedly intense, Porta Nigra is for those who like their music strange and intriguing. Dive in – you won’t regret it. If only it came with some schnitzel.
Rise of Avernus – Dramatis Personæ
We now arrive at the land of the drop bear, with Rise of Avernus. The word “epic” is a word I like to avoid, but it’s an accurate adjective for this band. Their sound is huge, with a somewhat gothic and symphonic approach to doom metal. It’s a potent mixture, for sure, with their sound engulfing the listener in a sea of memorable riffs and many a dramatic moment. Grab this EP (it’s close to being a full-length) and immerse yourself.
Sorcerer – In the Shadow of the Inverted Cross
Just like last month, March brings us a fine entry in the Candlemass-ish doom category, this time with the resurrected Sorcerer. Having released a few demos in the late ’80s and breaking up in 1992, Sorcerer came back into existence in 2010 and have released this, their first full-length, five years later. It’s a fantastic example of classic doom done right, with clean vocals that portray the right level of anguish, surrounded by big riffage and solid songwriting. This doesn’t top the jaw-dropping Crypt Sermon, but it’s in the conversation, and a damn fine record.
Tome of the Unreplenished – Innerstanding
From the island of Cyprus comes Tome of the Unreplenished with their first album, and folks, you’re in for a real treat. Atmospheric black metal is the premise, but it’s so much more than that. At times dark, at others blissfully melodic, and at others downright sinister, there’s a lot of variety to soak in. Crafted wonderfully, this is a band putting the metal world on notice. Keep your ears close to this Tome. Now I need to see a show with them (if Hermes will recruit some live help) and fellow country-mates Stormcast for a Cypriot tour de force. Make it happen!
Unrest – Grindcore
Unrest is a sledgehammer of heavy and smashing grindcore. A project started by Steve Janssen (seriously, with Crypt Sermon and Trenchrot on his resume, can this guy do any wrong?) and Woe’s Chris Grigg, there’s a lot of talent behind Unrest, and it shows. Grindcore is so on-and-off as a genre, and if there were more bands involved who were this good, I’d be listening to a lot more of it. The guitars are the biggest highlight, along with some supremely tight drum work. Grind on.
Himinbjorg – Wyrd
These guys have Kampfar influence written all over them, with their guitar-heavy black metal and a tad bit of Norse inspiration thrown in for atmosphere. Wyrd is a relatively addicting album, boasting veteran songwriting acumen and a clean but dominant feel that is hard to deny. Fans of Moonsorrow, Finsterforst, Thyrfing, etc., need to check these guys out, pronto.
Crimson Swan – Unlit
Slow, melancholic, and mesmerizing doom is what to expect from Crimson Swan’s high-impact first album. The best feature is the whole package, which comes together as a beautiful passage of doom metal that grips the senses along with the heartstrings. The melancholy is massive, the heavy bits are earth-shaking, and the synergy between the two makes for an astounding piece of music.
Serenity in Murder – The Highest of Dystopia
Most symphonic melodic death metal is a gutless-wonder type of music — often Children of Bodom wannabes with thin sounds and no creativity. Thankfully, Serenity in Murder are the antithesis of that, providing a standalone sound that is definitely their own and a reflection of their geographic location. Heavy and unrelenting, yet symphonic, with the right dose of melody and some definite Japanese feel that give them that extra “something.” As a fan ever since hearing their debut in 2011, I’ve been eagerly anticipating this one, and the result is fabulous. Also, I’ll be visiting Japan soon, and they’re playing some shows – the day before I arrive, and the day I leave. Thanks, guys! Joking, of course, unless you want to play another show in Tokyo in between? Please?
This concludes the March edition of Essential Entries. It’s hard to believe that we’re already three months into 2015. We’ve had a plethora of fantastic releases thus far, and with what has been coming down the pipeline recently, that isn’t going to stop. I have a few monsters coming for April, and I know you can’t wait for that!
Thanks for reading, and as always, please comment below. If you think there’s something I may have missed, tell me about it!