(In this post Dan Barkasi continues his monthly series recommending music from the previous month.)
Welcome back to Essential Entries. April has already passed, and it’s hard to believe. It feels like we – at least those unlucky enough to live in areas that deal with winter – were just freezing ourselves stiff, and now the temperatures are in the 80s. Thank goodness. Winter is awful. Thankfully, good music is the antithesis of such, and we’re loaded this month.
Also, my apologies for getting this up a bit late. Yours truly was out of town for over two weeks, and that resulted in a ton of catch-up listening in order to do this right. No way will this column ever be done half-heartedly!
With that out of the way, let’s get to the tunes.
Abyss – Heretical Anatomy
Gritty Canadian death metal. Abyss proves that it’s not all maple syrup and politeness up there. Equal parts catchy and punishing, this proves to be a great debut full-length.
Akhlys – The Dreaming I
Akhlys is the side project of Nightbringer’s Naas Alcameth, so naturally, something high quality is expected. That was certainly delivered, with an album that’s dark and poignant, with just the right atmosphere to wrap it all up. Black metal fans especially shouldn’t miss this.
Demonical – Black Flesh Redemption EP
Swedish death metal done very, ah, Swedish-like. That’s the ticket! Demonical has their sound down pat, and they don’t deviate much, which is just fine. This is punishing and riffy, so death metal aficionados should take note. Prepare for 17 minutes of pure fury.
Ereb Altor – Nattramn
Viking doomsters Ereb Altor impressed greatly with Fire Meets Ice in 2013, and backed that up with a fantastic performance at Summer Breeze last year to further endear the band to yours truly. They’re back with Nattramn, which is more on the melodic side of the coin, but still has that “big” feeling and superb song-writing quality. Think touches of Enslaved, but more on the doom side of things.
Forgotten Tomb – Hurt Yourself and The Ones You Love
Despite the clichéd album cover, Forgotten Tomb mixes up black, doom, and a little bit of gothic ambience to unleash an interesting and very addictive release. A steady improvement over the still solid …And Don’t Deliver Us From Evil, this further stakes the band’s distinctive claim in the metal universe.
Haar – The Wayward Ceremony
This is how a debut album is done, folks. Scotland’s Haar have pieced together an unrelenting slab of atmospheric black metal, with loads of memorable guitar work being a main feature. The drums are superb, too, along with diverse song structures and tempos. Top notch in every way. A bright future lies ahead of this bunch.
Infernal War – Axiom
This is some aggressive black metal. Infernal War isn’t interested in taking any prisoners with their latest, Axion, and thank goodness for that. Fast and heavy, this is some of the punchiest tunes one will hear in this realm. Put it on, and put the volume to 11. Yeah, that happened. Seriously, just get this.
Kommandant – The Architects of Extermination
In a word, menacing. That’s Kommandant. Here with their third full-length, the band continues becoming more refined as they are sinister. The listener feels a lot of purpose with these Chicago natives, with each song having a distinct feel, yet there’s a consistency and coherence from start to finish. For those who like their black metal truly bleak.
Kult of Taurus – Adversarial Paths – The Sinister Essence
Holy wordy album title, Batman! No matter – these Greeks know what they’re doing. It’s sort of typical black metal, albeit with more variation than the standard, but it’s done well enough to warrant inclusion. Purists should be all over this like Varg on a book of matches. Or a video of odd relationship advice. That exists – look it up. While you’re at it, look this up, too!
Minsk – The Crash & the Draw
Another Chicago entry, Minsk definitely explores new territory, mixing a plethora of influences into their trademark sound. The best description this guy can muster is a combination of post-metal, good sludge, and atmospheric/ambient. All-in-all, Minsk is a band that’s one-of-a-kind, and damn proficient. This is powerful stuff – intricate, layered, and crushing when it counts. If you want a different experience, give Minsk a go. Most will be glad they did.
Nightrage – The Puritan
New and inventive, Nightrage is not. However, they do melodic death metal with a refined approach, with a certain sharpness that makes them better than the typical cookie-cutter variety. Solid melodies, slick leads, and a consistent pace makes the band’s sixth album a great inclusion to any melodeath fan’s library.
Outre – Ghost Chants
There have been some great debuts this month, with one of the best to come along in a while courtesy of Poland’s Outre. Certainly black metal at its core, but this record is so much more than that. The combination of the harsh/clean vocals is perfection, as well as super-fresh. The guitars are varied and poignant, and the arrangements are without flaw. Listen immediately, folks.
Sulphur Aeon – Gateway to the Antisphere
Sulphur Aeon’s first album, Swallowed by the Ocean’s Tide, was an attention-grabber – a death metal masterwork. Now we come to the follow-up, Gateway to the Antisphere. Think of everything wonderful about this band, refine and naturally progress it, and that’s what we have here. In other words, sheer brilliance. Heavier and more in-your-face than an anvil from the ACME corporation, yet fantastically distinctive. Sulphur Aeon has a signature sound that only they possess, and if they keep going at this pace, they’re going to garner gobs of attention. Speaking of attention, focus it on this band immediately. You’re welcome!
Throes – Disassociation
One of Anil Carrier’s 1,265 bands (exaggerating, but only a little), Throes is one of his best. Disassociation is a fine piece of blackened death, but it’s more than that. There are some hints of industrial and electronic music infused throughout, which is subtle enough to not take over the album, but more providing an added dimension that makes the album stand out. At the meat of it, this is some pulsating precision black/death metal that goes above and beyond. A total winner for A.C. and our ears alike, this disc has the chops and the diversity for true staying power.
Tribulation – The Children of the Night
The definition of progressive, Tribulation have released another album that’s very much its own entity. Children of the Night has some ’70s progressive influences, except unlike the tons of bands that use such influences, Tribulation do it well. The songs are so catchy that they immediately become lodged in the brain, and it only gets better with repeated listens. Sit back, relax, and put this one on in a dimly lit room. Sheer quality.
Abjvration – The Unquenchable Pyre
Thanks to KevinP for this one, as this completely missed my radar. Filthy and dissonant death/doom coming from France, they’ve escargone and done it again. Terrible pun, yes, but it worked dammit! The Unquenchable Pyre is disgustingly good, overflowing with gloom and every other adjective for the word “dark” that one can muster.
There goes another month out the window. This year is flying by, and the great tunes keep flowing in. May has some interesting stuff to delve into, so as always, stay tuned. It’s also Maryland Deathfest month, and this guy is super-pumped to check that out. Say hello if you see me! I’ll likely be the jackass wearing some kind of Disney and/or Star Wars shirt.
Thanks for the readership –- it definitely is appreciated. Leave your feedback below, and throw something at me that I may have missed!