(In this multi-part post, Austin Weber brings us his recommendations for some of the best albums released during the first half of the year.)
We are gathered here today, to become willing devotees to the aural alchemism presented below in various forms. While the words per band write-up may be sparse due to a lack of time, the music speaks volumes in terms of creativity; and in terms of literal volume as well!
I figured now would be a good time to post about a bunch of killer releases I’ve failed to find time to write about. And not just because I found them to be decent or somewhat enjoyable, but because these are some of the best of this year that you within our beloved metal community need to know about. They range across such genres as tech-meth, R&B-infused grindcore, Nu-core wave of heavy 2 the core metal, Classical punk-bop, Blackened post-folk, SludgEDM, Southern Acoustic DJENT, and Rollercoaster deathpolka (a curious after-writing search led me to find out that someone has a band named deathpolka, bitching!).
Expect several more installments of this 2015 “best of” feature coming soon. I hope. Maybe?
First on today’s list of recommendations is Abandoned, the headspinning debut by the Canadian death machine known as Okazaki Fragments. This Calgary-based group’s moniker, in a nutshell, can be boiled down to the growth process of new DNA. As an analogy for what their music has in store, it’s a damn fitting name for the unique music they’ve created.
This is one deranged fucking record, sort of like what would happen if Gaza took a path down Gorguts’ and Ulcerate’s dissonant and atmospheric paths. So in essence, it’s weird hardcore-punk-influenced-grind meets primal hardcore meets weird death metal. Often the grind parts have a complex Discordance Axis feel and flow to them. Meanwhile, the vocal range extends far beyond screams, shouts, and growls, and hits a sloppy slam-type approach similar to Will in Artificial Brain that works surprisingly well, even though the music behind it isn’t really slam metal.
If you dig the idea of a band that sounds like Pyrrhon mixed with Artificial Brain and Fuck The Facts, or any of the other bands identified above, you’ll love every fucking minute of this. Okazaki Fragments have given us a special record with Abandoned that takes some time to digest. It’s far from the kind of simple compositions that most deathgrind crossbreed bands offer. Abandoned is more twisting and turning, convoluted on purpose, and powerfully creepy. And the metal world is better for “weird” bands such as this taking things in a new direction.
I remember way back when Sleep Terror was a big deal, and the fact that the scene hasn’t seemed to catch on that a full-length Sleep Terror record called Unihemispheria just dropped is a big deal!
For those unfamiliar, Sleep Terror is the project of skilled Olympia, Washington guitarist Luke Jaeger (formerly in the equally phenomenal avant-mathcore savants Hunab Ku). It has been around for many years, with something akin to a hiatus during Jaeger’s in Hunab Ku. There was never any doubt in my mind that Unihemispheria would live up to the band’s prior music, but nothing could have prepared me for how the Sleep Terror of 2015 is basically a highly evolved Sleep Terror 2.0.
You get all the same insane technical brutal death metal stylings they explored in the past, rolled into a bizarre ball along with their spirited jazz and funk influences — except now they’ve added groove-inflected upgrades and some almost world-music elements into the mix.
I think the groovey additions have not only expanded the band’s sound, but also provided a nice new way for them to transition in and out of both the frenzied and the calmer passages. They’re also another set of ingredients for Sleep Terror to toy with in intriguing and weirdly awesome ways, like the Meshuggah-gone-funky slap-bass ending to “Anabolic Salvation” — which also, mind you, includes a trippy Indian music part that precedes its oddball ending.
Like their prior music, this is compact and at times overwhelming metal, yet there’s so much goodness to explore within Unihemispheria. Definitely one of the most interesting records, as far as eclectic death-metal-focused instrumental music goes!
It’s a shame that far too many people think of neutrality, cheese, and secretive banking when they think about Switzerland. Mainly because all those people should instead have rad bands such as Anachronism come to mind. All silliness aside, the outstanding cover art by Remy Cuveillier, who did the art for both Maladie albums and the latest Paradise Lost record, gives a pretty clear picture that this is not going to be your average by-the-numbers death metal experience. It seems to spell out, metaphorically, how we all run out of time while trying to hold on to it, while the world and what it wants from us gnaws at us and our “precious” remaining time.
All of which fits well thematically with the raging full-throttle technical death metal the band traffics in on their aptly titled new EP, Reflecting The Inside. This is tightly wound, explosive death metal, yet not as overtly flashy as many of their peers. A wonky bass presence, an occasional dissonant focus, flirtations with old school death metal riffing, a subtle brutal-death-metal/slam influence, and some interesting keyboard-layered moments all add more color to the band’s formula.
Anachronism have certainly delivered a memorable experience on Reflecting The Inside, one worth revisiting plenty of times.
Save Us From The Archon
We end today’s installment on a lighter, but no less intriguing, note, with Save Us From The Archon, a band I wrote about last year here at NCS. The band just released a stunning new EP called Fear Eats The Soul that is chock full of righteous noodly catchy instrumental jams.
While it’s sonically similar to their past releases of metallic-coated, math-rock, melodic shred material, Fear Eats The Soul sees the band stepping up and outwards in their compositions. There is more room devoted to lush, softer, building passages on Fear Eats The Soul, while the EP still retains the band’s high-octane yet smooth core sound. I can’t get enough of Fear Eats The Soul, and I suspect anyone who is a fan of Chon or Animals As Leaders would feel the same way.