(In this multi-part post that began last week, Austin Weber brings us his recommendations for some of the best albums released during the first half of the year. Part 1 is at this location and Part 2 is here.)
Ni are a French mathcore band whose madness you have to hear to understand, though to try to explain, they give off a demented Mr. Bungle vibe that’s paired with a hefty jazz influence and more mind-bending polyrhythms than you can possibly keep track of. Their new record, Les insurgés de Romilly, has been blowing my mind for the last week with its funky, headbang-inducing grooves and quirky, disorienting nature.
This record is an interesting exercise in combining highly technical, groove-oriented math-metal with prog and experimental inclinations. If death metal and other subgenres try to batter you with speed, then what ni do would be more akin to giving listeners a hit of acid and putting them in a vast, surreal labyrinth.
If I’m not mistaken, there are only a few vocal parts on two or three songs, but that in no way affects the record’s listenability. Les Insurgés de Romilly is a compelling experience and a must-have for anyone interested in progressive, groove-oriented metal.
It’s certainly been interesting to see a new wave of technical death metal bands come of age who have found their own way to inject a hefty element of groove into what they do. Recently, bands like Soreption, Black Crown Initiate, Barús, and Rivers Of Nihil have all shown it can be done in a variety of interesting ways. And now you can go ahead and add the French act Fractal Universe to that list.
Their new EP Boundaries Of Reality is a very diverse and interesting take on progressive death metal. It’s fairly groovy, frequently atmospheric, yet always massively heavy and loaded with killer riffs and leads. Boundaries Of Reality comes across like a groovier version of Gorod, with shades of Obscura, Gojira, and Necrophagist in their sound as well.
While some of their influences are obvious, they never really sound like any of them alone. Boundaries Of Reality demands your full attention when checking it out, but you’ll be glad you invested the time in what they have to offer. So that means you should maybe, potentially, check it out now?
Fractal Universe are definitely my new favorite progressive death metal band right now. To repeat: Don’t pass this act over. I wouldn’t be surprised if they got signed soon.
We return again to the face-smashing realm of grindcore with this next installment. As many of you know, grindcore is a metal genre I obsess over, yet frequently find myself disappointed by the average-to-boring quality of a lot of modern acts who are solely imitative of their predecessors. Since grind seems more often built on beating you senseless than establishing a unique identity, I rarely find new grind bands who wow me. However, there are always a few each year who remind me why I love grind — and Texas-based Amygdala are my current grind obsession.
If I’m remembering correctly, I first heard about Amygdala because the band includes grind drummer extraordinaire Bryan Fajardo (Kill The Client, Phobia, etc.) in their ranks. They are one of the bands within a small, forward-thinking subset of grind doing something truly notable and likely to endure the test of time. The only grind band I’ve heard doing anything even remotely similar to the dissonant and technical savagery of their 2015 EP EPiphany is the Blurring release that dropped this year. EPiphany sounds like what would happen if Baring Teeth played grindcore — wonky stuff that’s several cuts above typical grind.
Releases such as EPiphany are precisely why a lot of modern grind releases don’t impress me. When you hear grind elevated to the artistic plateau that Amygdala reach, well, little else seems as impressive in comparison. At just under 12 minutes, EPiphany is the perfect adrenaline rush and cure for your daily frustrations. It’s high time for grind-time, bitches.
*I couldn’t find a Facebook page for the band, only for another band, also from Texas, with the same name — but clearly not this one.
I think the problem with sludge is not that it clashes with our multitasking, hyperactive, fast-paced world, but that as a genre it’s built on repetition, and the sound of many sludge bands has not diversified as much over time, in a forward-thinking way, as other subgenres of metal. I say that while being fully aware of the many permutations and modern genre-bending acts within sludge, yet still feel it is a valid statement about the genre overall; it’s why I am not as interested in sludge as I used to be. I mention this because the highly eclectic, Tennessee-based act Flummox have truly taken sludge in a new direction on their debut album Phlummoxygen.
Sure, it’s sludge at its core, but really, this has more in common overall with the experimental and progressive aims of Frank Zappa and Primus than garden-variety Neanderthal-minded sludge. And for that, I am excited! Whenever I hit play on any of the fantastic tracks on this record, I can expect something different about it, something unique. This has easily become one of my favorite go-to sludge records. Phlummoxygen is the perfect marriage between towering sludge heaviness and powerful psychedelic progressive-rock genius. In my humble opinion, it’s a modern classic.