(As we reach the mid-year turning point, Andy Synn highlights a baker’s dozen of releases from the year’s first half to which we haven’t previously paid sufficient attention but recommend now.)
How did you all like that utterly pretentious/portentous title? Originally I was going to give this piece a much more mundane header, but then I thought “hey, I’m trying to get people’s attention… so why not go with something eye-catching?”
You see, we’re now officially in the second half of 2018, and, despite our best efforts and our best intentions, we’ve still failed to cover a significant percentage of the multitude of Metal albums released over the last six months.
Now I’m not a fan of those “Best of the Year So Far” lists (though others at the site seem to view them more favourably) but, in an effort to make at least some small recompense for this terrible dereliction of our duties over the preceding 182 1/2 days, I decided to put together this column highlighting thirteen different records which you might otherwise have overlooked.
Abstracter – Cinereous Incarnate
Pitch-black Doom-Sludge is the name of the game here from Californian quartet Abstracter, who deliver a visceral and volatile cocktail of churning riffs, throat-scraping vocals, and twisted, vertigo-inducing drums on this, their incredibly abrasive, oppressively atmospheric third album.
I’ve seen it argued in a few places that the lack of the machinelike angularity found on Wound Empire harms the overall product a little – and I’m not entirely sure I’d disagree with that assessment – but, regardless of how it compares to its predecessor, Cinereous Incarnate is still an ugly, uncompromising piece of sonic filth in its own right.
Aegaeon – Age
While previous efforts by these Indiana-based ‘core-mongers have left me oddly cold and unaffected, there’s something about Age which has caught my ear much more strongly.
Maybe it’s the way in which the more ambient and atmospheric elements of the music wrap so neatly around the chug-heavy, high-density riffage and hammering, metronomically-precise drums which make up the foundation of the band’s sound. Or perhaps it’s just the general sense that they’re no longer just trying to be brutal for the sake of sounding brutal… now it feels like there’s some actual substance to go along with the style, which makes for a welcome change and a much more enjoyable (not to mention interesting) listening experience.
Body Void – I Live Inside a Burning House
The weather outside might be sunny and bright (or, at least, it is where I am) but that doesn’t mean we can’t lock ourselves away and wallow in darkness and decrepitude now, does it?
And so, if you’re looking for a soundtrack to your own imminent psychotic break, may I humbly recommend I Live Inside a Burning House by San Francisco trio Body Void, whose doom-laden, sludge-soaked, and filth-encrusted soundscapes (I hesitate to call these tormented, long-form meditations of madness “songs”) might be just what you’re after?
Cult of Occult – Anti Life
Keeping things grim and gruesome, if the above album isn’t enough to satiate your longing for auditory self-abuse, then why not give Anti Life a listen?
After all, French dreadlords Cult of Occult have made a career out of their ability to successfully conjure insanity into musical form without being consumed by it, and their latest album is no different in this regard, comprising four utterly soul-crushing slabs of demented Horror-Doom which offer absolutely no quarter, and are certainly not for the faint of heart.
Decrescent – Blackened Bequest
Released right back at the start of January (and, as a result, generally rather unfairly overlooked by many publications and potential fans), Blackened Bequest is the debut album by Technical/Melodic Death Metal (with added emphasis on the “Death Metal” part) marauders Decrescent, and showcases a band who – while perhaps not the fully finished and totally polished article quite yet – clearly have a heck of a lot of talent and potential.
Across the ten songs (plus one largely superfluous intro) which make up this album you’ll find a wealth of snappy, high-voltage riffs and electrifyingly extravagant solos, all backed up by some impressive flurries of percussive punishment, whose sheer guts and gusto makes it easy to overlook that this album isn’t always the most unique or original entry on the market.
Disassembled – Portals to Decimation
Portals to Decimation is, uber-clichéd title notwithstanding, one of my personal highlights from this little round-up of albums, as it takes some obvious influences from some of my long-time favourites (Hypocrisy, Scar Symmetry, Nevermore) and gives them simultaneously a heavier, more Death Metal make-over while also maintaining a savagely technical/progressive edge, mixing utterly pummelling riffing and monstrously intense vocals with some unexpectedly brilliant fretless bass work and some deftly deployed explosions of melody.
Arguably one of the hidden gems of 2018, in my opinion.
Faal – Desolate Grief
Good god… so much Doom. I mean, with a title like that, what else did you expect? The riffs are utterly cavernous, the melodies are spine-tingling, and the vocals sound like they’re coming straight out of a mausoleum.
Anyway, don’t say I didn’t warn you once this album has got its hooks into you and is slowly dragging you down into a pit of despair from which there is no escape. I tried my best.
Frost Giant – The Harlot Star
Of course if there’s one thing which has a chance of bringing your mood back up after it’s been devastated by Faal, it’s the uplifting, life-affirming gallop of The Harlot Star by Pennsylvania’s own Frost Giant.
Shamelessly bombastic and bristling with electrifying melodies and OTT hooks, these eleven tracks – offering a mix of rampant barnburners, extravagant epics, and moody melodic interludes (some of which could probably have been left on the cutting room floor) – take the ridiculous riffage and self-indulgent storytelling style of Wintersun and mate them with a punky, folky, beer-swilling and bar-brawling sense of… dare I say fun…? And, collectively, make up one of the most instantly infectious, grin-inducing albums of the year.
It’s not perfect by any means, but it’s also almost impossible to resist once it gets going.
Mammoth Grinder – Cosmic Crypt
Brutal, boneheaded riffs and guttural, gravel-chewing growls make up the meat and potatoes of Mammoth Grinder’s rough-and-ready, groove-heavy brand of primal audio aggression.
Granted, there are no major surprises to be found on Cosmic Crypt, but the short, savage nature of the songs, and the irrepressible nature of the band’s obvious enthusiasm for the twin pillars of Death Metal and d-beats, should make this both easy to pick up, and hard to put down.
Necropia – Desecration Complex
The phrase “Djent-influenced Deathcore” is probably enough to make a good proportion of our readership skip straight past this one, but for those of you who’ve stuck around, my hope is that you’ll still find some enjoyment when checking out the music on Desecration Complex.
I’ll admit, the band’s style and songwriting approach is a little bit “everything and the kitchen sink”, as the album comprises a wealth of different elements and influences, sometimes arranged more than a little haphazardly, running the gamut from Tech Death to Slam to Black Metal to Melodeath to… everything in between… but when it all comes together (as it does during an extremely solid run in the middle of the album) the group are more than capable of delivering the goods, even if they haven’t quite locked down a distinct sound of their own just yet.
Nervosa – Downfall of Mankind
Thrash isn’t a genre I dabble in very much these days. For the most part it’s generally just one element (even if it’s a major one) among many in the bands I listen to.
But every so often I’ll stumble across a band who describe themselves (or are described by others) as “Thrash”… yet who offer so much more… and it’s these types of bands I find myself drawn to, regardless of their label.
Case in point, in terms of raw aggression and ultra-heavy, neck-wrecking riffage, Brazilian trio Nervosa have gone above and beyond on their new album, Downfall of Mankind, delivering twelve (eleven, plus an intro) tracks which aren’t so much “Old School” as they are simply timeless in their display of pure metallic power.
Nest – Metempsychosis
Doom-Sludge? Blackened Post-Doom? Whatever you choose to call it, the sound which Nest have conjured on Metempsychosis is as grim and as harrowing as anything you’d care to mention, melding eerie, hypnotic ambience and grinding, nausea-inducing riffs, into one seamlessly sickening whole.
But, for all its venom and bile and bowel-loosening heaviness, it’s also disgustingly catchy when it wants to be, to the point where the lurching rhythms and heaving hooks of songs like “Gallows of Forever” and the manic “From the Darkness In Me, Illuminate”, should potentially come with a health-warning.
The Yellow King – Debris and Modern Wreckage
Last, but by no means least, the chunky, subtly proggy Metallic Hardcore proffered by The Yellow King may be a slightly atypical choice for us here at NCS, but mark my words… the German quintet’s brand of punky passion, metallic grit, and artifully incorporated atmosphere/ambience, should be just the ticket for anyone who considers themselves a fan of bands like Burst, Shai Hulud, and/or Vision of Disorder.