(After a short hiatus Andy Synn returns with the first in a series of articles focussing on some of the “unsung heroes” of last year)
Let me present to you my simple thesis for why these “Unsung heroes…” posts exist.
Quite simply, there’s too much music released every year and I can’t keep up with it all!
This doesn’t mean that I/we haven’t listened to them, by any means – in fact all but one of the albums I’m going to be highlighting over the next week or two were mentioned in my annual year-end round-up – it’s just that listening to and appreciating an album is only the first step… actually finding time to write about them, in any depth or detail, is a whole different matter.
So consider these posts a second chance to catch up with a few albums which I would have recommended (heck, one of the records featured in this article snuck its way into the “bonus features” of my “Critical Top Ten” even though I hadn’t written a word about it before) if I’d had more time to write this year!
GRIEVING – SONGS FOR THE WEARY
While most of this year’s disciples of Doom have focussed on finding new ways to praise the latest releases from Khemmis and Green Lung (which is understandable – although the latter is by far the better of the two albums, in my opinion) a lot of them seem to have overlooked the debut album from Polish trio Grieving, which is a real shame as while it’s not necessarily a life-changing record, it’s certainly got all the right stuff to mark the band out as “ones to watch” in the future.
From the beefy, ballsy riffage and cathartic, clean-sung vocals to the plethora of majestic melodies and gloriously gloomy grooves, Songs for the Weary has pretty much everything you could want from a modern Doom album, managing to achieve a “classic” feel without feeling dated or derivative in the process.
Whether it’s the haunting atmosphere and heavyweight stomp of opener “Crippled by the Weight of Powerlessness” or the thunderous, rolling rhythms and electrifying melodies of “A Crow Funeral”, Grieving aren’t afraid of injecting their music with a bit of energy, and their debut carries itself with such outsize confidence and unstoppable momentum (especially during hook-heavy highlight “Witch Hunt Eternal”, which also incorporates just a smidgen of added vocal venom for good measure) that it’s practically impossible not to get swept up in all the doomy metallic melodrama.
Granted, at just under twenty-nine minutes some people might feel a little short-changed by this record (though they’re twenty-nine very good minutes, in my opinion), but the fact that it’s so short means there’s no wasted space or fat to trim, just a bevy of strident, soaring vocals and bold, bombastic riffs (bolstered by an incredibly potent guitar tone) that demand to be played, and heard, again and again.
KOLLAPSE – SULT
Despite the fact that I didn’t get a chance to write about it in full (until now, obviously) I still decided to feature Sult, the second album from Denmark’s Kollapse, as part of the “bonus features” of this year’s “Critical Top Ten”, pairing it up with LLNN’s stupefyingly good third album, Unmaker, as one of the best examples of so-called “Post Metal” of the entire year.
And with good reason, as not only is Sult one seriously heavy album – not quite as heavy as Unmaker, of course, but then what is? – but it’s also an album that knows how best to use that heaviness to cultivate a truly dense and dramatic atmosphere, while also demonstrating some subtly progressive artistic ambitions and a keen sense of dynamism at the same time.
Of course, the fact that this sort of music is, ultimately, rooted in Hardcore, should never be far from your mind, especially when you hear the utterly primal howl of the vocals and the prodigious punch of the drums on tracks like powerhouse opener “Drift” and the lurching, stomping “Libido”, but it’s the juxtaposition of all this raw emotion and explosive intensity against moments of simmering tension, brooding ambience, and even haunting trumpet (all three of which you’ll find on esoteric, anxiety-inducing closer “Der Hvor Jeg Tænker Er Der Altid Mørkt”) which really makes this into something truly special.
Check it out for yourself if you know what’s good for you.
MONUMENT OF MISANTHROPY – UNTERWEGER
As I’ve stated several times, 2021 was a ridiculously good year for Technical Death Metal. However, that this doesn’t just refer to bands like Archspire, Ophidian I, etc, but also to the more brutal (and oft-overlooked) end of the spectrum too, with new releases from bands such as Deformatory, In Asymmetry, Logistic Slaughter, and more all showcasing how technicality can be used as fuel for even more extremity and brutality, and vice versa.
But it’s the second album from international kill-crew Monument of Misanthropy that I really want to highlight, not only because it’s more than capable of going toe-to-toe with the A-B-Cs of technical brutality – that’s Aborted, Benighted, and Cryptopsy – but because it does so in a way which instantly grabs your attention and never lets go.
Let’s face it, upon achieving a certain level of extremity there’s a tendency for these sorts of bands to all start to sound kind of samey… but MoM dodge this particular bullet with a judicious application of malevolent hooks and absolutely murderous grooves, from the neck-snapping back-and-forth between bleeding-edge blasting and brooding darkness which characterises “The Mysterious Hollywood Hat-Trick”, to the gut-churning chug ‘n’ grind of “Exceptionally Sadistic” or the virulent viciousness of “Midnight” (one of my favourite tracks of the year).
Ultimately, Unterweger is the sort of album which reminds you that the application of sonic savagery is only ever as good as the songwriting skill behind it. And, make no mistake about it, Monument of Misanthropy have put together a veritable barrage of brutal, technical, songs here which are all fully capable of standing on their own and making a truly lethal impression.