(Here’s three albums released last week that Andy Synn thinks you need to hear)
As you may have noticed, we do a fair bit of “retroactive reviewing” here at NCS, mostly because… well, we only write about things that we like and sometimes it takes a while to work out how much we like something and how to express that.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s still cool to be able to offer advance reviews of albums we think you’re going to love (both the new Exocrine and White Ward albums, for example, aren’t out until Friday but have already received glowing write-ups), but when we find something we really like and want to talk about it doesn’t really matter if it’s been out for a while – after all, it’ll be new to someone!
So here’s a triple-header of short-but-sweet reviews for three album released last Friday – some epic Doom from Monasterium, some crusty Death Metal from Neolithic, and some scorching Black Metal from Umbra Conscientia – that definitely deserve some extra love.
MONASTERIUM – COLD ARE THE GRAVES
I’ve not really covered much Doom so far this year, and was worried that I was losing my feel for the genre… and then along comes the new record from Monasterium to reassure me that the issue isn’t that I’ve stopped enjoying Doom, I just haven’t been listening to the right artists/albums!
Clocking in at just under forty-six minutes in total, these eight songs are rich enough to satisfy even the most demanding of Doom lovers without overstaying their welcome or succumbing to the dreaded law of diminishing returns.
From the gloomy grandeur of stately, slow-burning opener “The Stigmatic” to the more progressive, and even more expressive, strains of the closing title-track, Cold Are the Graves proves to be the sort of album that’s easy to pick up – replete as it is with hard-driving Heavy Metal riffs, attention-grabbing vocal melodies, and soaring, prog-tinged lead guitar work – but hard to put down.
What really makes this album work is that while there’s a clear and consistent aesthetic to the band’s sound, each individual song also has its own clear identity, whether that’s the hooky momentum of “Cimmeria”, the dark ‘n’ moody grooves of “The Great Plague”, the heroic swagger of “The Siege”, or the sombre acoustic balladry of “Remembered”.
So if you like what you hear here, make sure to check out the band’s previous two albums too. I think you’ll enjoy the journey!
NEOLITHIC – SHATTERING VESSELS
Shattering Vessels is the debut album from these Baltimore bruisers, and has quickly established itself as one of my favourite albums of the year so far, due to the sheer venom and vitality which infuses every single track.
Despite the fact that Neolithic’s sound clearly owes a lot to some of the extreme scene’s most seminal bands – Cannibal Corpse, Entombed, Amebix, etc – the band clearly aren’t interested in playing the “retro” card, and their more modern approach to an “Old School” inspired sound ends up positioning them as a crustier alternative to their more Grind-influenced cousins in Misery Index (whose bassist/vocalist Jason Netherton makes a suitably belligerent guest appearance on the short, sharp, ‘n’ savage “Field of Reeds”).
But while the band’s devastating blend of massive riffs and monstrous vocals, hyper-intense drum work and nasty, thuggish grooves, is certainly more than potent enough in its own right, it’s the more subtle touches – such as the scene-setting voice-overs that tie together “Impious Devotion” and “Futility and Lamentation”, or the use of Wake-esque atmospheric melody in the climactic pairing of “Enantiodromia” and “Arrow of Entropy” – which really put this over the top for me, and suggest that Neolithic have only just begun to demonstrate what they’re really capable of.
So if you’re after some more of that “new wave” of American Death Metal that’s more Crust than ‘core influenced (though it will certainly appeal to fans of Death Metal meets Hardcore bands like Slowbleed, Terminal Nation, and Fuming Mouth all of whom could, and should, be considered among Neolithic‘s peers) then check this album out and get yourself a place on the bandwagon nice and early, because I predict big things for these guys in the future.
UMBRA CONSCIENTIA – NIGREDINE MUNDI
I was late to the party with Umbra Conscientia‘s debut album, Yellowing of the Lunar Consciousness, and I swore to myself I wouldn’t let that happen again.
Of course, I almost did, since I’m writing this little review after the release of their new record but… better late than never, right?
Compared to their first album, Nigredine Mundi is a little bit sharper, a little bit darker, around the edges, and actually finds the group (who are 2 parts Costa Rican, 1 part German) paring back the speed ever so slightly but amping up the heaviness even further.
That’s not to say they’ve completely abandoned the maniacal speed which propelled much of their first record – when they cut loose on tracks like “Constant Self Sacrifice in Devotion to Darkness” and “The Numbing Bloodstreams of Detachment” you’d better make sure you’re strapped in, or you will get whiplash – more that the more muscular production and heftier, heavier guitar tone allows them to ease off the accelerator a little when they need to without sacrificing any of their intensity.
In addition, while the previous comparisons to bands like Funeral Mist and 1349 still hold true to an extent – especially on the antagonistically dissonant “Mundo Vult Mori” – the added metallic muscle and greater sense of depth and drama also recalls the best of latter-day Enthroned and/or Dark Fortress, with the trio demonstrating that it’s not just their technical talents that have improved since their debut but also their songwriting skills.
Don’t think that I’m saying that Umbra Conscientia are derivative though – I’m not suggesting that at all – it’s just that they’ve come on leaps and bounds with Nigredine Mundi, and now fully deserve to be mentioned alongside some of the biggest and best of the Black Metal undergound.. and beyond.