(Andy Synn takes a look at four albums from last month you may have missed)
Due to stress and pressure from my work/life outside of the site (yes, it’s true, I do have a life beyond NCS) I’ve not been able to write as much as I wanted to in July.
Hell, to be quite honest with you I’ve been on the cusp of burnout for the last couple of months, so trying to collect my thoughts together into something resembling a cohesive article has been much more difficult than usual.
Music, however, remains both a passion and a panacea for the pain, and without it I think I’d be in a much worse place.
So let’s celebrate the healing power of music – and the fact that, hopefully, things look like they’re starting to settle down for me – with four albums which you may have overlooked last month.
DEAD TIRED – SATAN WILL FOLLOW YOU HOME
As some of you may have noticed, I’ve been listening to quite a lot of Hardcore this year – usually (but not always) of the more “Metallic” variety.
Hardcore was, after all, my first real love when I finally began to build up a music taste of my own (rather than just passively accepting whatever the radio spewed at me) , and the genre’s blending of high-octane energy and heart-on-sleeve integrity remains as thrilling to me now as it was then.
Satan Will Follow You Home, the second album from Ontario’s Dead Tired, perfectly captures exactly what it is that I love about the genre – it’s intense, earnest, unashamed of what it has to offer and unafraid of what people (including myself) might think of it.
It’s also a damn good record in its own right, one that goes hard right from the buzzing, barking attack of opener “Predatory Loans” all the way through to the bleak and brooding final track, “Domestic”.
And, unlike vocalist George Pettit’s other band, Alexisonfire (whose new album, btw, is easily one of my favourite records of the year), Dead Tired clearly aren’t particularly interested in tugging at your heartstrings – they’d much rather be going for your throat with tracks like the desperate “Show Me A Sign” and the spitefully anthemic “New World Pigs” or hitting you deep in the gut with dark ‘n’ doomy cuts like the anxiety-inducing “Vast Lethality” or the aptly-named “Creeping Dread”.
Mark my words, this is one album which proves that Canadians aren’t all sweetness and light.
GRIMA – FROSTBITTEN
To say that Grima‘s new album is one of the best Black Metal albums of the year seems a bit like… stating the obvious?
I mean, of course it is. Last year’s Rotten Garden (which I was extremely late getting in to) was one of the best Black Metal albums of 2021, and this one is – arguably – even better, which makes it a real contender whichever way you slice it.
I could almost stop writing there – honestly, just go and listen to it – but that would be doing it a disservice, as this is one of the richest, most atmospheric albums of 2022 and deserves more than just a few passing words about how great it is.
Sadly, I don’t have that much space (or time) here, so I’ll have to just stick to the highlights, such as the raging, elemental energy and unselfconsciously “epic” melodic sensibilities of riff-driven opener “Gloomy Heart of the Coldest Land”, or the piercing melodies and violent intensity of the following “Giant’s Eternal Sleep”, both of which epitomise the band’ s keen ear for both hooks and heaviness, atmosphere and aggression, in microcosm.
Of course, there’s far more than just the two opening songs to talk about – the foregrounding of clean vocals in “Into the Twilight”, for example, might put some listeners off, but as artistic choices go it is unquestionably the right one at just the right moment – but I don’t want to reveal everything the record has to offer before you have a chance to hear it.
That being said, I can’t finish without mentioning the back-t0-back brilliance of “Hunger God” and “Moonspell and Grief”, both of which (the former especially) are already in clear contention for my “Songs of the year” list due to the way they incorporate and elevate the group’s majestic, multi-layered guitar work and electrifying sense of dynamic to stunning new heights.
Trust me, if you missed the band’s last album you really don’t want to make the same mistake again this time.
REEKING AURA – BLOOD AND BONEMEAL
To call Reeking Aura a “super group” would, perhaps, be misleading.
It’s not that the various members of the band – which includes current and ex-alumni of The Howling Wind, Buckshot Facelift, Grey Skies Fallen, Stabbed and Afterbirth – aren’t somewhat famous (or, at least, infamous) in certain underground circles, it’s just that the term “super group” often conjures images of sub-standard side-projects by musicians trading more on name-value and nostalgia than actual talent or inspiration.
Instead, let’s call Reeking Aura a “superb group” instead, because that’s definitely what they are.
In a year that’s been rich in deathly delights, but not necessarily overflowing with particularly inspired examples of the Death Metal arts, Blood and Bonemeal quickly establishes itself as a stand-out entry, marrying just the right amount of old school ugliness with a more intelligent – dare I even say, progressive – approach that blends gut-clenching brutality with dashes of doomy melody and moody atmosphere without sacrificing any of its intensity in the process.
Of course, if you’re just looking to get beaten, blasted, and brutalised then the band definitely have you covered (both “Seed the Size of a Spider’s Eye” and “A Vegetative Mush…”, for example, give no quarter and take no prisoners) but it’s the intriguing depths and immersive dynamic of songs like “Harvesting the Hatchet” and “Pyramid Shaped Plow”, as hooky as they are heavy, brimming with both bleak atmosphere and visceral aggression, which really makes this album.
Death Metal with both subtlety and nuance? Who would have thought…
SIKASA – MATTER EARTH
Though strictly speaking Sikasa is a one-man project (the brain-child of composer and multi-instrumentalist Bruno Longfield), Matter Earth clearly benefits from the array of artists who collaborated in its creation, with the extra and evocative keyboard layers, the lithe, limber bass-lines, and added bits of saxophone, flugelhorn, and bass-clarinet all helping to expand the album’s creative palette.
Best described as “Progressive (Death) Metal” – which is the short way of saying, yes, there’s a Death Metal element to it at times, but I can’t really call it that considering how much else there is going on – the band’s music is reminiscent of acts like In Vain, In Mourning, and Ikuinen Kaamos… along with a strong undercurrent of latter-day Disillusion… in that it weaves in and out of different genre conventions to create something that isn’t easily placed within one particular box.
It’s not perfect, of course – a few of the more “eccentric” ideas occasionally distract from the album’s otherwise impeccable flow – but it’s one hell of full-length debut all the same, from the gorgeous clean vocals and intricate, moody guitar-work that dominates opener “Isola” to the rhythmic, primal pulse of captivating closer “Mokosh”.
And while those of you looking for a bit of a heavier bite won’t be disappointed (the grandiose Melodic Death Doom of “The Edge of Event” is more than equal to any number of the band’s more famous Swedish siblings) it’s the more creative and dynamic arrangements of songs like “Where Giants Walk”, “Of Sulphur” (another leading contender for my “Songs of the Year” list) and “Matter Earth” (which leans heavily, though not too heavily, on the Ænigma-era In Vain vibes) that really show you what this project is capable of.
Keep your eyes on Sikasa. They’re going places.