(Our Denver-based friend Gonzo has brought us the first installment in a round-up of new albums that emerged this summer which caught his attention and kindled his enthusiasm.)
Look, I know it’s customary to open these kinds of seasonally themed posts with some quip about “WOW, THE SUMMER REALLY FLEW BY, DIDN’T IT?” but frankly, that sort of cheekiness is an abomination I simply won’t fucking stand for, let alone perpetuate.
What I will say is that this summer delivered. It was the sort of long-overdue event that saw yours truly being able to travel to some US-based festivals, which was something I’d been longing for. Fire in the Mountain was by far the highlight. I also managed to hit an average of two shows a week during all of this, mostly around Denver. On top of all this, I pulled a requisite turn-and-burn in Vegas earlier this month for a single night of Psycho, in which I finally saw Emperor take the stage and proceed to blast my face into another dimension. To say it was worth the 22-year wait would be the understatement of the year.
The point of me saying all this is during all of the above, I was a bad NCS writer and couldn’t quite keep up my monthly tradition of yelling at the internet about the new music I’ve been listening to. So, consider this me making up for lost time:
This is part one of my end-of-summer new music roundup, with albums spanning from June to August.
Final Light, S/T
This collaboration between Perturbator (James Kent) and Cult of Luna’s Johannes Persson sounds exactly like you’d think it would. I actually had the song “It Came with the Water” pop up on my Spotify Release Radar last week and immediately thought, “whoa, this sounds like Perturbator jamming with Cult of Luna.” Imagine my shock when my intuition nailed it.
Predictable categorizing aside, this project is actually monstrous in its delivery. Persson’s familiar monotone roar on top of Kent’s dark synth arrangements is a pairing that works way better than it should. The six songs on this album – most of which clock in north of seven minutes – exemplify all the strengths of both individual projects that coalesce into a coldly calculated mechanized assault.
“Into the Void” looms ominously, recalling a bit of the same feeling I get whenever I hear Cult of Luna’s “Cold Burn.” The eponymous title track rumbles and rips with sudden tempo changes and thickly layered nuance, while closing duo “The Fall of a Giant” and “Ruin to Decay” bring to mind a dystopian cyberpunk landscape that could be the soundtrack to an apocalyptic sci-fi.
Upon a Fields Whisper, Sorry for Your Loss
This Colorado band would like to remind you that life is terrible, but hope is also worth clinging to.
With an acerbic, visceral approach to their debut album, UAFW do a lot of things well. They’ve injected a healthy amount of atmosphere into their sludgy, doomy formula. They excel at building tension, as evidenced in kickoff track “The Decimation Process Has Begun.”
But the source of their swagger isn’t necessarily rooted in one particular subgenre. Follow-up song “Fallen” rips into faster D-beat territory that recalls Integrity, interestingly enough. White-hot vocals and antiwar lyrics are perched atop a blistering riff before it slows down, kicking seamlessly into “The Collapse.” If you’re paying attention to the song titles, yes, there’s definitely a theme here.
The whole experience wraps up brilliantly with an interesting collaborative track called “We’re Still Here,” which features a psychedelic singer/songwriter by the name of Ceschi contributing some fretwork and vocals. It’s easily the album’s most adventurous track and probably its best overall, with a crushing chorus underscored by a more progressive feel.
Werewolves, From the Cave to the Grave
I had my reservations that the newest exploration in sonic extremes from Australia’s Werewolves would be a little derivative, but it turns out I was very fucking wrong.
If you’re looking for the angriest possible music to blast from the most unsuspecting location, look no further than From the Cave to the Grave. It’s an exercise in unfettered ferocity, brutality, and a giant middle finger to anything that stands in its way. I don’t know that I’ve heard a single more uncompromising piece of extreme music so far this year. Imagine if Archspire stripped down the technical wizardry and focused on the thing they hate the most in this world, and you’d get Werewolves. That’s not to say the Aussies aren’t technically savvy, because they sure as fuck are. The intensity of their game, though, is where I hear them on the same level as the Canadian virtuosos.
Grave starts much in the same fashion as the band’s last album, with “Self-Help Book Burning” sounding pretty similar to that album’s first track, “I Don’t Like You.” It’s raw, it’s extreme, it’s heavy, and it doesn’t give a single shrimp-fried fuck what you think about it. This is the kind of blistering death metal that I want to play as I drive to Brett Kavanaugh’s house to take a shit on his driveway. It’s simply essential listening for anyone looking for the angriest possible aural outlet. Trust me.
Parasite Inc., Cyan Night Dreams
I’ve followed this German crew since their scorching 2013 debut Time Tears Down. Their unique blend of industrial elements with thrashy riffs and metalcore-inspired breakdowns was immediately appealing to me, and I’ve been hooked ever since.
The songs on Cyan Night Dreams just have fucking teeth. The band has had plenty of time to refine their ferocity since 2018’s Dead and Alive, and the work pays dividends throughout the 10 hefty tracks on Dreams. So much of this album checks off every possible bullet point I look for in a metal album: Solid production value, blowtorch fretwork, memorable hooks, and vocals that sound like a Rottweiler gargling a gigantic bowl of spicy ramen.
“I Am” gets things going straight to the point, with the chorus of “First Born” forcibly injecting itself into your cerebral cortex soon after. The title track has a frenzied pace with layers of keyboards and electronics lurking just underneath the razor-sharp riffs, occasionally taking center stage during perfectly placed interludes. But it’s not until the album’s second half that the band just says “fuck it” and goes for the jugular.
Just the intro alone to “In False Light” makes me want to run through a wall like the Kool-Aide Man. The visceral energy of “Follow the Blind” cuts like a white-hot knife through unsuspecting butter, and closer “When All is Said” begins with a nice little synthwave intro that collapses beautifully under the weight of a ferocious headbanging groove.
Not since Fear Factory’s glory days have I heard the power of industrial metal truly unleashed the way Parasite Inc. have on their third album. It’s a triumphant return for a band that simply doesn’t get enough praise.
Speaking of riffs, here’s another doozy.
Rising from the ashes of Power Trip (RIP) comes a new thrash project from PT guitarist Blake Ibanez alongside current members of Creeping Death and Skourge, among others: Fugitive.
The band’s debut EP is ambitious as hell and doesn’t waste any time with grandiose intros. Opener “The Javelin” is a two-minute pit-inducing riff fiesta that lays some familiar groundwork in the spirit of Power Trip’s best moments. Credit goes to Ibanez & co. for crafting songs that manage to harken back to the glory days of thrash without sounding like a recycled version of any of the members’ current bands. Instead, there’s a generous fusing of grab-you-by-the-throat aggression with inventive, dynamic songwriting on all five songs here. Meanwhile, vocalist Seth Gilmore channels John Tardy, and nails every snarl, grunt, and roar.
The off-time breakdown at the end of “Hell’s Half Acre” is nifty as shit. But by the time “Raise the Dead” closes things out, you’re left wanting just a little bit more. It seems Fugitive were rightfully eager to blast out some fresh riffs for fans wondering what the future of Power Trip beholds, but the band is clearly capable of releasing an entire album of thrashy goodness that Maniac is absolutely fucking dripping with.
Like what you hear? Follow my best-of-2022 playlist here, and feel free to drop any other suggestions my way.