(Andy Synn catches up with a few gems from last month which you may have overlooked)
September is always a busy time for new releases, and this year was no different.
Sure, they weren’t all good (in fact, I can tell you now, there was at least one major name that is definitely going to end up on my “Disappointing” list, and probably piss quite a few people off in the process) but there were a lot of high quality albums released last month and, even though we tried our best, we barely scratched the surface of what September had to offer this year.
So while I’ve attempted to cover a number of different bases with the four artists/albums I’ve chosen to write about today, I also urge you all to check out some of the records which we weren’t able to find space/time for, including new stuff from Acausal Intrusion, Dead Void, Kathaaria, Maunra, Mo’ynoq, Otus, Wayward Dawn, and Writhing (and many, many more that I’ve probably forgotten about).
AUTOPHAGY – BACTERIOPHAGE
It’s been a fetid and fertile year for Death Metal, that’s for sure. But, is it just me or are some of the biggest – or, at least, most hyped up – names already beginning to wither a bit?
Don’t get me wrong, there’s some real deathly delights out there, but there’s also a few notable names who got a lot of attention early on by playing to the cheap seats who, ultimately (and perhaps unsurprisingly), have proven to lack staying power.
That’s not going to be the case when it comes to Autophagy however, as not only have they developed a small but dedicated grass-roots following – a result of purposefully not jumping on the hype train but instead simply allowing their music to speak for itself – they’ve also delivered an impressive statement of quality and intent with their debut album, Bacteriophage, that I don’t think anyone is going to be forgetting about very soon.
It’s not just that the album is overloaded with grimy riffs and grisly gutturals – though there’s no question that these aspects of the band’s sound are a major draw in track like “Abhorrent Abomination” and the lumbering monstrosity that is “Eviscerated Remains” – or that they’re just as comfortable operating at face-melting speeds as they are grinding you down with gut-churning grooves, it’s the sense of predatory intelligence behind it all, the surprisingly subtle blend of primal intensity and infectious energy, which makes this album work so well.
“Sacrificial Spawn”, for example, is basically just a sequence of brutal, barbarous hooks that hit you right in the pleasure/pain centres, again and again, while “Beneath the Moss, Between the Roots” conceals a malevolently melodic undercurrent that helps it insinuate itself under your skin a little more each time… and then there’s “Return to Charnal Hall”, which one of the most vicious, virulent, and gruesomely-groovesome Death Metal anti-anthems that you’re going to hear this side of a Blood Red Throne album.
Hopefully at least some of what I’ve written here will encourage you to give these guys a chance, because I have a feeling that they’re going to be this year’s Outer Heaven – never quite as big or as crowd-pleasing as some of their more (in)famous peers, but definitely the connoisseur’s choice.
CRUST – WANDERERS
For the Black Metal portion of today’s article I’ve chosen to cast some light on a band who’ve been an ongoing favourite of several of us here at NCS for quite some time (indeed, their previous record was one of my top ten albums of 2020).
If you’re not familiar with the band, however, then this is still going to serve as a great introduction to their sound (think Monotheist-era Celtic Frost playing a morbid mix of Black Metal, Doom, and Grief-esque Sludge) which has, somehow, only gotten better, bleaker, and blacker with each and every release.
From savage, slithering opener “Serpent of Doom”, to the doomy, melodic denouement of “Void Builder”, Wanderers takes you on a journey befitting its title, moving from lurching menace to lacerating fury to biting groove without once missing a step – in fact, if anything, it’s clear that Crust are choosing their movements carefully each time, not so much “wandering” between genres as they are carving out their own path with grim, unwavering purpose.
It’s also clear, pretty much immediately, that the path they’ve chosen on this record is even more Black Metal focussed than ever before, as while songs like “Sleeping in My Grave” and “Beacon of Death” don’t shy away from the moodier, doomier side of the band’s repertoire, they’re still tied together by an overarching “blackened vibe” and an undercurrent of blistering fury that’s absolutely undeniable (especially during the blast-happy assault of “Terra”).
There’s also no question that the trio’s songwriting skills are even sharper this time around, with the devastating dynamic of “Until Our Swords Get Blunt”, the relentless riffery of “Wanderers”, and the irresistibly anthemic “Down the Spiral of Hell” all making solid cases for being some of the nastiest, catchiest, and best-written Black Metal tracks of the year.
In conclusion, then, this is most definitely the band’s best work yet, and you’d be a fool to miss out on all that they have to offer any longer.
HEGEMONE – VOYANCE
We’ve been fans of Poland’s Hegemone for a long time now, and always look forward to a chance to write about their music.
And since we’ve been following their career for so long, we’ve been able to bear witness to their ongoing evolution over the years, and it’s in this context that we come to their third album, Voyance.
While still grounded in a foundation of sonically and emotionally heavy Post-Metal, songs such as “Solace” and “Inference” (to name just two of the killer cuts which make up this album) find Hegemone incorporating more and more influence from both the Post-Hardcore and Post-Black Metal sides of the spectrum.
The result of this is that Voyance ultimately exists within the same sort of sphere as bands like Celeste, Regarde Les Hommes Tomber, etc, while still retaining its own sense of purpose and identity (perhaps because it comes from a more Post-Metal oriented background than either of the aforementioned artists).
This confluence of influences, inspirations and evolutionary factors means that this is undoubtedly both the Polish quartet’s most emotionally earnest record and their darkest work yet, with the desolate howls and dense, claustrophobic atmospherics of tracks like “Sermon” and “After Demise” helping Hegemone achieve an even more cathartic impact than ever, while – at the same time – the blistering, blast-driven ferocity of the likes of “Odium” and “Abeyance” showcases an even more focussed and ferocious form of aggression which builds on the more abrasive aspects of both their previous albums in turn.
Mark my words, these guys just keep getting better with each release, so now is the perfect time to jump onboard if you weren’t already on the band’s wagon.
HOLY FAWN – DIMENSIONAL BLEED
Last, but by no means least, the doomy Shoegaze (“Doomgaze”?) inspired sound of Arizona’s Holy Fawn might not seem like the sort of thing we’d cover here at NoCleanSinging, but when you consider that we’ve written (glowingly) about artists like Junius, O’Brother, and Close the Hatch (and more) in the past then you’ll see that there’s more than enough precedent for us covering a band like this one.
Even if it wasn’t, however, there’d still be no denying that Dimensional Bleed is an excellent album, one that’s rich in both moody melody and emotive ambience, but also not afraid to crank up the distortion and introduce some powerful Post-Metal riffage into the mix when the moment is right.
Of course, it’s actually the pervasive dynamic – the contrast between these moments of carefully constructed and perfectly poised heaviness and the simultaneously sombre-yet-soothing atmosphere which dominates the album – which makes this such an effective, and affecting, piece of work, with the added electronic embellishments in particular playing a major role in enriching the band’s evolving character and creativity.
It’s also worth noting that, as striking as the riffier parts of songs like “Death Is A Relief” and the surprisingly aggressive title-track are, Dimensional Bleed proves that there’s more than one way to be “heavy”, and it’s often the record’s most haunting and/or heart-wrenching passages which leave the strongest impression.
And while it’s not entirely flawless – it still feels as though one or two of the songs don’t quite rise to the occasion the same way the others do (“Amaranthine”, for example, doesn’t leave much of an impression when all is said and done) – this is one album I expect to see cropping up on a lot of lists at the end of the year, and for good reason.