(Another month has passed into the moldy history books, and almost like clockwork Gonzo has arrived to spotlight three albums that made a better April for him, and might make a better May for you.)
April came and went, and here I am, sitting around at 5:39 p.m. on a Thursday, trying to figure out what the hell we’ve already covered during that month so I can avoid redundancy on these pages.
And holy shit – we’re just three weeks away from Northwest Terror Fest in Seattle, where I’ll be joining a significant percentage of the NCS staff for a weekend of work and revelry. If you haven’t scored tickets for that one yet, be sure that you do. The lineup this year looks positively ferocious. I’ll be the guy in the “FUCK THE D.E.A.” shirt periodically drunk on hazy IPAs. Come say hi.
Until then, here’s some new music to keep your eardrums occupied.
VoidCeremony, Threads of Unknowing
If you’re the type that enjoys having your brain cells rearranged by cavernous, head-spinning death metal, I really can’t overstate how much you should listen to the latest from California’s VoidCeremony.
We haven’t heard from these relative newcomers since 2020’s Entropic Reflections Continuum, but it’s easy to assume these guys took their time with making Threads of Unknowing into the next evolutionary step in their mind-melting variety of dissonant death. At times, you’ll hear the frenetic precision warfare Death always did so well, and in others, the band will just decide to blast you in the face with an all-out assault (check the beginning of “Abyssic Knowledge Bequeathed.”) Whatever they’re doing, though, VoidCeremony has the uncanny ability to write songs that are just as memorable as they are chaotic.
If you pay attention to what’s going on under the chaos, though, you’ll find that Threads has progressive elements that help you see into the bandmembers’ musical DNA. I can imagine these talented dudes grooving to Rush just as much as they could with Spawn of Possession. A fretless bass pokes and prods its way under the searing leads and bombast drums, while the errant time changes and style shifts suggest VoidCeremony have been working to get this good for a long, long time.
Enforced, War Remains
Full disclosure: My favorite metal album of all time might very well be Metallica’s Kill ‘Em All, so anything that even remotely reminds me of it will probably get a less-than-objective review. (Might as well acknowledge the unconscious before I start writing.)
The latest output from Virginia’s Enforced is one of those albums that makes you want to seek out this band and see them live at all costs. It has the raw, ferocious energy of the aforementioned Metallica mainstay, with the circle pit-inducing ferocity of Power Trip. Opening tracks “Aggressive Menace” and “The Quickening” capture an entire set’s worth of stompy riffs by themselves, while “Hanged by My Head” follows up with a blazing-fast verse that begs to be listened to while headbanging against a barricade with a beer in your hand.
This album just doesn’t stop. “Avarice” pumps out a Slayer-esque riff with vocals that could peel paint off the walls of an abandoned warehouse. The breakneck tempos barely stop until the title track kicks in, which offers only one minute of half-time respite until it mercilessly throws you back in the pit. And there’s something so goddamn fun about “Ultra-Violence” – maybe it’s the similarity to the pure fuck-you energy of DRI? Whatever it is, you’ll want to spin up War Remains again the minute it’s over.
Crossover thrash has seemingly reinvented itself in the past decade, and I’d put Enforced as the best band you’ve never heard of within that group. The raw energy of War Remains is, without doubt, their finest hour as a band to date.
Dozer, Drifting in the Endless Void
It’s been far, far too long since the stoner-metal wizards in Sweden’s Dozer have released any music – just about 15 years, to be exact – but I was downright giddy when I saw Drifting in the Endless Void pop out a week or two ago, seemingly out of nowhere.
Few things in this world bring me as much joy as taking an enormous hit from a bong and firing up some stoner metal. This, I imagine, was probably the impetus of my love affair with this band. I’m happy to say Drifting… is one hell of a fun record, boasting the band’s usual amount of bongwater-soaked riffs and furiously catchy hooks. “Mutation/Transformation” is such a fun opening track that it compelled me to spin it up multiple times before I even touched the rest of the album. Which would be a mistake, because there’s not a bit of filler to be found throughout.
“Dust for Blood” brings to mind ’90s Soundgarden and mid-2000s Queens of the Stone Age, which speaks to my soul. The moody weirdness of “Andromeda” adds some atmosphere right when the record needs it, with psychedelic interludes that show the band’s time away came with renewed focus and inspiration. They’ve grown as songwriters, to be sure, and Drifting… feels like the album they’ve been trying to make since 2003.
Follow my best-of-2023 Spotify playlist to hear songs from all of the above albums and a shitload more: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/7zWqE685GVpuB5M3qRDvog?si=7388b5b9430342e5