(Andy Synn presents four albums from the last month – or so – that you may have overlooked)
What is there to say about today’s selection of albums – which run the gamut from Hardcore to Black Metal to Death Metal to Doom – beyond the fact that you really should check them all out?
Well, hopefully a lot, because otherwise this is going to be a fairly short (and boring) article!
INCENDIARY – CHANGE THE WAY YOU THINK ABOUT PAIN
I know I’m cheating a bit here – Change the Way You Think About Pain was actually released at the very end of May – but this one has been hitting me hard all month, and I wanted to share the pain with all of you… and maybe change how you think about it.
While 2023 hasn’t been as big a year for Hardcore for me as 2022 was, Incendiary‘s latest has been a real stand-out due in no small part to its stupidly heavy guitar tone, which is about as in-your-face as it’s possible to get without having the band performing right in front of you.
Over the course of just under thirty minutes – which gives credence to the whole “less is more” theory when it comes to this sort of potent ‘n’ pissed-off Metallic Hardcore – Change the Way You Think About Pain ducks and weaves, throwing out swift jabs and swinging haymakers like a champion prizefighter, delivering chunky, chugging riffs (“Bite the Hook”), menacingly dark melodic touches (“Echo of Nothing”), thrashy intensity (“Host/Parasite”), and… of course… some absolutely massive breakdowns (with the second half of “C.T.E.” being a veritable masterclass of neck-wrecking pneumatic rhythms) like it’s their last shot at the title.
However, as heavy and hard-hitting as it is – and, let me be clear, this one could easily go toe-to-toe with a lot of the more well-known and widely-covered Death Metal albums from this year – what really elevates this release above so many of its peers is the band’s knack for tying it all together with sharp hooks and smart songwriting choices which – when combined with the fierce urgency of Brendan Garrone’s biting lyrics – results in a record which should have an intense, and long-lasting, impact on those willing to give it a chance.
MISERERE LUMINIS – ORDALIE
Sitting somewhere between the ominous darkness of Panzerfaust and Schammasch and the electrifying emotional resonance of bands like Agrypnie and Anomalie, the… ahem… “comeback” album from Miserere Luminis (coming a full thirteen years after their debut) has quickly established itself as one of my favourite new discoveries of the year (with one of my favourite album covers of the year too).
Beginning with the sinuous slow-burn of “Noir Fauvre” – thirteen morbidly infectious minutes of moody melody, ominously immersive atmosphere, and doomy blackened fury that seem, somehow, to pass by in the blink of an eye – Ordalie quickly establishes itself as an album which has no interest in playing by the “traditional” rules of Black Metal but which absolutely embodies the true, iconoclastic spirit of the genre.
From the lithe, looping bass-lines and piercing melodic leads which drive “Le Sang Des Rêves” all the way through to its propulsive conclusion, and the nimble, nuanced percussion and richly-textured riffage which forms the backbone of “La Fêlure Des Anges”, through to the spellbinding final moments of “De Venin Et D’os” (a song which resembles, to my mind at least, nothing less than a blending of pristinely powerful (Post) Black Metal with the truly post Black Metal ambience of Ulver), it’s the sort of album that continues to captivate and surprise the listener with every twist and turn that it makes.
Of course, the more conservatively-minded of our corpse-painted brethren probably won’t like it – which is their prerogative, after all – but for the rest of us I’d say there’s a very good chance that Ordalie will be appearing on more than a few year-end lists come December. And, if and when that happens, it will be fully justified.
SERPENT OF OLD – ENSEMBLE UNDER THE DARK SUN
Let me start off by saying that Ensemble Under the Dark Sun is one of the best debut albums of 2023, and may even – given enough time – end up establishing itself as one of the best albums of the year, full stop.
Dealing in a densely dissonant, oppressively atmospheric form of Blackened Death Metal reminiscent, at its best, of a more intense, albeit less experimental, version of latter-day Skáphe – though there are also shades of Ulcerate, Svartidauði, and even the grim majesty of post-millennial Behemoth to be found here and there – Serpent of Old quickly demonstrate an impressive ability to blend these various elements into a cohesive, and captivating whole, beginning with the absolutely massive mix of doomy atmosphere, contorted Death Metal riffage, and utterly blistering blackened fury which makes up opener “The Sin Before the Great Sin”.
From then on it’s all about seeing how far, and in which direction, the band can/will push their particular brand of extremity – whether that’s in an even more wild and blast-driven direction on “Unsaturated Hunger…”, further embracing the doomier (but still viscerally intense) side of things on “The Fall”, or simply cutting loose with a stunning series of utterly monstrous riffs in the form of “From the Impending Dusk” – and doing your best to hold on for the ride.
Climaxing with the stunningly heavy (and subtly hooky) riffage and surprisingly proggy percussion of “Idiosyncrasy” (which, in turn, demonstrates another intriguing facet of the group’s sound), Ensemble Under the Dark Sun is a hugely impressive statement from a new band who, in all likelihood, will only get even better as the years go on. So you’d best jump on the bandwagon now!
WOODEN VEINS – IMPLODING WAVES
For whatever reason – maybe I’ve just not been looking hard enough, maybe I’ve just not been finding anything really worth writing about – I haven’t really clicked with many Doom-related releases so far this year.
Imploding Waves, however, is a welcome exception to this, as while I enjoyed the first Wooden Veins album quite a bit, this one is on a whole other level.
One of the reasons I like it so much, I think, is because it often seems to focus more on mood and ambience than on standard Doom Metal tropes, and while it certainly gets off to a rocky start – “Dreamside Death” is an awkward opener, and the entire album would probably be better off if it began with the far more engaging and immersive “Tearing Seas” – when it finds its footing it really shows off a simmering spark of something special.
By leaning more towards the proggy and gothy side of things – “The Dreamer”, for example, reminds a little of latter-day Into The Woods and/or Amorphis, for example, while “Skies” toys with touches of both Opeth and Moonspell without ever sounding like either of them – the group have opened up the potential of their sound even further while also, perhaps paradoxically, setting themselves even more firmly on a distinctive path.
It’s a path that undoubtedly favours heavy emotions over sonic weight – mid-album highlight “Ganymede”, for example, places an even greater emphasis on evocative ambient soundscapes and expressive vocal melodies – but one that doesn’t preclude the band from flexing their more metallic muscles now and then (the heavier drumming and significantly darker riffage of both “Kaimerah” and “Calling” being prime examples), and which will, hopefully, lead them to even bigger and better things further down the line.