(Andy Synn recommends four more albums from last month that he doesn’t want you to miss)
As has been well established by now, if it comes down to a choice between covering bigger names or lesser-known bands… we’ll almost always plump for the latter.
Sure, it decreases our potential reach a little, but it also increases the impact of what we do – one more positive review in a sea of hyperbole isn’t exactly going to “move the needle”, but a bit of praise (usually mixed with a bit of constructive criticism) from us can do wonders for a band with more limited exposure.
In that vein, then, today we’ve got some punky, d-beat loving Thrash (Colony Drop), some terrific “true” Black Metal (Cvinger), a genre-bending riff-odyssey (Hekser) and a shamelessly OTT slab of symphonic extremity (Sanguine Glacialis), all of which you may have overlooked during what was an extremely busy August.
COLONY DROP – BRACE FOR IMPACT
Cards on the table… I’ve been friends with Colony Drop frontman Joseph Schafer (who long-time loyalists of the site may know better as “BadWolf”) for many years now. As a matter of fact I’m heading back over to the US to attend his wedding later this month. So you may want to take the following with a hefty grain of salt.
That being said, if anything I write here encourages you to check out the band and make your own appraisal of their debut album, Brace for Impact, then I’ll consider my time well-spent.
With their stripped-down, thrashy riffs, punky, pugilistic rhythms, and occasional burst of bolshy gang-vocals, Colony Drop make no bones about the fact that they’re not trying to reinvent the wheel here, but are instead harkening back – without, let me stress, playing the all-too predictable “Retro” card – to a time when the lines between Punk and Thrash, Crust and Trad Metal, were… shall we say… more than a little blurry.
As a result, it’s not easy to pin them down to one specific style or genre – their tongue-not-entirely-in-cheek description of themselves as “High Speed Twin-Lead” and their lyrical mix of anime-fandom and anti-fascist fire being perhaps the best signs that while they’re serious about what they do they don’t take themselves too seriously – but most of the time this actively works in their favour, granting them a potential mass-appeal (among Metal fans, at least) that a more proscriptive or po-faced approach simply wouldn’t give them.
Early stand-outs include the ebullient eponymous opener, the groove-heavy “Remade”, and the Speed-Punk thrashery of “Stand Against the World”, while the final foursome of “Patient Xero”, the Send More Paramedics-esque “The Guillotine”, pounding penultimate track “Fantasize the Beast”, and crunchy closer “The Gouf” showcase a darker, heavier side of the band (albeit one still ridden with gnarly hooks and catchy choruses).
Sure, this does mean that some of the middle tracks don’t have the same… ahem… impact as those that come before and after them, but all in all this is one debut album that should, if you give it a chance, quickly make its mark and leave you hungry for more.
CVINGER – DOCTRINES BY THE FIGURE OF CRNOBOG
While it’s true that most of my Black Metal listening this year has tended towards the weirder, proggier end of the spectrum, I’m pleased to say that Cvinger‘s killer “comeback” album, Doctrines by the Figure of Crnobog, is a welcome exception to this particular trend.
Delivering a hefty dose of blastbeats, blasphemy, and ominous occultic atmosphere, these ten tracks – beginning with appropriately pensive introductory number “Meditation’s At the World’s Demise” before erupting into the ultra-aggressive (yet also subtly, and darkly, melodic) strains of “Revelation of the Three-Headed One” – provide a scintillating showcase for the band’s gritty, guitar-driven brand of hostile heaviness.
But while the riffs are undoubtedly the driving force behind the music – songs such as “Fury Born Out of the Bones and Fire” and the churning charnel-house that is “Blood Catharsis and the Mantra of Depravity” featuring the sort of jagged-edged, bone-jarring fretwork that strongly recalls 1349 at their best – the occasional inclusion of slightly more esoteric instruments/elements, combined with the group’s conceptual/lyrical focus on Slavic mythology and mysticism, also plays an important role in defining who they are.
That being said, while it’s clear that Cvinger at least have some grasp of nuance, there’s no question that they’re at their absolute best when cutting loose like there’s no tomorrow, with the grim, grinding riffs, harsh, hypnotic hooks, and near-unrelenting drums of “Totemism” and the equally tormented title-track both providing evidence of the band’s blistering Black Metal bona fides.
HEKSER – SIGILS OF THE ABYSS
While Hekser‘s music has previously been tagged simply as “Black Metal”, it doesn’t take long for impressive, insidiously-progressive opener “Womb and Grave” to prove that this is no longer really accurate when it comes to the group’s third album, Sigils of the Abyss.
What you have instead is a technically twisted, proggily ambitious Black/Thrash/Death Metal hybrid whose snarling vocals and lithe, limber bass-lines sit somewhere between Stargazer and Sadus on the metallic spectrum, while the clever combination of frantic, fretboard-wandering riffs and ambient, atmosphere-weaving synths during tracks such as the viscerally intense “Void of Synchronicity” and the thrillingly unpredictable “Dormant Vectors of Awareness” recalls the best of bands like Blood Incantation and Cryptic Shift (with maybe a bit of Voivod and/or Nocturnus thrown in for good measure).
And although Hekser‘s ambitions occasionally outstrip their execution – the lengthy intro and outro of “All Things and the Spaces Between” undercut the song’s overall impact quite significantly, for example, while gloomy penultimate track “Ritual Chamber” all but kills the album’s momentum dead (although, thankfully, captivatingly melodic closer “Where the Mind Touches the Universe” is more than capable of reigniting it) – killer cuts like “The Workings of Chaos”, “Prima Materia”, and the absolutely outstanding title-track are constantly throwing so many unorthodox riffs and unexpected twists at you that the best thing to do is just hold on tight and try to enjoy the album’s reckless rollercoaster ride into the unknown.
As challenging as it is rewarding – and definitely not one for those who prefer their bands to play it safe or colour within the lines – I definitely wouldn’t be surprised if Sigils of the Abyss makes a few appearances on a few end-of-year lists come December.
SANGUINE GLACIALIS – MALADAPTIVE DAYDREAMING
I’m honestly surprised I haven’t seen or heard more about Maladaptive Daydreaming over the last month, as while the Canadian collective may not be the most well-known or over-exposed band out there, their majestically melodic, gorgeously gothic, and shamelessly symphonic brand of Extreme Metal possesses pretty much everything it needs to reach a much wider audience.
With its captivating clean vocals, biting call-and-response snarls and growls, lithe riffs and cinematic synths – plus a wholly unexpected, but not unwelcome, Jazz-inflected mid-section – opener “Welcome” swiftly sets the scene for what to expect from the band’s third album… mainly an excess of ideas and elements whose profligate theatricality flirts with the more Avant-Garde side of things but which, to the band’s credit, is harnessed to some tightly-wound and sharply-honed songwriting reminiscent of the sadly-defunct Oceans of Sadness.
Equally to their credit is that, amidst all the pseuodo-orchestral overkill and gothy melodrama (neither of which, to be clear, are a bad thing) Sanguine Glacialis also aren’t afraid to actually get heavy, as the weighty riffs underpinning “Immuration” and “Resignation” and the ferociously fast blastbeats and kick rolls propelling Symphonic Death Metal stunners like “Ars Moriendi” and “Paracusia” so decisively demonstrate.
And while the soaring, almost operatic, singing and sinister, snarling vocals of frontwoman (and keyboardist/violinist) Maude Théberge are obviously one of the album’s main selling points – seriously, while her range is impressive in and of itself, the power and passion she communicates are just as important to the record’s overall success – one shouldn’t discount the equally impressive instrumental abilities of her cohorts either (drummer Jérémy Racine and – to a more understated extent – bassist Marc Gervais in particular helping to ground the group’s more outlandish and unorthodox tendencies).
Of course, given the album’s OTT approach there’s probably still room for a few cuts and edits to be made here and there – though not, perhaps, where you might initially think (I promise you, as off-putting as the start of “Resilience” is, you should stick with it, as the song’s juxtaposition between weirdness and wickedness definitely pays off) – but the overwhelming impression this album leaves you with is one of a band really beginning to come into their own, without quite ever sounding exactly like anyone else currently out there.