(Before he gets into his yearly retrospective Andy Synn wants to highlight four more albums from last month which you may not have heard)
Well, here it is, my last “Things You May Have Missed” column of the year, featuring four albums from November that I think you should all check out if you haven’t already.
That’s it. That’s the intro.
DYING WISH – SYMPTOMS OF SURVIVAL
As some of you may recall, 2022 was a really good year for the Hardcore (and related) scene(s)… for me, at least. This year, however, not much has grabbed me (although I know I’ve missed a few things).
The new Dying Wish, however, piqued my interest last month with eleven tracks of urgent, emotive
Metallic Hardcore Metalcore which marry snappy riffs and stomping rhythms with the sort of nascent, mainstream-crossover potential which could (and should) lead to the band receiving a lot more attention and exposure.
The choppy grooves and moody melodic touches of the opening title-track, for example, quickly lay out the band’s all thrills, no frills, modus operandi, while the stripped-down, tightly-wound strains of “Watch My Promise Die” effectively and effortlessly combine both intensity and empathy in equal measure (with the subsequent “Starved” possibly being even better).
Sure, a few of the riffs feel a little too familiar (“Kiss of Judas”) and you can see the clean choruses coming a mile off, but there’s nothing wrong with being a little bit predictable if, and when, your delivery is this powerful.
And, make no mistake, there’s no denying the visceral power of songs such as “Prey For Me” and “Tongues of Lead”, which suggest that Dying Wish might be even better off just going straight for the throat more often.
That being said, closer “Lost in the Fall” provides an equally potent reminder that this sort of Metalcore, when done just right, is capable of hitting you just as hard in the gut, the head, and the heart all at the same time, so even if I don’t think that Symptoms of Survival is quite as “list-worthy” as some others seem to, it’s definitely “listen-worthy”, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they explode in popularity after this.
EARTHSIDE – LET THE TRUTH SPEAK
Last time we heard from Earthside was way back in 2015, and I think a lot of people (if not most of them) had probably come to the conclusion that this was, unfortunately, the last we were going to hear from them.
Lo and behold, however, it turns out that the band were neither dead or asleep – rather they were working on an absolutely massive, and massively ambitious, Prog-Metal odyssey by the name of Let the Truth Speak.
Featuring numerous guest appearances from a variety of vocalists (such as Keturah Johnson of The Heavy Medicine Band, AJ Channer of Fire From The Gods, and Daniel Tompkins of Tesseract) and other creative collaborators (including members of Sandbox Percussion and Leprous) these tracks are, collectively, provide an incredibly dynamic musical display that combines intricate instrumental passages and poignant moments of moody calm with perfectly-placed moments of electrifying intensity.
Picking out specific highlights isn’t easy, as the overall quality is ridiculously high (I’d probably have an easier time identifying one or two slightly lesser cuts that could possibly have been trimmed from the track-list), but songs such as “We Who Lament” (whose captivating melodic slow-burn builds towards a truly cathartic climax), the cinematic “Tyranny”, and the titanic, prog-tastic title track all showcase the very best of Earthside‘s sublime songwriting skills (as well as their undeniable instrumental abilities) while also allowing their respective guest vocalists a chance to really cut loose and show everyone exactly what they’re made of.
But it’s not just about the band’s impressive roster of guest stars, as the purely instrumental “Watching the Earth Sink” proves that Earthside are just as capable of telling a truly mesmerising, multifaceted musical story without a single line of singing – demonstrating that you don’t need to utilise a voice to have a voice of your own.
Absolutely, and unquestionably, this is one album that really was worth the wait.
HARKLA – THE LIVING MOUNTAIN
Now this is an interesting one, from a band who are a new discovery for me but who apparently have three previous albums which – on the strength of The Living Mountain – I should probably make time to check out sometime soon.
Known (by people more in the know than me, at least) for dealing in a punchy, pneumatic form of post-Meshuggah Death-Groove akin to the likes of Koronal, Endolith, and Xerath (RIP), the band’s newest album also finds them, for the first time, incorporating unexpected touches of frigid, folky strings and strange, semi-symphonic melodies, resulting in an unusual (and unusually effective) mix of the modern and the traditional.
For the most part these more esoteric embellishments are kept from feeling gimmicky (with only “Näcken” really overstepping the mark) by their judicious deployment, with the band choosing key moments – such as the subtle strains of melody infusing both piston-powered opener “Skogsrå” and the impressively riffy, irresistibly hooky title-track, for example – for them to make their presence known.
The use of these elements is, however, a vital part of the album’s unique appeal – without taking away from the sheer sonic mass of gravity-distorting grooves and down-tuned, neutronium-dense riffs which makes up the core of songs like “Mara”, “One With the Fog” (which, honestly, wouldn’t have sounded entirely out of place on Koloss) and the tightly-wound sturm und twang of “Än En Gång” – to the point that, while they definitely play a supporting role in the overall scheme of things, their absence would certainly be missed.
In particular, I can’t imagine the stunning, staccato attack of “Imprisoned” or the coiled, compressed energy of “Draugr” sounding the same without those added injections of swirling strings or chanting/crooning clean vocals, which suggests – to me at least – that these are elements the band might want to (and hopefully will) exploit and explore even further next time around!
NARBO DACAL – ELYSIUM NOW
Last, but by no means least, we have another fantastic new discovery of mine in the form of the debut album from Poland’s Narbo Dacal.
Featuring six tracks of what the band themselves call “(Be)Witching Metal” – which in practice means a combination of sludgy Post-Metal riffs and eerily expressive clean vocals which invites comparisons with the legendary Battle of Mice – Elysium Now is one of the most striking debuts I’ve heard this year (and it’s been a damn good year for new bands as it is).
The juxtaposition of vocalist/bassist Eliza Ratusznik’s strangely seductive singing style (which, on occasion, contorts itself into a scalding shriek worthy of Julie Christmas at her most feral) and the irrepressible heaviness of the accompanying music (Ratuznik’s thick, thrumming bass-lines locking down the low-end alongside Grzegorz Włodek’s heaving riffage and twisted melodic phrasings, while drummer Bartłomiej Kliś effortlessly switches back and forth between teasing tension and intense impact) makes for a fascinating listening experience, no question.
But there’s more than that to this album, as the trio’s already well-developed songwriting skills soon attest, with the steady climb towards crescendo of “Passion Flower”, the anxiety-inducing energy of “Roses”, and the dynamic ebb and flow of “The Vase” each showcasing a slightly different approach which, nonetheless, all contributes to the cohesive character of the greater whole.
I could go on…I really could… but I want to leave a few surprises for you (such as how heavy the band get on “The Last Straw”, or that ending to “Forget Me Not”) to discover on your own. After all, this is probably one of the biggest and best surprises of the year for me personally, and I wouldn’t want to rob you of the same experience!