Nov 152016



As I mentioned earlier this morning, we’re rapidly approaching the brink of our year-end LISTMANIA orgy. In fact, on Friday I’ll be soliciting reader suggestions for our annual Most Infectious Song list, and about a week after that I’ll be asking our readers to give us their lists of the year’s best releases — so please start thinking about both of those subjects. Of course, we’ll once again be re-posting year-end lists from select print zines and “big platform” music sites as they appear, as well as publishing “best of” lists by our staff and invited guests, both band members and fans.

In the meantime, we’ll also continue trying to recommend new releases, and there are still some big ones due for arrival before January 1. There have also been some notable ones released quite recently that I fear we’ll never get around to reviewing, and so I’m forced to resort to posts like this one in which I’ll just share the music and sacrifice the words of praise (though in many cases we’ve already written about individual songs). However, we do welcome your own thoughts about these releases in the Comments. Here we go — I hope you’ll give each of these albums at least a sample test.


Album: O turniach, jeziorach i nocnych szlakach
Released: October 31
Approximate Genre: Atmospheric Black Metal
Country: Poland Continue reading »

Oct 082016



Happy Saturday. At least I hope it’s happy for you. I’m feeling a little woozy from the usual bout of end-of-week inebriation, amplified by a celebration of what is surely the final nail in Donald Trump’s maggot-ridden coffin. Surely it is, isn’t it? (And yes, I hear you saying, “Don’t call me Shirley”.)

I spent basically the entire past week writing reviews to accompany premieres, of which we had a shitload of good ones (and one more is coming tomorrow). What fell by the wayside were Seen and Heard round-ups of recommended new music. I now have vastly more on my list than time or room to cover all of them. I’ve moved some into tomorrow’s usual Shades of Black feature, and these four I sifted from that giant list in part to provide variety and in part for… well, I don’t know what the other part is.


I’m pretty sure that I first discovered Dublin’s Vircolac through a 2014 year-end list on our site by the Siberian musician “B” (of Station Dysthymia, among other groups), who said of Vircolac’s debut demo Codex Perfida: “Very nuanced and dynamic release! Vircolac has to be one of the most organic black/death hybrids I know, not so much switching between as seamlessly fusing the parent genres.”

As you’re about to find out, Vircolac have become even more adventurous and adept at organically fusing musical elements together, and they’re not limited to the trappings of black and death metal. Continue reading »

Dec 272014


Welcome to Part 4 of our list of 2014′s Most Infectious Extreme Metal Songs. For more details about what this list is all about and how it was compiled, read the introductory post via this link. For the other songs we’ve previously named to the list, go here. Today we add two more songs, from two rising stars in the firmament of metal, both of whom match technically impressive instrumental skill with songwriting prowess.


At the moment, I can’t remember a current band whose fortunes have risen so far, so fast, as Black Crown Initiate from Reading, PA. On the strength of one four-song EP — Song of the Crippled Bull (glowingly reviewed here by TheMadIsraeli) — they landed on a slew of high-profile, kickass tours, the first of which was headlined by Behemoth (I reviewed the Seattle stop of that mega-tour here). That EP also landed them a spot on the roster of eOne Music, which released the band’s debut album this year — The Wreckage of Stars.

The album proved beyond doubt that Song of the Crippled Bull was no fluke. As DGR wrote in our review of the album: Continue reading »

Jun 132014

Most instrumental intro tracks on metal albums are forgettable. They may mean something to the bands, providing some link to a concept behind the album or a reflection of what inspired the music, but to listeners they often sound like nothing but filler, something to skip past to find the meat of the matter. But the instrumental first track on the debut album by an Iranian band named Azooma makes an impression. It’s the first sign, but certainly not the last one, that A Hymn of the Vicious Monster is something special.

And by special, I mean hands-down the best technical death metal album I’ve heard so far this year.

That first track features an acoustic and electric guitar duet that will quickly tell you there are some talented instrumental performers in this group. But, really, you will still have no idea how remarkably accomplished everyone in this band is until the first full track explodes. And from then until the brief closing track, Azooma set off a non-stop musical fireworks display.

This is the kind of technical death metal that is as much progressive metal as it is “tech death”, incorporating not only extravagant instrumental forays but also exotic melodies and beautifully timed interludes that interweave elements of jazz fusion and even Latin rhythms. As a result, Azooma are more in the camp of bands such as Gorod and Gorguts (with a bit of Dysrythmia in the mix) than the kind of alien ant swarm that a band like Spawn of Possession serves up. Continue reading »

May 192014

To help start the new week, here are some new songs and related news that I came across over the weekend.


The Czech band Master’s Hammer began recording music in about 1987, with a 14-year hiatus between their third album in 1995 and their fourth one in 2009. Their sound evolved over those many years. In Darkthrone’s biography (here), Fenriz has referred to the band’s debut album Ritual as “actually the first Norwegian black metal album, even though they are from Czechoslovakia”, but later releases incorporated wide-ranging styles of music, including folk and classical.

Yesterday Master’s Hammer released their sixth studio album, Vagus Vetas, through the band’s own label, Jihosound Records, where it’s now available for order. Physically, it’s a very attractive release (some photos of the CD and the 12-page illustrated booklet that comes with it can be seen here), and it includes 12 songs. Unfortunately, I haven’t found any one of them on-line, but I do have a teaser video. Continue reading »