Animus Mortis - Testimonia

It’s rare that I find a group that would be equally as at home touring with Hopesfall as Taake.  Sure, there are plenty of post-black outfits that inject some indie and hardcore ethos into their blastbeat-driven sound, but the pure spacey post-rock riffs of tracks like “Hyperbole of Senses” forego the word fusion.  Rather, they are given their own unmolested space while the black metal vocals do the same.  Each seems to exist fully within its own genre while creating a true duality of beauty and ugliness.
Hailing from Chile, Animus Mortis play a highly emotive, guitar and drum driven brand of music.  While they are often listed as black metal, I think the closest tag would be post metal.  The combination of the jangly rhythm guitar chords and slow, sorrowful picked lead melodies is blissful rather than grim.  It’s the sort of melancholy that leads to introspection and new outlook.  Meanwhile the drums construct an ever-changing landscape of textures with double bass, tom fills, blastbeats, ear-catching cymbal patterns, and just an overall sense of both the technical and the memorable.
The vocals come in two major flavors:  almost folky baritone singing/chanting and echoed howls and growls.  The former often reminded me of early Borknagar, albeit more subdued and less theatrical.  Whatever comparisons they might conjure, I find these parts to be quite soothing.  The harsh vocals, on the other hand, have a much more cavernous, evil quality.  They seem to contort the very fabric of the music with songwriting shifting markedly into ominous minor keys and the drums becoming increasingly aggressive.  A good example is on “Manuscripts,” where the aforementioned peace between the black and the beautiful devolves temporarily into a spiraling chasm of darkness.
Honestly, every track on this album is a winner in some way.  I was drawn into each on my very first listen with the one-two punch of varied songwriting and striking hooks.  Each subsequent listen only grew in lushness and gratification.  While it may sound sappy, Testimonia takes me away to a different place.  A place where my feelings flow more freely and tears of both joy and regret threaten to burst forth at any moment.  But enough of my self-righteous pontification.  Check the album out for yourself on bandcamp.  It’s only 7 Euro if you feel as strongly about it as I did.


折戸 伸治 Shinji Orito (Japan)


I know I've been somewhat slow with my reviews lately. This is the struggle of being a student and a blogger, priorities.. ugh.  For this entry I will change things up  again as I often do an introduce you to the talented Shinji Orito. Even though it is immensely popular these days, Anime is just something that has never done it for me. Sure, I enjoy the classics like Dragon Ball and Pokemon but I've never delved further into or felt a connection with any of the shows. One thing is certain though, where I lack the passion for the show, the music is an entirely different animal all together. Shinji Orito is just one of the many Anime soundtracks I adore. His music makes you feel alive, either in a way of elation, or through despair His music is both cheerful and absolutely solemn at times. The contribution in the anime Clannad helps capture this essence of emotion perfectly. Beauty, despair, warmth, and cold is what you can expect on a bitter sweet journey. Enjoy

Kommandant - The Architects of Extermination

Kommandant, despite the very European-sounding name and album art (KMFDM?  Is that you?), are a black metal band based out of Chicago.  Sporting a few releases since 2008, The Architects of Extermination is their 3rd full-length album.  New to the group, I was interested enough after hearing their single and seeing that they were from my old stomping grounds to check it out in full.  After Lord Mantis blew me away with Deathmask last year, I continue to be impressed with what vicious fusions are cranked out from the windy city.
Compositions at times remind me more of Godflesh than any black metal group.  The focus on slow, pounding drums and discordant, droning guitar brought me to thoughts of Streetcleaner’s “Dream Long Dead” and “Christbait Rising” more than once.  The difference lies mainly in the grim vocals that echo from the background similar to Lunar Aurora or Deathspell Omega.  Other comparisons to these groups are warranted, though Kommandant choose a far more straight-forward and perhaps less melodious approach.  The opening build on the album’s first track is one of my favorites.  The simple yet effective rhythms got me doing that 90’s head bob and sway.
Pictured: My childhood
There is a character to each instrument.  The clangy basslines are like an evil voice whispering behind your ear.  Dark tremolo passages are lurking shadows at the corners of your vision.  And the drums…wow.  The work behind the kit on this album is by far my favorite aspect.  While the beats aren’t really anything new, the excellent production behind each tom hit is stellar.  From the foreboding march of “Killing Word” to the blastbeats of “Rise and Fall of Empire” and marching drum snare rolls of “Onward to Extinction;” this is the sound of the four horseman approaching.  Spoiler alert:  they aren’t here for deep dish pizza.
In the end, I do find myself at times wishing for a little more payoff to the ominous threat prowling just outside my view.  But with each listen, I come to respect more and more the utter feeling of dread that accompanies this slow-burner approach.  While a more traditional blast of fury might be satisfying, comfort is not something Kommandant wishes to offer.  More Lovecraft than Clive Barker, The Architects of Extermination is an eerie blackened industrial trudge through Silent Hill, where the fog obscures your vision, but that damned radio static is a constant reminder to never stop running. 
The album drops 4/27, those who order the digipack will receive the exclusive - and one of my favorite tracks - "Killing Word."


Corpus Christi - Palemoon

Corpus Christii caught my eye when perusing the March 2015 release list via bandcamp.  The 3 tracks available on their page seemed destined to satisfy my need for the occasional black metal that one needn’t think about; only smile while burning in its flame.  I was unfamiliar with the group, so seeing that their release history goes back to the late 90’s was a surprise.  Apparently they have been turning out some of the more relevant BM from Portugal nearly since the genre’s inception.  While listens to their earlier works left me questioning what the album might bring, Palemoon tore the flesh from my bones for doubting even for a second.
I really don’t care how “kvlt” my BM is, but in Corpus Christii’s case, it certainly doesn’t hurt.  Aside from the slightly beefed up production, Palemoon could have easily been released alongside heavyweights Darkthrone and Mayhem.  Openers “Far Beyond the Light” and ripping “Under Beastcraft” sport epic, dark melodies with head-banging blast and d-beats, while more stripped down tracks like “Eternal Bliss” and “Last Eclipse” are more reminiscent of Under a Funeral Moon.  But don’t get too comfortable with those bleak, pendulous tremolos either; they are known to erupt into bursts of black n’ roll fury akin to Satyricon’s later outings or IXXI’s Assorted Armament.
I’ll admit that one of the things I wasn’t exactly fond of when browsing Corpus Christii’s prior catalog was some of the choices regarding vocal delivery.  Fortunately that was not a problem this time around.  In fact, these are some of the most vicious, chaotic, and dramatic screams of agony you may hear this year (aside from maybe Leviathan).  This is not the over-rehearsed melodrama of Carach Angren.  Rather, Nocturnus channels everything from De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas to Nemesis Divina.  Performances feel improvised, creating a magnificent live effect.  While I have applauded a handful of BM vocalists recently for their rare level conviction, few have reached the rawness that is on display with Palemoon.
All of the other instruments showcase an equal level of energy.  The production of this album, while gritty, is still notably more modern in the level of bass and fullness of sound.  Fortunately this allows the drums to crush skulls twice as hard while the rumbly bass guitar mocks the fallen.  Meanwhile the one-two treble punch of the relentless guitars and snare hits grind the remainder ash.  This isn’t some Cradle of Filth gothic romance…this is war.
Final word: here aggression trumps invention.  While nothing on Palemoon will strike the veteran listener as original, Nocturnus does the old sound faster, harder, and better than anyone I have heard in some time.  As Immortal disbands, Darkthrone goes crust punk, and Enslaved explores new progressive territories; Corpus Christii is here to carry on the spirit of early second wave.  No compromises.

Prion - Impressions

I come across a lot of good music from South America and the one thing they all share in common is that they tend to lean towards the extreme side of the genre, An album that recently impressed me from that region is from 2008. It's from an Argentinian death metal trio that call themselves Prion and the album in focus is 'Impressions'. The metal on this one is raw and brutal. The savage sound shows absolutely no mercy and riffs pummel relentlessly. What makes it stand out from the pack is the odd time signatures followed by the riffs. At first listen it comes a mess of noise but this album is a grower. Repeated listens make sure that the listener gets used to the riffs and it is only then that the brilliance in the song writing can be observed. There are traces of melodic elements present at the start of 'Simulate, Hide', but for the most part it is an album devoid of any sort of melody. The band chooses technicality and sheer brutality over melody. The production sounds a bit compressed and the guitars don't sound as strong as they should. That aside, this is an album that delivers a smashing dose of death metal that deviates just enough from the normal to make it interesting.


Dekadent - Veritas

Hailing from Slovenia, Dekadent play a unique brand of melodic death and black metal.  Seemingly fed up with record labels they describe on their page as having screwed the group over more than once, they have taken it upon themselves to record this album without such restraint through crowd-sourcing.  The end result is something listeners will need to judge for themselves.  But be prepared to block out some time, because one spin just isn’t going to cut it.

There is a lot to love on this album.  My fellow Metal Stormer, ScreamingSteelUS, hit the nail on the head when he compared the opening moments to a Pink Floyd piece.  The acoustic guitar, chord progressions, trippy synths, and subtle Hammond organ all remind me of "Eclipse," "Brain Damage," and even "Comfortably Numb."  These are far from the only rock fusions Veritas has to offer.  There are squealing solos, emotional bridges, and some absolutely gorgeous clean singing fit for an arena.  Yet not unlike Enslaved’s In Times, these elements are all united in such creative ways as to never make this sound like some death/black n’ roll hybrid.

Quite to the contrary, the end result is a dense wall of sound filled to the brim with melody and an ever-present sense of weight.  One need only hop over to bandcamp and listen to “Dead Mountain” to see what I mean.  This absolute masterpiece was what put the album on my radar to begin with.  From the cascading, sorrowful guitars to the alternating cogent growls and haunting singing; this track nearly brings me to tears every time.  I liken it to a more progressive take on last year’s “While We Sleep.”  While there are other instantly likeable tracks like “Pasijon” and “Valburga” (the album’s two non-English outings), I do feel as if the single sets the bar so unreasonably high as to make the rest of the album somewhat pale in comparison.  Fortunately, the plethora of textures provided by the varied drumming, piano compositions, and rock interludes keep things moving along in a very engaging way.

While Veritas' diversity of tempos and moods provides a nice range, my one qualm is that transitions between these parts can occasionally be a bit clunky.  This is best exemplified with “Enervation’s End.”  Not only does the opening riff clash jarringly with the closing of the previous track; it is just plain annoying.  Dekadent have some very clear songwriting strengths, so it is puzzling to me how such a below-par piece was allowed to recur multiple times right in the center of an otherwise solid album.  The song is not without merit:  I enjoy the pendulous synthesizer and double bass as well as the acoustic breaks.  Unfortunately the amateurish guitar and vocals of the other parts are so cringe-inducing as for me to hit skip more often than not.

But in the end, this one blow is far from enough to sink the ship.  Rather, I consider Veritas to be a brave and fruitful excursion that certainly will deserve recognition at the year’s close alongside Enslaved, Death Karma, A Forest of Stars, and Leviathan.  The clear amount of work-ethic and DIY philosophy show in its distinctive compositions, exceptional showmanship, and willingness to explore new territories.  Check the album out for yourself here.



Frosthelm - The Endless Winter

I love me some blackened thrash, but for whatever reason not much of it crosses my path on a regular basis.  There seems to be an endless flow of blackened folk and death, yet my penchant for Immortal and Absu is more often than not left unsatisfied.  Thankfully this drought was lifted with the arrival of The Endless Winter.  Equal parts the 80’s thrash of Exodus and melodic grimness of Taake, Frosthelm are a force to be reckoned with.
One look at this amazing, frost-bitten cover and the band name, and you wouldn’t think this was the work of a couple dudes from North Dakota.  Yet there it is.  Nevertheless, these guys can shred with the best of their Nordic brethren.  I can almost see Abbath silently nodding approval with crossed arms:  Insanely fast tremolos, wild palm-mute alternation, shrieking treble-heavy chords, and a number of excellent solos to boot.  I am pretty sure that there is some direct Bathory influence on this album as well.  The thrashier parts share some qualities with Blood Fire Death while the bigger riffs bring Hammerheart to mind (see opening to “A Storm of Teeth”).
Between the endless blastbeats, minor key variations, and shrieked vocals; there is little doubt that Frosthelm are black metal to the bone.  And yet I find myself frequently banging my head and grinning while picturing “Zetro” Souza in corpse paint.  There’s something about the thick chug patterns and cadence of the screams that manages to infuse the bay area scene into the otherwise icy riffage.  It’s a combination I never would have dreamed possible, but I think that is exactly what drew me to this album to begin with.  A closer look at the liner notes reveals further clues behind the sound.  It was recorded in L.A. and mixed and mastered by Matt Hyde (Slayer, Kreator).  Frosthelm even go so far as to call themselves “thrashened black.”
Whatever you choose to call it, you need to check it out on bandcamp pronto.  Their ability to be highly technical in the shredding and drumming while maintaining a keen ear for catchy hooks and pure mosh pit mayhem are a wonder to behold.  I can’t decide whether to wear corpse paint with board shorts or a sleeveless shirt and flowing curls with combat boots and spikes.  It’s a conundrum.  But let me worry about the fashion while you stream this monster today.  It’s “The Toxic Waltz” in a snowstorm.

The Prodigy - The Day Is My Enemy

So I’m breaking protocol in more than one way today.  While reviewing non-metal is nothing new, this is definitely the most mainstream release I have featured here.  I do this for a few simple reasons.  First and foremost, I love The Prodigy.  In a mess of electronic “musicians,” they are one of the very few groups who managed to create something truly memorable and with a dark aesthetic I could get behind.  Second, none of my usual outlets feature them as a reviewable entity.  Third, this is a notable release in that it is their first in 6 years.  So put on your Jnco jeans (they’re coming back I hear) and grab your glowsticks, cuz we’re taking a walk down 90’s memory lane.
After hearing the first single to this album, I was stoked.  “Nasty” is super aggressive, hard-hitting, and is determined to stick in your head with the various hooks.  The title track likewise caught my attention being equally catchy, albeit not so violent.  And those drum-core snares!  As for the rest of the album, it’s a mixed bag.  Some of the songs ooze a catchy 90’s throwback sound that would have been right at home on The Fat of the Land (“Nasty,” “Rok-Weiler”).  Others come off a bit too poppy and pristine such as “The Wild Frontier” and “Destroy.”  These cuts lack a certain level of grit and grime I expect from a Prodigy track.
As for the sound itself, there is a bit of variety.  A lot of the “darker” tracks feature warbly dubstep-ish bass, fast drum loops, and buzz-heavy hooks not unlike classics “Breathe” and “Poison.”  Other parts of the album are more focused on melody and rich atmosphere akin to some of Feed Me’s slower cuts (e.g. “Cloudburn”).  “Beyond the Deathray” actually reminded me of a dreamy Nine Inch Nails interlude from The Fragile.  In a similar vein, “Invisible Sun” could have been an Ohgr track while “Rhythm Bomb” is straight from a dance-pop aesthetic more worthy of groups like Dee-Lite.
While the variety is a nice showcase of range and the many styles The Prodigy has been a part of through the years, it also detracts from the overall presentation.  Production is a roller-coaster ride one might expect from a greatest hits album or mix tape.  Just when I am sinking my teeth into my favorite aggressive Keith Flint moments, we jump to something decidedly less bangin’.  Speaking of which, there is not enough full-aggro Keith on this album.  The Fat of the Land gave us “Firestarter,” “Breathe, “Serial Thrilla,” and “Fuel My Fire;” all of which had memorable vocal hooks.  Likewise, Maxim’s appearances are few and far between.  Even when he does pop up, the delivery is far more subdued.  Where is my “Diesel Power?”  While the album’s first single and “Wall of Death” scratch this itch to an extent, they are the exception to the rule.  I will admit that "Medicine" has grown on me with its infectious, exotic sound.
But maybe I am just falling into the trap of expecting maturing musicians to recreate a masterpiece they dropped nearly 20 years ago.  Lord, I feel old now.  I was a very different person back then.  Hell, I was a very different person 3 years ago.  How can I expect Liam and the gang not to change as well?  In the end, The Day is My Enemy is a collection of fun tracks that run the gamut from my beloved classics to more modern-day hits.  I suppose this is ultimately a good thing in that it could bring new fans to the style and prove that The Prodigy are no one-trick-pony (bonus Deadmaus joke :-P).   Check this out when it drops at the end of the month.  Pre-order here.


Kaliya (Dallas)

You there, sir.  Yes, you.  Seems you could sure use a sledgehammer to the face.  Just so happens I have one for you.  This is some incredibly heavy, borderline blackish hardcore akin to Nails and Converge.  Stand in front of this sandblaster knowing that the recording was mastered by none other than Proscriptor McGovern, fellow Texan and mastermind behind Absu.  Bandcamp esta aqui.

Dionysus (Pakistan)

Dionysus / Dormant Inferno - Beyond Forgotten Shores 

Dionysus’s blackened sound echoes as ‘Beneath the Skies of War’ begins. The vicious snarls of the vocalist only compounds that blackened effect. The riffs are short, simple and effective. This band too does not shy away from clean segments where the guitars add a classy touch. The guitar work on this side of the split is in the form of melodic riffs that imparts emotion to the tracks. The song writing puts these riffs to good use. The different sections of the song, whether it is the melodic guitar leads or the frantic riffs accompanying blast beat sections, the execution is nailed perfectly.

 ‘Rain’ starts on a heavier note compared to its predecessor, but the blackened feel is all the same. Production on the Dionysus side of the split contrasts with that of Dormant Inferno. While Dormant Inferno has an unabashedly loud and raw tone, the production sounds a bit compressed on the Dionysus side. The song writing more than makes up for what lacks in the sound. A beautiful acoustic section with choir like chants and spoken word signals the end of the split and a masterfully crafted guitar solo lays the split to rest.
These two bands have their obvious differences in their styles of music. However they share good song writing and the ability to write tunes that move you. They both can write long songs and captivate the listener without difficulty. ‘Beyond Forgotten Shores’ is a split that brings about 37 minutes of passionate doom and an example of one of the few good things that these rival nations share.

Dormant Inferno (India)

Dormant Inferno Dionysus Beyond Forgotten Shores 

India and Pakistan may have a lot of differences between them. But come to think of it, we share a lot in common. The commonality that interests me in particular, is both nations have some solid metal bands making some good music. Transcending Obscurity India has brought together two doom oriented bands from either side of the border in the form of a split titled ‘Beyond Forgotten Shores’. The bands in participation are Mumbai based Dormant Inferno with their doom death style and Lahore based Dionysus who follow a more blackened approach to the doom genre. Though stylistically different, the music from these bands comes together wonderfully in this split.

Dominating the first half of the split is Dormant Inferno. ‘Veil of Lunacy’ is the first in line and it opens up with a up tempo beat and riff before settling into a steady groove. The riffs are meaty and memorable. I especially like the fact that the keyboard works in unison with the guitar, creating this gothic atmosphere. The flow of the song is well written as it manages to balance the groovy doom parts, the up tempo parts and the clean keyboard section in the middle. The vocalist gives a varied performance incorporating growls, snarls and a bit of whispering cleans as well. He manages to execute all styles pretty nicely.

‘Deliverance’ follows suit in a similar fashion. This tracks has a relatively higher quantity of clean sections, where the keyboard works makes it sound soulful and gothic. Dormant Inferno’s side of the split showcases a good balance of funeral doom heaviness and soulful melody, with the riffs staying in the listener’s mind. Their set ends with a cover of Incantation’s ‘A Once Holy Throne’, which strays pretty close to the original.


Serenity in Murder (Japan)

Serenity in Murder are a Japanese sextet that play a particularly epic brand of symphonic melodic death metal. A simple listen to “Await Me Your Oath” will give you a pretty strong impression of what to expect from this album. Between the lush, often folky keyboards and stellar riffing, I was certainly intrigued enough to add this album to my listening queue. Let me assure you that I was not left disappointed even a little.

The keyboards often supply a melodramatic atmosphere on par with Equilibrium: over the top, but endearing rather than disheartening. Freddy is no one-trick pony. This very talented individual is quite capable of providing many different textures that serve as the centerpiece of orchestrations throughout the album. Certain moments can have a bit of a cyber, videogame soundtrack quality as with “Hurt of Virtue,” only to change to a traditional and morose piano piece.

Alternatively, vocals are decidedly more grave in their delivery. Despite the fairly single-tone nature of these screams, Emi manages to convey quite a bit of emotion from victory to sorrow through subtle changes in cadence and enunciation. Comparisons to acts such as Darkest Hour, Bloodshot Dawn, and Mors Principium Est are warranted. Guitar riffs are worthy of similar comparisons with their fusion of thrashy speed with melodeath progressions and solos. Taken alone, these riffs are nothing new, but when combined with the synth work, melodies truly pop in exciting ways. Stellar drumming is icing on the cake with plenty of well-produced rhythms and beats to keep you bobbing your head for days.

With that in mind, you might as well set your MP3 player to repeat, because this tight piece of metal magic is only roughly 37 minutes long. I was hardly finished with my first playthrough before clicking back to the first track for a second run. All other aspects aside, this album is a blast. Everything comes together so well, and I commend Serenity in Murder for sticking to a runtime that leaves you wanting more rather than overstaying their welcome.

Final word: best melodic death metal I have heard so far from 2015. It may only be March at the time of this writing, but with so few decent releases in the genre since the 90's and early 2000's bubble burst, I am confident that this will at least be a contender by the end of the year. Check this album out today. MPE's The Unborn meets Equilibrium's Sagas.




Black Flame - The Origin of Fire

I tend to prefer my new black metal to either be folky and atmospheric, or crushing and riff-heavy.  This is the latter.  Black Flame caught my ear instantly much like Ascension's Consolamentum and IXXI's Assorted Armaments.  The vocals have that level of grit, conviction, and evil that never ceases to get me going.  The guitar work and drums are very reminiscent of Gorgoroth, which is great, but they don't strike me as being a simple clone either.  Check it out in full here.  Another relatively cheap purchase as well.


Brodequin (US)

Brodequin - Instruments of Torture

To the Veteran metal fan, Brodequin are household name in the Death Metal scene. To those unfamiliar with them they formed in the late 90's and disbanded in 2008. Instruments of Torture is by far their most critically acclaimed release with a dense and muddy production and unrelenting blast beats.Jamie Bailey is an absolute beast churning out un-human like growls that will absolutely destroy you. While it may be a tad bit difficult to digest at first, the muddy production gives it a raw and gritty feel giving you the impression it's from a much earlier time. This is a unique and great gem and will not disappoint.


Downfall of Nur (Argentina)

So yet again, it’s 2015, and despite all of my convictions held that post-black is a trite and boring affair, I have been proven wrong.  After being severely underwhelmed by last year’s Deafhaven and its thousands of art-school imitators, group after group have shown me the light.  The solution is so obvious: make the music different and interesting.  This brings me to Downfall of Nur.  Fusing the haunting howls and chord structures of post metal, the constant build of progressive, and the engrossing soundscapes of blackened folk; Umbras de Barbagia is a monument of sorrow.
This album is a bit of a slow burner. In fact, it's a full 10 minutes before the vocals even kick in, but believe me when I say that your patience will be rewarded.  Fortunately, the wait is not a chore by any means.  Between the deeply sad minor chord patterns and the (unique) folk instrumentation, the well-constructed progressions provide plenty of feeling and engagement.  The most abundant untraditional instrument is the quenacho flute.  You will probably recognize its sound from Kung Fu, or Kill Bill part 2.  But there are also appearances of piano, strings, and even rain sounds.  Those who stick around to the final track will also experience a bagpipe performance fit for a funeral procession.
The vocals start off like most post-black acts: fairly unintelligible, screechy, buried in the mix, etc.  I was a little concerned at first that this might be where things take a turn for the worst.  However, much like with the instrumentation, there is a wealth of subtle variety to be found.  When things slow down, Dany Tee (Seelenmord, In Element, ex-Dead Warrior, Those Endless Eyes) goes with something a little more grim and growly that I can actually understand.  Even more pleasant are the passages of clean singing that border on a folky chanting. These slower parts feature some very crisp acoustic guitar and tons of reverb on everything. The production choices really help the drums sound deep and foreboding.
While sonically, it would be easy to compare the tone of this to other post-black acts, I find myself thinking more of Enslaved.  The two sound little alike, yet the simple, subtle takes on songwriting and manner of black and folk fusion warrant the association.  Those who have had the pleasure of listening to Au-Dessus’ debut, Tod Huetet Ubel, Telpathy’s 12 Areas or even Leviathan’s latest album are likely to find enjoyment in this as well.  Final word: Dark, haunting, and very rewarding.  Check it out on bandcamp for stream and consider it’s low 4 Euro price tag if you enjoy it as much as I did.


Telepathy (Essex)

I seem to be on a bit of a post-metal kick, which is weird because I normally just don't care for the genre.  Furthermore, this is instrumental; which I like but am even more picky about.  Despite having such barriers to jump over to please this jaded, fast-and-hard metalhead; 12 Areas managed to not only prove enjoyable but surpass all expectations.  The arrangements are interesting and intensity never lacking.  Crunchy, heavy, tasty: like a good cereal.  Name your price for a box here.


Mendel (Holland)

I hope you like neo-classical shredding, because Mendel came to do that and chew bubbl...you get the idea.  Stunning instrumental progressive metal that is infinitely more interesting to me than Yngwie or Satriani.  It's a little bit like BTBAM without the vocals, only the harshness at times reaches levels on par with Black Dahlia Murder.  Alternatively, this one-man wrecking ball also tries his hand (and succeeds) at a few classic arrangements and even a dubstep track as well.  Name your price here for not one, but TWO albums of pure guitar prowess.  I also just realized added points are due for the Silent Hill symbol on the cover.


Alaskan (Ontario)

Making a 180 in intensity here. I've always wanted to go to Canada, but I perhaps unfairly never think of them as a country known for metal.  Sure, they have their share of heavy-hitters, but most people are going to think places like Sweden and Norway.  Enter Alaskan.  Very chill, but deceptively technical post metal full of imagery and feeling.  I listen to this album and I picture myself as one of the people on the cover.  I feel the cold wind as I pull my jacket tighter.  The ocean mist hits my face with the smell of fish and salt.  The boat rises and falls with each wave.  I would liken it a bit to Altar of Plagues striking a balance between what I found to be too repetitive of their early releases without experimenting quite as much as their final album.  Yet another pay-as-you-want.  Who says great music has to hurt your wallet?


Tod Huetet Uebel (Lisban)

One listen.  That was all this took for me to get my wallet.  If you wanted some hard-hitting blackened blastbeats and noisy riffs to destroy your brain, this is for you.  Yet for all of its berating howls, there is something I found oddly soothing and chill about it.  Kind of like the comfort you find in the sounds of a thunderstorm outside the window.  Whatever, just listen to this now.  It's a pay-what-you-want.

東京酒吐座 Tokyo Shoegazer


It always saddens me when I become so immersed in a bands music, and follow that  up with internet searches just to find that they are now longer together. Tokyo Shoegazer are among those bands. In spite of this, they play some of the best Shoegaze I've come across. I must admit, I'm rather a fanboy when it comes to their sound. Of the same caliber of My Bloody Valentine, and Slowdive, these Shoegazers from Japan (surprise surprise) play some beautiful and rich dense shoegaze. The atmosphere is oozing with charm and dreaminess combined with some of the accustomed noisy distorted parts. This is a great release for any shoegaze lover.


A Forest of Stars (UK)

Okay, so if you are a real black metal fan, you probably already know who these guys are.  However, I am willing to bet your average metalhead has never heard of them.  This is sure to make some Top 10 lists for 2015.  The vocals are like a demented one-man-show backed by the occasional angelic female melody.  Strings, slide guitar, backtracking, occasionally indie sounding bass.  But I thought you said this was BM?  There's still plenty of tremolos and blastbeats for you, but this album truly transcends in its art and beauty.  Check it out here.  Another solid deal.


Torrential Downpour (US)

A fellow Metal Stormer recommended this on a list, and MAN, was I glad I checked it out.  Progressive metal melding more genres than you can count on two hands.  I love the Mike Patton with Dillinger Escape Plan style vocals.  Has a very sci-fi vibe to it and the production is tight.  It's only $5, don't miss out.  Easily would have made my top 10 of 2014 had I heard it when it came out.


An Aesthetic Anaesthetic (US)

I'll admit that I am a little biased on this one.  I know these guys personally from my college days in Chicago.  Fortunately for you, they are more than just nice guys.  Melding post-metal, instrumental post-rock, noise-rock, and indie; A!A!A! are accomplished songwriters.  Their style can be similar to other Chicago acts like Russian Circles, but I find the guitar parts on these songs to be far more memorable and emotive.  I challenge you to listen to "We Set Tokyo Ablaze" without reaching some sort of feeling.  This album, my favorite, is available on bandcamp as a pay-what-you-want.  The band is now defunct, but with them starting families, your contributions are always appreciated.


惘闻 Wǎng Wén

Switching gears once again, we return to China for another great post-rock band. China has been a definite source of my attention  and interest musically for the past couple years. When coming acorns bands such as Wǎng Wén, i'ts not difficult to see why. Influenced by the likes of Tortoise, Mogwai and Mono, Wǎng Wén could in many ways be considered the child of these great post-rock acts. They combine so many of the wonderful traits that many post-rock fanatics have come to know and love. The flawless execution of sad melodies by way of piano, vibrant whirling guitars and soothing string passages evokes a myriad of emotions This in lies the sheer power of music. The intertwining of so many musical elements will intoxicate you as you engage in a wonderful musical journey

Crystal Castles (US)

Another throwback, but this duo has 3 excellent albums, one of which came out in 2012.  However, their debut is my personal favorite.  This is some ambient, sometimes dancey, sometimes rave-inducing electronic music...but with some of the most chaotic, anarchistic outbursts of unintelligible, and occasionally punkish, fury since Converge.  See that woman on the left?  She is not to be fucked with.  She is Blondie meets Liam Neesan in "Taken."  Stream it here.  (Crystal Castles...Not Taken)

Ur Draugr - The Wretched Ascetic

Take a look at this album cover. With something like that adorning this record, how could someone not expect the music to be weird? Ur Draugr is a three piece supergroup hailing from Australia. Looking at the other bands of the members, mainly Deathfuckingcunt and Corpsebitch, one might expect another brutal album with a sense of humor. But 'The Wretched Ascetic' is a different beast altogether. Mixing black metal and death metal, they offer the genre a twisted touch. The way the music alternates between clean acoustic guitar parts to mind crushing harsh parts is absolutely stunning. While the flow from the clean parts to the harsher areas are relatively smooth, the transitions in the black death parts of the song are schizophrenic in nature. Unpredictable and weird beyond words, Ur Draugr offer the genre a much needed breathe of fresh air. The album has its moments where the clean guitars sound beautiful and soothing, while at other times it challenges your mind with its maddening turns in direction. The two main tracks 'Unseen Golgotha' and 'The Wretched Ascetic' are both very long and highly compelling listens. Perhaps this is how the mind of an actual wretched ascetic work; calm, collected and beautiful when not entertaining twisted and maddening screams of a thousand imaginary voices. This was initially supposed to be a part of a full length, but unforseen circumstances led the band to push the full length away indefinitely with a chance that the other tracks may never see the light of day. This makes me sad as I really like the way the tracks on this record have shaped up. This is highly recommended if you fancy a weird, harsh and twisted take on black death metal.


Neolith (Netherlands)

There are a lot of excellent releases this February, but most of them are of the slower and/or atmospheric variety: Leviathan, A Forest of Stars, Enslaved.  Those are all absolutely worth your time, but every addict needs his fix.  If you're like me and have a quota for maximum overdrive speed and head-banging riffs, this album from Neolith is probably for you.  While there are plenty of reasons to draw comparisons to Behemoth, the guitar here is far thrashier and caused me to make this face more than once:

Stream and/or buy here.


The Heartland


Continuing with the core theme, The Heartland are a now defunct 5-piece mathcore band. Atypical from lots of other Mathcore, The Heartland aren't just focused on erratic time signatures and progressiveness. They certainly do not shy away from throwing in melodic passages, The best descriptor would be a softer jazzier Converge albeit less abrasive and more technical. A definite worthwhile listen if you're a fan of mathcore.


The Artificials (US)

Very emotive technical post-hardcore from Alabama.  The guitar work is nothing particularly new, but I like the interplay of the male and female vocal leads.  There are plenty of feels to be had.  Check it out here.