May 2018 showered us with so many great releases that it took me a lot of effort to keep up.
Still I tried my best to compile this list of the most notable albums of the month (in my humble opinion, of course).
Bong – Thought and Existence
English city of Newcastle upon Tyne is famous for being a birthplace of two very important metal bands: Venom and Skyclad. While this four-piece, that also comes from Newcastle, has nothing to do with either of two aforementioned bands sonically, there is no denying high quality of Bong‘s music.
The kind of music that we hear on Thought and Existence is a persistent, almost meditative drone/doom metal that is highly enjoyable during a relaxation seance or as a background music. But make no mistake – this is not a white noise, neither this is a lullaby. Bong‘s music is very heavy, and, if you are into this kind of music (I sure am!), then you will likely not be able to resist doing some low-BPM headbanging.
Urfaust – The Constellatory Practice
Urfaust‘s latest record is a unique mix of atmospheric black metal, black/doom metal and ambient.
The Constellatory Practice takes you on a spiritual journey by the means of melodies, harmonies and rhythms.
Despite the fact that the music presented on this album is very ambiental, I urge you to resist listening to it as a background music, because, in that case, you would lose some of the little details that make The Constellatory Practice a special record.
Parkway Drive – Reverence
If you followed my blog for a while, you may have noticed that I listened to a wide range of sub-genre of heavy music: pretty much everything from progressive rock to grindcore.
Still, there are some particular styles that I cannot get into (and not because I haven’t tried). One of them is metalcore. While I enjoy listening to some of the bands that lean more towards the progressive side (Between the Buried and Me, Protest the Hero), it is normally not a kind of music I appreciate.
I remember listening to one of Parkway Drive records years ago, and, honestly, I wasn’t impressed. Still, I decided to give Reverence a try, because I read some good things about this album.
After listening to this record a bit I must say that it’s actually not half bad. It’s not abundant with some of the elements that tend to make stay away from metalcore in general, such as “good cop, bad cop” type of vocal approach or breakdown abuse.
Reverence seems like quite a melodic record, but still has enough of aggression that it is characteristic of hardcore punk.
And, surprisingly, the last track, The Colour of Leaving reminded me a lot of Current 93.
Ihsahn – Àmr
I must confess I always admired Vegard Sverre Tveitan (commonly known as Ihsahn) as a musician and a composer. Be it Emperor or Peccatum, or any of his other bands and projects, he always showed great prowess at creating a kind of music that sounds both original and inspiring. And, surely, when he decided to go solo, he maintained the same high musical quality.
Àmr is his seventh solo album, and the sonical forms presented on this record follow the pattern established on the previous six full-lengths. It is extreme progressive metal that is actually quite accessible, but that doesn’t mean it is unsofisticated.
Compared to Das Seelenbrechen the music of Àmr sounds a lot less avant-garde or experimental, but the mix between Ihsahn‘s black metal roots and progressive rock vibes sounds just great.
If you like progressive metal at all, then you should not let this album pass you by.
Thy Catafalque – Geometria
I first heard about Thy Catafalque in 2011, when Rengeteg came out, and, to be honest, I didn’t really appreciate the band’s particular style of folk-inspired electronic avant-garde metal.
But now that seven years have passed I’ve learnt to enjoy Tamás Kátai’s music. It’s not easy to take the traditional melodies, add a bit of the modern electronic music and put it all on top of the metal base, because you need to maintain a fragile kind of balance in order not to turn it into something inedible.
Surprisingly, Thy Catafalque manages to achieve the task with seeming ease.
Geometria is an album that is not for mainstream metalheads, but rather for people like myself, who are constantly searching for new art forms in the metal spectrum.
Lik – Carnage
If you are into old school Swedish death metal, then Carnage will likely satisfy your craving. Characteristic heavy and dirty sound, ripping vocals and the tempo that crushes you without going too fast.
Even if this album is not particularly original, Lik offer us death metal in its pure, feral state, leaving aside the production tricks.
Silent Stream of Godless Elegy – Smutnice
7 long years had passed between the releases of Relic Dances and Návaz. Then yet another 7 years have passed, and now we are presented with Smutnice…
This sounds like a beginning of some fairy tale, which is very appropriate in this case, because Silent Stream of Godless Elegy is a doom metal band that draws its inspiration heavily from Moravian folklore.
The Czechs have not released a single mediocre album in 23 years of their career, and the new record is no exception. The band’s music sounds full of emotion and inspiration. Vocal duet of Hana and Pavel is not a typical duet of “the beauty and the beast”, because the melodic lines are more reminiscent of folk music. The cello and the violin also add a unique touch to the musical pattern of the band.
Chrch – Light Will Consume Us All
Light Will Consume Us All is the second album of the Sacramento band, and musically it is very close to its predecessor, Unanswered Hymns.
The quintet presents us with a cocktail that mixes the sadness of doom metal with the ugliness of sludge. Maybe it’s not the most original combination there is, but it definitely works well.
There are only three tracks on this record, none of which feel like a filler.
As I mentioned before in one of my reviews, there is no scarcity of female-fronted doom metal bands these days, but Chrch manages to stand out.
Kekal – Deeper Underground
Deeper Underground, full-length number 11 of Indonesian avant-garde metal masters Kekal, on one hand follows the vein of Multilateral with its experimental nature, but, on the other, reminds us of the band’s black metal roots.
As it always is the case with Kekal, this new record may take quite some time to get into and to begin to appriciate all the little details hidden beneath the surface. But, if you are into experimental/avant-garde music, you will discover a gold mine here.
Son of Sorrow – Rulers of a Dying World
One of the metal sub-genre I hold very close to my heart is gothic metal. Therefore I can’t help but feel discouraged by the lack of good new gothic metal bands. Discovering The Foreshadowing back in 2010 was a great joy to me. The Italians proved that gothic traditions in the south of Europe were still alive. Son of Sorrow is a band from the south of Spain that is a further proof of that.
Despite Rulers of a Dying World being the first full-length record of the quintet, the music presented on it is suprisingly mature and well-composed.
Son of Sorrow clearly draws inspiration from the classic bands, such as Paradise Lost, but steers clear of copying. While the formula of the band’s music is classic, the Andalusians manage to give it a personal touch.
I definitely recommend this album to any gothic metal fan. And more so, if you enjoy listening to the bands like The Old Dead Tree and The Foreshadowing.
Hegemone – We Disappear
We Disappear is the second album of this band from Poznań, Poland. The band’s debut record, Luminosity, released back in 2014 completely escaped my attention. But I’m glad for the opportunity to get to listen to its follow-up.
The music that Hegemone creates can bu summarized as post-black metal with some sludge touches here and there. As a result the album is filled with dark and oppressive atmosphere.
While this Polish band may not be a hegemone in its sub-genre (yet), We Disappear is definitely an album I recommend listening to.
At the Gates – To Drink from the Night Itself
At the Gates is a band that offers no surprises when it comes to its music. But, honestly, was anyone expecting them to suddenly begin experimenting when the band released its first album in almost 20 years?
At War with Reality was a surprisingly solid continuation of the band’s particular take on melodic death metal presented on Terminal Spirit Disease and Slaughter of the Soul.
To Drink from the Night Itself follows basically the same musical blueprint – melodeath that focuses heavily on death metal side. At the Gates‘ music is as dark and aggressive as ever. Tomas Lindberg’s shrieks are as disturbing as 20-25 years. While there is only one the Björler brothers in the current line-up, but Jonas Stålhammar (God Macabre, The Lurking Fear) that stepped in as a guitar player does a really good job.
All in all, I would say that I like this album even more than its predecessor, and this record is a proof that At the Gates in particular and Gothenburg death metal scene in general still have something to say.
Gazpacho – Soyuz
One of my favourite modern prog bands released a new album this month too.
I’m speaking about the Norwegians Gazpacho and their newest work Soyuz.
As always is the case with Gazpacho the complexity does not reside in off-beat riffs or intricate 10-minutes-long instrumental soli. The real complexity of the band’s music is in the emotions it produces.
It’s hard for me not to compare them to another Norwegian band, Ulver. Despite the fact that these two bands have different musical directions, I cannot avoid noticing a certain similarity in the emotional patterns both groups create.
Soyuz is an intimately philosophical record, the one best absorbed in a relaxed atmosphere and introspective mood.
Little Dead Bertha – Age of Silence
The Voronezh band changed their style throughout the years from gothic/doom metal to symphonic black/death metal. Age of Silence is the first album of Little Dead Bertha in 8 years, and it doesn’t stray too far from the direction the band took on Angel & Pain.
While the title track can be considered as a bit of a stand-out, the flow of the album is pretty smooth. Which is not necessarily a bad thing, as the quality of the material presented by Little Dead Bertha is quite high.
Age of Silence ends with two cover tracks, and, if the Sisters of Mercy cover reminds me a bit of the one Cradle of Filth did years ago, the band’s version of Lake of Tears‘ Devils Diner provides us with a fresh take on the familiar song.
Alkaloid – Liquid Anatomy
While there are many tech death bands these days, quite a lot of them seem to have an idea of technicality as some kind of a fretboard gymnastics abuse. But this is not the case of the German band Alkaloid.
Liquid Anatomy is a great example of extreme progressive metal, which comes as no surprise, because Alkaloid was formed by ex-drummer of Obscura Hannes Grossmann (who is also a Blotted Science drummer).
The music presented on the album is quite diverse and manages to maintain a firm hold on the listener’s attention up until the end. Clearly, the band has no lack of ideas.
The title of track number 7, Chaos Theory and Practice, reminded me of Swedish band Theory in Practice. There is a certain similarity in the two bands’ sound, as both Alkaloid and Theory in Practice have some really technically proficient musicians in their respective line-ups, and the song structures are complex in both cases.
Liquid Anatomy is definitely my number one choice for the technical/progressive death metal album of the year so far.
Wilt – Ruin
If you are into atmospheric black metal, then I recommend you to check out this Canadian band.
Ruin is the second full-length of Wilt, and, while it seems to stick very close to the blueprint of a typical ABM album, it also manages to achieve the right atmosphere. And that is the most important aspect of a good album in this particular sub-genre.
The guitar riffs, the vocals, the rhythm section… Everything in Wilt‘s music serves one purpose: creating the atmosphere of a dying landscape. As the name of the band suggests, its music is a soundtrack to the Nature’s last breath.
Amorphis – Queen of Time
Amorphis‘ 2015 album Under the Red Cloud is considered by many as a masterpiece and probably the best record the band released with Tomi Joutsen on vocals. Therefore it is understandable that the next album of the band was bound to be thoroughly dissected and compared to its predecessor.
Queen of Time had it hard to begin with, but then the long-time bassist Niclas Etelävuori decided to leave the band. Luckily, the one to step up in his place was no other than Olli-Pekka Laine, the mastermind behind Barren Earth and Mannhai and the original Amorphis bass player. To my disappointment, though, he only wrote a bonus track As Mountains Crumble, and the songwriting duties as always were shared between Esa Holopainen and Santeri Kallio.
Still, in my humble opinion, the band fared quite well in living up to the expectations. The tracks such as The Bee or Wrong Direction are at least on par with the best tracks from Under the Red Cloud. Daughter of Hate is pretty aggressive-sounding for the modern Amorphis sound, and Jørgen Munkeby’s saxophone adds an additional taste to the song. And Amongst Stars showcases a beautiful vocal duet of Tomi and my all-time favourite female vocalist Anneke van Giersbergen. What more is there to wish for?
Actually my only complaint with this album is that it is less even than the band’s 2015 piece. There are some great tracks that give you goosebumps and make you headbang, but there are also some songs that are just… good. Not great, but good.
If you are a fan of the band’s modern sound or of melodic metal in general, then you will surely enjoy listening to Queen of Time. Just be patient and listen to this album several times before judging, as it is quite a grower.
Grayceon – IV
The fourth full-length album of this San Francisco band doesn’t aim to break the borders or lead some kind of musical revolution, but, nevertheless, it will likely be able to satisfy your thirst for cello-powered prog. The trio keeps showcasing their proficienty not only as musicians, but also as songwriters, as the music presented on IV is on par with the band’ earlier records.
Arkheth – 12 Winter Moons Comes the Witches Brew
When I think of Australian metal, the first bands that come to mind are Alchemist, Mesarthim, Virgin Black… Those are all the bands that sound very differently, but each one of them has a very distinctive musical style.
Arkheth is a (one-man-)band that can be added to the abovementioned list. The music on 12 Winter Moons Comes the Witches Brew can be described as a weird mix of symphonic black metal and avant-garde jazz. The saxophone, courtesy of Glen Wholohan, adds an additional layer to what otherwise could be a pretty generic sympho black album and turns it into an exquisite treat for avant-garde metal lovers.
Witch Mountain – Witch Mountain
I never tried to hide the fact that I’m a big doom metal lover. The bands such as Candlemass, Saint Vitus, Confessor, Warning, the Peaceville three (Anathema, My Dying Bride, Paradise Lost) are all very dear to my heart.
Therefore it feels me with joy, when I hear so many good doom metal records being released lately. But one particular kind of doom metal is the product of recent years, and that is a female-fronted traditional doom (yes, I’m not talking about Theatre of Tragedy and the like).
In one of the previous entries I already mentioned some of the bands that fit into this sub-genre (if it can be considered one). But Witch Mountain from Portland can be considered one of the pioneers, for the band releases high quality music since the early 2000s.
Back in 2015 the long time vocalist Uta Plotkin left the band to be replaced by Kayla Dixon, so the self-titled record is actually the first one for her. Luckily, Kayla demonstrates right from the start that she is more than capable as a vocalist, and manages to add her own personal touch to the band’s music, converting Witch Mountain into one of the best records in the discography of the Oregon band.
Witchsorrow – Hexenhammer
If you are saddened by the fact that Cathedral broke up (I surely am), then Witchsorrow may be just the right band to brighten your mood. Which is a bit of a paradox given that Witchsorrow is a band that plays doom metal.
The comparison of this Hampshire trio with the veteran English band is mostly due to the vocal manner of Necroskull that reminds me a lot of Lee Dorian.
Another English band that comes to mind while listening to Hexenhammer is Electric Wizard. But only when it comes to the heaviness of the riffs, as Witchsorrow‘s music has nothing of Electric Wizard‘s psychedelic vibe or drug-infused atmosphere.
If you love doom metal, I don’t see a single reason to pass up on this record.
Arena – Double Vision
If you follow modern progressive rock at all, you must likely already know the British band Arena, which is one of the most influential neo-progressive bands.
Double Vision is the 9th full-length album of the quintet that consists of such experienced musicians as Clive Nolan (Pendragon), Mick Pointer (Marillion) and John Mitchell (It Bites, Kino, Frost*, Lonely Robot).
Graveyard – Peace
Peace is the fifth studio album of Swedish band Graveyard. The kind of music presented on this record is what I personally call “retro rock”.
Nostalgia is a peculiar feeling. I guess, everyone experiences it at some moment of his or her life. The bands such as Graveyard or Kavadar not only try to reproduce the sound of the great 70’s rock bands, but aim higher in replicating the esthetics of the musicians of that decade too.
While there may be a room for discussion that a copy can never be better than the original, but I think that this kind of band is needed in this digital era, when the records sound too polished and sometimes the distinction between rock and pop music is almost inperceptible.
Besides there can be no doubt as to the quality of the songwriting and musical prowess demonstrated on Peace.
All in all, if you are tired of re-listening those old Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin records time and time again and want to experience something fresher, I definitely recommend this album.
Subsignal – La muerta
Subsignal is a band that was formed after the split-up of German progressive metal band Sieges Even by the guitarist Markus Steffen and the vocalist/keyboard player Arno Menses.
La muerta is the fifth album of the band, and it features the same kind of melodic progressive metal leaning more toward progressive rock that Subsignal came to be known for.
If you are a fan of the musicians’ previous band, or, if you like progressive metal/rock with great melodies, I highly recommend this record.
Lunatic Soul – Under the Fragmented Sky
This solo project of Mariusz Duda (Riverside) already has almost the same number of records as his main band.
Compared to Riverside‘s music, what we hear on Lunatic Soul albums is generally more electronic and experimental, and Under the Fragmented Sky is no exception.
While there is a hint of that same melancholy ever-present on Riverside records, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this album to the fan of the band. But, if you like progressive music and don’t shy away from some electronic parts here and there, you will likely enjoy listening to Under the Fragmented Sky.
Kaiser – 1st Sound
If you are in the mood for some groovy riffs, I recommend you to check out the debut album of Finnish band Kaiser.
The band’s music is all about riffs, riffs and then… some more riffs. Even when the band takes a little break with slow guitar fingering, in the end it is just a build-up to some cool-sounding riff.
Yes, surely, if you listened to tons of stoner metal records before, you will find no surprises here, but still this cannot change the fact that 1st Sound is an album that sounds very good, and it’s a great debut for the band.
Dopethrone – Transcanadian Anger
Dirtiness and ugliness of sludge, slow and heavy riffs of doom and fuzziness of stoner – those are the ingredients that Canadian band Dopethrone uses to create a brain-wrecking cocktail.
Named after an Eletric Wizard album, this band does not copy-paste, but rather makes a kind of music that can be considered as a musical equivalent of showing your middle finger to the world.
These are all the releases that caught my attention this month.
I hope you enjoyed this selection of music. Feel free to check out my YouTube playlist for May 2018.
See you next month!