With so much great music out there and so much music that our staff reviews (and plenty that we don’t), it can be difficult to keep up with it all and determine which releases are the most worth your time. Harnessing the wide-ranging and diverse tastes of our editorial staff, our monthly Editors’ Picks column is our gift to you to guide you towards the music that’s impacting us the most. You can read our picks from previous months right here.
Ah, March! The end of winter is nigh, spring is nearly upon us, and the heavy hitters are preparing to unleash more music than we possibly know what to do with. Even though all of us here at Heavy Blog are practically salivating at everything that April has in store for us, this past month wasn’t exactly shabby. We’ve got a lineup of some incredible albums for you to check out if you haven’t already, and for the first time, we’re also including a shortlist of other albums from the past month (metal or otherwise) that get our collective seal of approval. Also for the first time, you’ll notice that we’ve installed a nifty little Spotify widget in our site sidebar featuring a playlist of said top picks from this past month. As always, feel free to share your own top picks in the comments, and without further ado, let’s dig into this month’s offerings!
The Body – No One Deserves Happiness
Jesus, what a fucking title. The Body have always been the masters of titling their albums, though, from I Shall Die Here to their other project on this list, One Day You Will Ache Like I Ache, and this certainly isn’t any different. The music, however, does deviate from the band’s typical fair in some ways: described by the band as “the grossest pop album of all time,” NODH is as much a nod to the saturated modern art-pop market and the omnipresent 808 drum machine as it is their typical blend of industrial sludge metal, noise rock, and drone. Across the 3/4ths of an hour that make up this masterpiece of industrial noise-pop metal, the typical love-em-or-hate-em shrieks of the band appear accompanied by female vocals, hissing pops, and grandly immense, feedback-laden walls of guitars and synthesizers; the entire record feels simultaneously like the most creatively different thing the band has done to date, while also serving as something of a crash-course in their sound, given that it pins down all of the elements that make up a The Body song into chunks that are between four and six minutes on average.
No matter the scenario, it’s a blessing to get a new The Body album this year, but No One Deserves Happiness is a treat far beyond what anybody could have expected. This is The Body at their most esoteric, their most nihilistic, their most warped and misanthropic as they power through tunes that sound like someone fed pop idols through a wood chipper and played it back through a fucked-up tape recorder. Drums roll, sludgy guitars splinter and shred themselves into nothing but static, synths eat themselves into walls of statics, and somehow, they managed to seriously make this thing sound like some sort of pop record. Not for the faint of heart, or anybody who thinks that anyone does, in fact, deserve happiness, this is a treat for those of us who go through each day begrudgingly, wishing we had the perfect soundtrack for how we feel getting out of bed in the morning. Well, ladies and gents in my boat here, look no further. The Body is here to give you exactly what you need to power through.
The Body + Full of Hell – One Day You Will Ache Like I Ache
The Body and Full of Hell both favor the company of others, with splits and collaborations littering the discography of both artists. Inevitably, the open door policy of the mutual noise-making outfits have lead the acts to finding each other and creating the bleakest mess of cacophony around. One Day You Will Ache Like I Ache is a practice in scoring psychotic depressive valleys and misanthropy with a collage of static tones, distressing drones, and an air of unhinged experimentation.
Honestly, I’m not positive it’s possible to be more off-putting and esoteric than One Day You Will Ache Like I Ache and I can’t explain why I love it so much. Perhaps the soundscapes endured through this collaboration offer listeners a voyeuristic glimpse at a certain headspace that many of us are so privileged as to avoid. One Day You Will Ache… is hypnotic and somehow makes the terror warm and inviting as it churns effortlessly through its oppressive yet surprisingly diverse vignettes. From the opening raucous of free jazz and harsh noise of the title track to the Godflesh-conjuring “Bottled Urn”, The Body and Full of Hell hit on every relevant subgenre in this exercise. Grind, industrial, doom, drone, and noise all coalesce into this avant-garde masterpiece. It’s unbridled chaos, and it certainly isn’t for everyone, but I would still encourage the experience as a must-listen for the year. If it helps, think of this as less of a musical experience and more of an aural collage at an art exhibit.
Danimal Cannon – Lunaria
Danimal Cannon is such a special inclusion not just on our March Editor’s picks, but now on Heavy Blog’s collective repertoire as a whole, as solo artist Dan Behrens brings such a special and unique element to rock music as a whole. Influenced by progressive rock and metal, the grander chiptune culture, and the very inclusive and encompassing umbrella that is video game music, Danimal Cannon’s Lunaria is a wonderful meeting ground of your favorite noises put together in such an engaging way that will leave you with a smile on your face track after track. Catchy solos, rhythm bits created by both guitar and the memorable beep-boops of a Game Boy, soaring and gritty vocals, and even the familiar sounds of top-tier digital waifu Hatsune Miku all come together to create an album that is so unlike anything else on the market that you can’t help but love it.
Pitts Minnemann Project – The Psychic Planetarium
Given that we have our official review of this going up later in the day, I’ll keep this relatively brief. But if you are a follower of the Heavy Blog Is Heavy Podcast (and if you aren’t, you’re messing up), then you likely already know how excited we were for this album from the ridiculously-stacked instrumental supergroup that is the Pitts Minnemann Project, featuring keyboardist Jimmy Pitts, drummer Marco Minnemann, guitarist Tom “Fountainhead” Geldschläger, and bassist Jerry Twyford. Eden and Noyan had Jimmy and Tom on for an extended interview recently, and it was hugely entertaining and enlightening, but if there was one part of it that I had a hard time believing, it was when Jimmy claimed that they went into this project and album without the intention or specific mindset of it being jazzy. Because not only is The Psychic Planetarium an incredibly jazzy and jazz-influenced record, it’s easily one of the best jazz fusion albums put out by anyone since the original heavy hitters like Return To Forever set the bar.
Blending a heady mixture of classic prog rock, timeless instrumental metal fundamentals, space jazz grooves and incredible interplay, and the occasionally serene curveball (such as piano-driven interludes “The Guide” and “Of Colors, Spontaneous”), the album is absolutely bursting at the seams with amazing musical ideas and breathtaking musicianship. If nothing else, The Psychic Planetarium is just an amazing vehicle for some no-holds-barred solos. It’s gloriously over the top and lacks much of any restraint, but everyone involved is just so simply on top of their game from every angle that it doesn’t matter. This album is just a plain joy to listen to, and the compositions and arrangements are diverse and interesting enough to keep even the most seemingly endless jams like the 24 ½-minute title track engaging throughout. It’s clear listening to this that everyone involved came to it from a place of pure love of the music and simply had a great time helping make it happen. That’s what the listener will take from it as well. So just sit back and enjoy this one. They surely did.
Rorcal – Creon
It’s nearly impossible to describe some music. There’s something about certain songs or albums that just escape words and only leave emotions and silent praise. Creon is an album that does both, sucking away any sort of adjectives I would normally use to describe music and replacing them with three simple words: just go listen. Four songs telling the story of each important character death from Oedipus, it’s nearly an hour of punishing, absolute hellish blackened hardcore sludge or whatever you shall call it. While many bands struggle to write memorable tracks about the 10 minute mark, Rorcal accept their challenge and defy the laws of traditional blackened hardcore and produce four songs of near equal length that all ebb and flow together like one screwed up river.
It should go without saying that there is a learning curve to this concept album. While the stories themselves are very easy to digest, the music on this disc is not. Blast beats give way to slow, dragging sections accompanied by endless walls of guitars and bass and vocals that sound as if the life is being sucked right out of them by Zeus himself. The first song begins without vocals for nearly half of it, setting the tone. Where the vocals do not appear, the empty void is filled by atmosphere, which helps paint a clear picture of the struggles of all the four characters present on this album. While the darkness is meant to consume you, instead you learn to embrace it and welcome it with open arms, controlled only by the story the music tells.
Front to back it is truly an exceptional conceptual and musical piece. Every little detail was worked out, every small note or beat methodical, coming together to generate a force that even Rorcal could not have created before. This album might just be the best thing they have written yet, and it definitely will become a landmark in the heavy music underground for years to come. Where there’s smoke there’s fire, and Rorcal are burning hotter and brighter than they ever have before.
Wormed – Krighsu
Wormed. That name should carry enough weight alone. Nothing else really sounds like Wormed. The Spanish brutal technical death masters have created their own sound and they’ve mastered it. How does one describe Wormed? Crushing. Wormed’s third full-length is Krighsu, and they’ve punched yet another hole in people’s ears. Now, I think Exodoromos, their previous album, is perfect (you can see my review if you don’t believe me), and it’s hard to follow up an album like that. But hey, this is Wormed, and they’ve wormed their way through. Not only have they kept up the consistent crushing-yet-memorable quality, they’ve further diversified their sound. They’re more technical now, playing more intricate riffs and taking their core sound to even more interesting places.
The key appeal of Wormed is that they’re somehow simultaneously ridiculously over-the-top yet they also have a subversive quality. Bands that can play ridiculously fast and have outrageous vocals are a dime a dozen, but these guys are more than that. Sure, they can play the game just as well as anyone else, but they bring more to the sound. They have a space theme to their imagery and lyrics, and they deliver on that with weird, Gorguts-inspired riffing. In addition to that, they have inhumanly deep vocals, slams, blast beats, and manage to make this all groovy and enjoyable yet abrasive. They’re a band of dichotomies, and that they balance these dichotomies with such mastery is what makes them so appealing. Krighsu sees them pushing the balance even further with an expanded sound, and it totally pays off. Just listen to this album. Even people who aren’t normally fans of music this heavy can find something to appreciate within it, and the band’s ability to pull people in with their mesmerizing, creative riffs speaks volumes about the quality of this album.
yndi halda – Under Summer
I’ve spent so many words on this album already, not only on the blog but also with my friends and family. It’s that important to me; Under Summer has become a companion, a well travelled map that I continue to retrace as time goes by. And that’s perhaps why I’m writing about it again, now, again. Reviews often reflect a slice of time, the author’s opinion at the point of writing them. Granted, these opinions are shaped by hours of listening but they are still momentary, shifting things. Returning to albums gives us the perspective garnered by time, changing moods and the way the music interacts with these.
And so, I am poised to tell you that with every listening session that goes by, I love this album more. Myriad inroads into the music present themselves to the patient and determined listener, relationships between notes, passages and tracks that slowly unravel themselves. Under Summer remains, at its heart, a somber, melancholic album, no matter how many times you listen to it. But the more you let it seep into your heart, the more you discover the frilled edges around this sadness, the moments of bright light and heavy wonder. These counterpoints are only made more painful and beautiful by the overall feel and its contrasts.
This album then is really what every album should be: something organic, intricate and complex in a way which allows you to slowly part the veils which hide deeper understanding. Only long periods of absence with apt returns every once in awhile bring us closer to the true fruit of knowledge with these creations. Under Summer is a repeated journey well worth taking, a pathway that winds through your thoughts and nestles, finally, under the light of your heart as it fills with pain, longing and a dogged kind of happiness.
Other Notable Releases:
Atlantis Chronicles – Barton’s Odyssey
Atsuko Chiba – Ground and Figure EP
Boris with Merzbow – Gensho
Clark – The Last Panthers
Cobalt – Slow Forever
El Huervo – Vandereer
Iggy Pop – Post Pop Depression
Kendrick Lamar – untitled unmastered.
North – Light the Way
O’Brother – Endless Light
Panopticon & Waldgeflüster – Panopticon & Waldgeflüster
Rotten Sound – Abuse To Suffer
Skuggsjá – A Piece for Mind & Mirror