These posts are written by: Joe Whitenton

Hey! Listen to Isaurian!

Metal newbies would have you think metal just started borrowing from shoegaze’s sounds a few years ago. While Deafhaven popularized the fusion in 2013, the genres have been bedfellows for quite a while. Jesu, as far back as 2004, brought the psychedelics of shoegaze together with abrasive industrial metal, a juxtaposition rarely touched upon by newer metalgaze bands who usually gravitate toward aesthetics of black metal and sludge metal. Brazil’s Isaurian brings a new vibe to industrial shoegaze metal (that’s a mouthful). Where Jesu went ugly and violent, Isaurian dials it back to a gothic melodicism.

Carach Angren – Dance and Laugh Amongst the Rotten

Symphonic black metal was born out of the original Norwegian scene in the 90s. In the same years that Darkthrone and Immortal were making their most classic releases, Dimmu Borgir and Emperor were adding synths and keyboards to the black metal sound. The genre expanded and experienced a peak mainstream appeal in the 2000s with a handful of the surviving Norwegian bands as well as other legends like Cradle of Filth and Anorexia Nervosa leading the charge. Today, these records are often written off as too commercial and overly cheesy, remembered with a fond nostalgia at best and an urge to erase them from history at worse. Regardless of its arguable merit, the symphonic black metal sound barely thrives today. Rather than deal in dramatic orchestral arrangements, current black metal albums usually find new extremes in dissonance or break new ground by merging with more melodic genres like shoegaze and post-rock. Carach Angren brings black metal back to a more theatrical sound and has no problem with going over the top. But is the result something stomachable or anything close to the old classics?

Unleash The Archers – Apex

Crafting a great power metal album is a difficult thing. The genre is so steeped in thrills and adrenaline, it can be easy to create something too over-the-top and annoying. Writing the catchiest chorus, playing the fastest solo, and singing the highest notes aren’t going to mean anything if the music doesn’t have depth and meaning. Great power metal albums like Nightfall in Middle Earth, Land of the Free, The Metal Opera, and, more recently, Noble Beast employ subtly when necessary. They have memorable choruses and great riffs but also moments of real emotion. While less serious bands like Primal Fear, Dragonforce, and Sabaton have their proper place and legitimate enjoyment factor, they will never be remembered in the same way.

Half-Life: Pallbearer

Here on Half-Life, we go through a band’s discography and see where they stand today compared to where they started. Pallbearer is one of metal’s rising stars and their progression has been so fun to watch. Every record has its own identity and set of surprises. To take on this project, I enlisted the assistance of my talented colleagues, Jordan Jerabek and Bill Fetty. We hope you enjoy!

Timeworn – Venomous High

Sludge metal was born out of hardcore punk bands discovering Black Sabbath. The greatest sludge albums combine all the raw aggression and rage of hardcore with the slow tension and power of doom metal. Since its beginnings in late 80s, the genre has grown into punk’s willingness to experiment and created some of the most forward thinking metal albums of all time from the likes of Mastodon, Neurosis, and Isis. In other words, though sludge combines fairly simple ingredients, the results are almost always sophisticated.

Summoner – Beyond The Realm of Light

Boston’s newest riff-appliance, Summoner, just dropped their third album, Beyond the Realm of Light. On the Metal Archives, they are listed as “Stoner/Doom Metal”, though, this seems a far cry from the content on this album. Every song on this record uses mid-paced to fast tempos, plenty of melody, and tons of upbeat energy. The band’s DNA consists of all the usual trappings and song ideas of traditional metal and NWOBHM but the band avoids the “vest metal” label by having an aesthetic closer to Baroness and later-Mastodon than Black Sabbath or Judas Priest. Unfortunately, this shift away from the norm is about 5 years too late and not enough to save the album from moments of sameness.

Elephant Tree – Elephant Tree

Elephant Tree released their newest self-titled album back in April of 2016 but it recently received a bigger retail release. All the more reason to talk about this tripped-out, fuzzfest. They’re not quite a metal band, but they certainly draw from metal influences. According to their Facebook page, their earlier endeavors were in London’s metal scene and it’s only recently that they’ve switched to their bluesy stoner rock sound. You can hear their metal past in the way they completely overdrive their guitarwork, using their riffs as a foundation for everything else in their songs.