Most music nerds can name at least one instance where an album stopped them dead in their tracks. You know the feeling. Those moments when the mind slowly pushes out all other thoughts and daily duties that regularly clutter the brain in order to make ample room for complete and total fixation on one incredible piece of music. There’s no multi-tasking in this space, no working on our various outside projects with music happily and quietly occupying the background. Instead, the music muscles its way front and center. It is music at its most alive, vibrant, and commanding of our full attention. In those distinctly transcendent moments, the music is everything.
These posts are written by: Jonathan Adams
In some circles, USBM has long been a dirty acronym. Much reviled for its less-than-trve-kvlt aesthetic, black metal originating from the United States has seldom been considered an equal with its European peers. Over the past decade, several bands have begun to chink away at the wall of cynicism surrounding USBM to varying degrees of success. Nightbringer is one of these bands. If you have not heard their music before, think the bombast of Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk-era Emperor, coupled with a slightly less insane mix of Deathspell Omega’s freneticism, the sonic oddness of Dodheimsgard, and the chilling atmosphere of Blut Aus Nord.
Bereft hails from Madison, Wisconsin. Which is noteworthy mainly because the State is not known as doom metal haven. But geography doesn’t mean a whole lot when it comes to talent, and Bereft thankfully have that in spades. Best prepare yourself for a harrowing trip through one of the best doom metal albums to be released this year. You’re in their world now. It’s heavy. It’s cinematic. It’s awesome.
In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve been on a progressive metalcore kick as of late. Having a very particular and rarely reached sweet spot when it comes to metalcore, 2017 has proven a welcome surprise for the subgenre as several releases have been able to find that rarified zone technical skill, engaging songwriting, and total headbang-ability. So here we are, back at it again with another effective salvo of metalcore jams, this time from Southampton, UK metalcore destroyers Deference. Their second EP, False Awakening, incorporates many of the elements that make metalcore great, and points to a very promising future for the young quintet.
Welcome to Death’s Door! Please wipe your feet on the mat. This portion of hell is particularly bloody, and I will NOT mop the floor again today. Grab a stiff drink, pull up a chair of bones, and let’s sit around the roiling fires of eternal damnation whilst we discuss one of my favorite things: death metal. 2016 was a great year for the stuff. Blood Incantation. Ulcerate. Gorguts. Mithras. Yeah, it was a good time. Death metal as a whole has been experiencing a creative resurgence as of late, praise be to our loathsome and infernal overlords of metal. A quick glance at Bandcamp’s metal page or Spotify’s myriad of death metal playlists will provide a clear indication of just how widespread the resurgence of death metal has become, with dozens upon dozens of bands vying for your rage-filled attention. Our bloody cup runneth over, and there is much rejoicing.
Music has the tendency to be incredibly evocative on emotional and psychological levels. Sometimes it takes us to dark forests, barren deserts, long-forgotten kingdoms, and landscapes of mystery. In other instances, we are comforted by the familiar and nostalgic. That song that brings us back to the carefully catered soundtracks of nervous first dates, the album that comforted us as we processed the death of a loved one, or maybe that old, scratched CD filled with random songs we partied with our friends to. Music is an effective vehicle to propel us through our own psyches, exploring caverns of thought and imagination that are seldom so effectively realized. Not all of these evocations are pleasant, however. Like when music makes us feel like we’re swimming frantically away from a ravenous battery of starving barracuda. Buckshot Facelift live squarely in this final, most aggressive and discomfiting of camps. Prepare your ears accordingly.
One of the principal challenges bands with stellar debut records face is simply having to make another record. The magical element of surprise and general exemptions given by listeners for unmet potential due to relative youth have long been discarded, replaced instead by impossibly high expectations and the audience’s/label’s manic need for new material. Some bands, like Finland’s death metal legends Demilich, make one excellent full length record and call it a career. Good for them. Many others have opted for a more content-rich approach. While not necessarily the most consistently amazing record in a band’s discography, the sophomore album may be the most important because it gives the audience their first real taste of a band’s long term potential. For a band to thrive, it needs to do it right.
Jeremy Bolm and his band Touché Amoré have kept me good company lately as I’ve grappled with these questions under the red glow of cancer. Their album, Stage Four, detailing Bolm’s grieving process after his mother died of the same terrible illness afflicting my father-in-law, lives on a loop in my mind and heart now. The lyrics are honest, passionate and absolutely heartbreaking. Bolm’s incredibly vulnerable declarations of hurt, loneliness, regret and suffering are absolutely necessary and equally wonderful. I find myself comforted, listening in gentle communion, to a work of art that shares my grief brilliantly and empathetically.
As Immolation proved earlier this year, one can age with power and magnitude, only increasing one’s stature as the past becomes a launch pad to an even more nuanced and aggressive future. Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax, and Slayer also tested this theorem in 2016, to mixed results. Age does not always sit well with metal bands, but many try to use their longevity to their advantage, releasing albums 25+ years into their career. This month, Obituary, equally loved and reviled death metal legends, join the ranks of veteran bands trying their hand at perfection through age.
Metal is a deeply saturated genre of music. The overwhelming glut of new albums that cross one’s path on a regular basis make it nearly impossible to absorb all of the new music being released. You can listen to hundreds of metal albums in a year and still kick yourself in the teeth for missing nearly every album on most metal publications’ year-end lists. Given this current state of affairs, it is not at all difficult to miss out on some really great music. Which is a shame, as well as the only logical explanation I have for why Swiss progressive metalcore aficionados Scars Divide aren’t absolutely annihilating the metal world right now.