In case you’ve been living under a rock, weed is now legal in Colorado, making it a fitting environment for the creation of Denver-based stoner/doom act Khemmis’ debut album Absolution. Doom metal seems like a dime a dozen these days, making it increasingly difficult for budding doom bands to stand out. Fortunately, Khemmis doesn’t have this issue. Taking a page from the many tomes of doom metal, Khemmis seamlessly splice the solid backbeat and accessibility of NWOBHM bands such as Iron Maiden, the sorrowful melodies of breakout doom contemporaries Pallbearer and the fuzzed-out, almighty riffs of YOB, creating a potent strain of sludgy doom that’s wholly pure and is near-perfectly represented on Absolution.
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Easily the most unsuspecting release from Relapse this year, the debut album from Ecstatic Vision does not sit well alongside releases from Gruesome or Maruta. It sits somewhere above them, not quite on top of them, more somewhere in the planes between metal and psychedelic euphoria. Sonic Praise is definitely one of the more interesting debuts of the year, especially considering the abundance of extreme metal releases that have made this year so entertaining thus far. Contained within is less than an hour of music that belongs in places the human eye cannot see. Want to know how to induce a psychedelic state without dropping acid? Read on.
Stoner metal traverses a very fine line between sludge and doom metal. Pulling influences from both into the syrupy mix that makes it up as a subgenre, modern stoner metal owes just as much to the influential works of Saint Vitus and The Melvins as it does to Sleep. The genre is defined by the single most important characteristic taken from both: The Riff. A simultaneously lofty yet down-to-earth idealism, creating the perfect riff is the driving motivation of stoner metal as a collective. Many bands have tried, and some have gotten incredibly close (Dragonaut comes to mind as the closest any band has ever gotten) but the perfect riff is an elusive beast, indeed, and many bands still seek it.
Now, with their third full-length, Demon Lung are throwing their hand back into the competition to be the first band to find The Riff. Do they find it? Well, no, this certainly isn’t an end to that race, but it must be said that they get damn close. Propelled by incredibly catchy melodies, smart writing, and masterful instrumentation, this new album, A Dracula, has the potential to become a stoner/doom metal classic.
When Cave In guitarist/frontman/mastermind Steve Brodsky and Converge drummer/madman Ben Koller announced they were teaming up to form Mutoid Man, the underground metal community as a whole began frothing uncontrollably at the mouth for what they could possibly have in store, and rightly so; after all, these guys are in two of the most highly-respected and universally-praised metal bands in the history of the genre, and the thought of a mash-up between their musical talents was an enthralling prospect, to say the least. And enthralling it was; truth be told, few debut EPs have made as strong a first impression as Helium Head did. The insane hybrid of rock, punk and metal made for a satisfying and addictive listen, one that was over far too soon and left listeners wondering when a Mutoid Man full-length would happen. Well, after a very long year wait and the addition of a bass player in the form of Nick Cageao, Mutoid Man are here with Bleeder, an arse-ripper of an album that not only captures the essence of rock n’ roll, but also roundhouse kicks it in the face, Kung Fury-style.
It takes very little time for Grievances to prove that Rolo Tomassi is not a typical mathcore band. The Sheffield quintet – fronted by siblings Eva (vocals) and James (vocals/keyboards) – approaches the genre with a much more detail-oriented mission; an multifaceted approach drawing from screamo, post rock, shoegaze and electronics as much – if not more than – their base genre. Grievances makes this point abundantly clear, as the band’s heavily rooted Dillinger Escape Plan influences often share the spotlight within textured compositions often made up of multiple movements. While this formula produces some excellent moments, it is also plays host to some issues of structure exacerbated by some instrumental weaknesses, coming together to produce an enjoyable but flawed final product.
The concept of a Dream Theater-esque prog metal band consisting of 15/16 year-olds is pretty enticing. Everyone is impressed by videos of child prodigies playing ridiculous solos on YouTube, and given the particular virtuosity requirements of the type of music the genre label implies, it’s easy to think that kids who make it would be great at their instruments. Next to None are such a band, in fact their drummer is Mike Portnoy’s son, so they have a direct connection to Dream Theater! All the pieces are in place for a masterpiece from the young, fresh upcoming generation, hailing the future of metal. Except, sometimes things don’t turn out as expected. The band’s debut album, A Light In The Dark, produced by Portnoy, is unfortunately more of a shot in the dark, full of lacking musicianship and uninspired songwriting.
Atmospheric black metal is a genre known for a fairly specific style: shrieking vocals, clean leads soaking in reverb, and guitar riffs that create crushing walls of noise. Giants in the genre, like Wolves In The Throne Room or Weakling, pioneered this blend of ambience and aggression in the early 2000s, and 15 years later, the genre still sounds pretty much the same. Sure, there are plenty of groups that have taken the sound and twisted it around, like Saor and Panopticon, who both add folk instruments to their music, or Epitimia, who throw in jazz and electronic elements to spice up their sound.
Now years past its inception and subsequent internet buzz, deathcore has become just as established of a subgenre as any other countless labels within the umbrella of extreme metal. Sure, plenty of lower-level bands have either broken up or moved onto more marketable fads, but Australia’s Thy Art Is Murder have been one of the most staunch defenders of the oft-maligned style. The band’s second full-length and Nuclear Blast debut, Hate, was an incredibly refreshing (and crushingly heavy) album that proved a band can still masterfully combine the speed and ferocity of death metal with enough breakdowns to please the hardcore community. The band has been hyping up their upcoming LP, Holy War, for the better part of a year alongside their relentless touring schedule, and now the wait has finally come to an end. Holy War is really nothing more than an updated version of the band’s now-recognizable aesthetic, but delivers ten of the most punishing and ultimately fun metal songs you’ll probably encounter in 2015.
Seemingly in spite of the increasingly divided fan opinion regarding the group’s musical trajectory over the years, North Carolina’s shining sons Between the Buried and Me have become one of the best selling and most influential acts in progressive metal. Throughout their fifteen year career thus far, the band’s hardcore roots have slowly eroded away, showing an affinity for classic prog rock in the vein of Queen, Pink Floyd, and King Crimson (which everyone should have seen coming after the band covered all three for The Anatomy Of). This inevitability has been hinted at since Alaska, with the band adopting conceptual themes, epic-length tracks, and a subtle flair for the theatrical. This maturation comes to a head on Coma Ecliptic, the band’s seventh original studio album, as a cosmic rock opera that follows a man entering a self-induced coma in order to explore his past lives in the hope of finding something better.
Music is a funny thing sometimes. There are albums where the songs work better as one giant piece rather than individual track. There are also albums where the opposite is true, and each individual track is greater than their sum. This is most prevalent in the world of post-rock and ambient music, where we often see albums that can come together into one grand design or can work separately as individual portraits of that particular moment. When discussing Montreal band C H R I S T, we come to an impasse, and the reason is not so black and white.