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Category: Reviews


Voices – London

voices

Listeners may have an intrigued cursory glance at the album artwork for London, the sophomore album from Voices (a band risen from the ashes of Akercocke). For an album labeled as blackened death metal, the minimal photograph of England’s capital conjures a starkly contrasting vibe. Yet, through the thick, progressive fog which clouds this amalgamation of genres, there is a very “urban” theme that hints at are a larger narrative (also alluded to by a number of spoken word passages). Indeed, throughout Voice’s hour-long exhibition, one cannot help but feel a certain simulation in the streets of the Big Smoke.

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Venom – From the Very Depths

venom-from-the-very-depths-review

Venom might be the single most influential extreme metal band in existence. Their first two albums, Welcome to Hell and Black Metal, almost single-handedly defined the straightforward and blistering sound of the genre named after their sophomore effort, and they are still cited today as an important factor in the sound of modern extreme metal by an enormous legion of bands, over 35 years after they first came together. The sheer fact that they’re still around three-and-a-half decades later is an astonishing feat, let alone the fact that they’re releasing new music. And now, with their newest record, From the Very Depths, they aim to create their greatest album yet. Do they succeed?

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Astral Blood – Astral Blood

astral blood

Depending on who you ask, America’s black metal scene is wounded but recovering. The young sect of atmospheric and post-black metal acts are flourishing, dividing listeners firmly on either side of the aisle. On one hand, Panopticon‘s latest outings meddled in swathes of bluegrass and Americana, contributing to the furtherance of black metal as a visceral and capable artform. On the other, longtime fans of the genre bemoan the fusion of post-rock and new wave made popular by acts such as Wolves in the Throne Room and Deafheaven as an “unneeded feminization” (their words, not ours) of black metal. It goes without saying, of course, that around these parts, the petulant line drawing and “stay out of my side of the playpen” mentality is frowned upon, as genre fusion and variation are to be celebrated. Nevertheless, there is an urge to see America export more bands that borrow from the Emperor and Gorgoroth schools of thought, and Minneapolis’ Astral Blood have the potential to fill that need while still flirting heavily with the Americanized atmospheric style of black metal.

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The Crown – Death Is Not Dead

the crown

Five years can be a very long time for most bands. Life gets in the way more often than not and the result is usually an inevitable change in any given band’s line-up. Since the 2010 release of The Crown‘s seventh studio album Doomsday King, the most notable line-up change was the return of the band’s original vocalist Johan Lindstrand. After leading his other band One Man Army and the Undead Quartet for eight years which saw them release four full-lengths, Lindstrand finally decided to dissolve the project and return to The Crown in 2011. And so the prodigal son returns in time to make his mark on the eight record Death Is Not Dead with the underlying message that Lindstrand is also not dead.

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Arcane – Known/Learned

arcane

Double albums are probably the most difficult to achieve. They are highly hit-or-miss in nature, and can be extremely successful or a major flop. There’s only a handful of double albums that generated tons of praise among their initial release due to not only their music, but also due to their concepts. Double albums often have a concept to go along with it, and if not, then at the very least a common theme to accompany the music. As is the case with the music, the concept itself can also be a major hit-or-miss situation. Arcane enter the fray as a band built out of proggers from down under, with ties to another great Aussie band in Caligula’s Horse. Over two hours long and complete with two substantially different discs, the band not only gave us a super interesting album, but a double album that suffers none of the common pitfalls as some of its predecessors.

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Lord Dying – Poisoned Altars

lord dying

In an age of genre bending and mind-numbingly technical music, isn’t it nice to have tunes that are straightforward and unpretentious? While others are struggling to piece together their unique and complex identity through cramming as many notes and styles into a solo, bands like Lord Dying have known who they wanted to be since they began. Poisoned Altars is the latest offering from the Portland sludge/doom outfit and it showcases their disdain for bullshit and frills right from the get-go. The only thing the band honors above all else is the almighty riff. However, no matter how mighty the riff, there are other things that should be accounted for as well.

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napalm death

Napalm Death. The very name is synonymous with grindcore, and for good reason. This is the band that, arguably, started it all. From Scum to Utilitarian, they’ve produced furious extreme metal that, while not always stellar, has at least been good and different. Their previous album, Utilitarian, was the peak of their experimentation, and one of the most original albums the genre has seen in ages, featuring spastic time signature deviation and a sax solo by John Zorn. How they would follow up something like that was anyone’s guess. Apex Predator-Easy Meat (hereafter referred to simply as Apex Predator) isn’t exactly a continuation of the outré stylings of Utilitarian, but it doesn’t dispense with them entirely, either.

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Xibalba – Tierra Y Libertad

xibalba

Few bands embody heaviness quite like Pomona, California’s Xibalba.  Their peculiar brand is a bludgeoning potion of 90s death metal, beatdown hardcore, and downtuned sludge. Take the sheer girth of Crowbar, the bulldozing, decelerated grooves of Machine Head’s rawest mid 90s live performances, Morbid Angel’s nauseating trem-picked thrashing, and pepper it with a slightly pitch-bended, Latino version of Martin VanDrunen’s (Ex-Pestilence, Asphyx) pained wails and the picture becomes clear. The band generated a decent amount of hype with self-released debut Madre Mia Gracias Por Locos in 2011, which led to a deal with Southern Lord Records and the release of 2012’s Hasta La Muerte, arguably the album that propelled them into the underground metal stratosphere. Soon their name could be heard alongside contemporaries like Nails, Harm’s Way, and Suburban Scum, the latter with which Xibalba released one of the best split EPs in recent memory to satiate the appetites of fans awaiting another record. Enter 2015, where the band finished another gargantuan slab of punishing, chuggarific tunes in the form of Tierra Y Libertad.

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full-of-hell-merzbow-review

With genre tags like powerviolence, grindcore and noise, last year’s collaboration between Full of Hell and Merzbow (creatively titled Full of Hell & Merzbow) turned out to be as ferocious as it sounded on paper. Our staff agreed with this sentiment, with the album landing at #36 on our top albums of 2014 list and at #6 on both the personal top ten lists of contributors Maclyn Bean and Damien Leech.  So considering the sluggish nature of January release schedules and the fact that our only “review” of the album is currently Maclyn’s short (but poignant) blurb, we decided to take a moment to properly discuss this raucous record.

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Periphery – Juggernaut

periphery-juggernaut-review

Few bands in modern progressive metal have been able to amass the level of both success and acclaim with only two albums quite like Periphery. The Washington D.C.-native six piece essentially laid down the groundwork for the “djent” style and production techniques that would be ripped off for years to come. They did this with their self-titled debut and then introduced a healthy amount of pop influence and added melodicism with their comically-titled 2012 follow-up, Periphery II: This Time It’s Personal. After a relentless touring schedule, the release of the experimental Clear EP last January, and a truckload of internet buzz behind their new double album, Juggernaut was poised to be the band’s make-or-break moment. Not only has Periphery retained practically every facet of their sound in albums past, they’ve now delivered their darkest and heaviest material to date, as well as one of the most dynamic prog-metal albums in the past few years.

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