Iced Earth – Incorruptible

Note: I am one of the biggest Iced Earth fans out there. I’ve loved the band since I was 16 and will always continue to follow them. They hold a special place in my musical upbringing. This review hurt to write, but you have to be fair to the things you…

Solstafir – Berdreyminn

Iceland is a popular place these days in many ways and has become somewhat known for surprising people. The nation’s soccer (football) team shocked the sports world in 2016 in reaching the quarterfinals of Euro 2016, defeating England in the process, a plucky team in every sense of the word;…

Tombs – The Grand Annihilation

Tombs have always been a band of interesting mixtures. Combining several different types of metallic goodness (black, doom, post-metal, etc.), as well as various musicians coming in and out for seemingly each new project, the band has become borderline impossible to categorize, very rarely sit still long enough to revel in whatever iteration they currently exist in. This is often an indication of discord and listlessness in a band, but Tombs have seemed to make it work. Particularly with their previous album, Savage Gold, the band seemed to be firing on all cylinders. It was a cohesive, consistently bludgeoning and artfully structured album that ended up being one of my favorites of 2014. With their latest record, The Grand Annihilation, Tombs seeks to replicate many of the aspects that made Savage Gold such a rousing success. They accomplish this feat with potent (albeit somewhat mixed) results.

Vallenfyre – Fear Those Who Fear Him

A whole host of good oceanic adjectives come to mind when trying to describe Vallenfyre’s sound, like “roiling,” “crashing,” “deep,” or “furious.” Although these UK extreme metal stalwarts don’t play music particularly themed towards deep bodies of water in the same way as, say, The Ocean, their sound burbles and hisses in a similar manner to some forgotten Cambrian trench, oozing and rushing in various degrees through briny swill and hot gas. Fear Those Who Fear Him, the third outing from Vallenfyre, doesn’t do much to change this – no big stylistic shift in trajectory has occurred in the three years since Splinters – but hey, when you’ve got a formula that routinely kicks this much ass, is there any reason to mess with it?

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?

Alpha Male Tea Party – Health

OK yeah, that name is weird, let’s move on together, shall we? Alpha Male Tea Party are another stroke in the fast expanding painting that is the “bright” math-rock community, once spearheaded by acts like Adebisi Shank and And So I Watch You From Afar and now containing as diverse acts as VASA or MNHM. The joining thread seems to be first a musical and, second, a geographical one. As far as the music goes, one can expect major chords played over energetic beats, creating frantic excursions into disjointedly optimistic riffs and an overall sensation of…satisfied loss? Let’s go with that. Geographically, the main output in this field seems to erupt from the British Isles, Perfidious Albion, or however else you’d like to call that strange, strange group of disparate places.

The Acacia Strain – Gravebloom

For fifteen years The Acacia Strain have used brown noise breakdowns and violent lyrical images to win fans worldwide. Whether it’s viewed as dumb narcissism or tailor made nihilism, the music has been used as a weapon to destroy venues and listeners auditory health. Any consumer of extreme music who is aware of this band should be able to tell their sound apart from the droves of down tempo and beatdown acts that infest music today. But with a constant record-tour-record cycle that has seen them shed virtually all of their original members along the way, can they continue to impress at the same level? Do they wind their collective neck in and continue to please the fans or is their room for any form of evolution in their sound? Does anyone still want to hear this anyway? Gravebloom answers all three of these questions. It has The Acacia Strain at their most destructive, venom spitting best, taking cues from the colossal closing act of 2014’s Coma Witch and toying with a sound rooted in doom and gloom; making damn sure that people will pay attention to the world’s angriest band again.