The often maligned modern melodic death metal genre is chock full of pretenders to the throne. Numbers have tried to emulate the sound and success of the kings but have fallen to the side of the road, bloody, battered and (somehow) bullishly ready to have another stab. This makes for an abundance of records that can be thrown into the bargain bin instead of stuck up on “albums to listen to before you die” lists. Enter Karybdis, a London five piece sharpening the tools of their trade with their sophomore record Samsara. Do they have the chops and the gall to take on the melodeath monarchy? Not quite, I’m afraid.
Genres can really only be so much on their own: even with metal, where there’s microgenres within subgenres within larger subgenres within genres, there’s still only so much that can be achieved by sticking within one certain area and refusing to branch out. It’s why so many bands within metal opt to either bring multiple genres together into a much more diverse combination, a la Agalloch’s combination of dark folk, doom, and post-black metal, or to evolve and switch from one genre to another, such as The Contortionist’s transformation from deathcore to progressive metal. Never ones to stifle their own creativity, metal musicians constantly are expanding and adding new elements into their toolkit, either by way of growing said kit or by switching out some of the older appliances within.
The more complex genres of music each have their own trick. With progressive it’s melding groove into technicality, being very careful not to lose emotional impact within grand ideas. With experimental or avant-garde music it’s to give the listeners some sort of cipher, a way to approach and translate the music they’re hearing. With the complex genres that live in the feedback, in repetition or in slow, considering movements, it is to have a core. A center must be found, a place to which you return with your music when the going gets rough, when the ears ache from the overwhelming oscillations of ponderous instruments.
At just over 80 minutes, ATGCLVLSSCAP (which, by the way, is the first letter of each symbol in the Zodiac) is a masterfully-crafted sonic journey, and one that can’t be pigeonholed by any descriptors less than a paragraph long. This is a fearless set of twelve tracks; a hulking monolith of droning electronica, jam-heavy rock, thick sheets of ambience, and loads of unpredictability. And even though it was arranged in the studio through compiling various live performances from 2014, this feels like the band’s most seamless work since 2007’s Shadows of the Sun.
In 2015, in a crowded house show somewhere in the continental United States, a large group of punks adorned in DRI and Spazz patches shivered. They knew something was about to happen, something monumental, yet could not put their fingers on it. And so they sat, drinking shitty, luke warm beer from the can while casually shooting the shit about what Infest record gave the one true representation of their sound, as well as whether or not it was weird that the band was still playing some 30 years later. However, the looming feeling that something, something massive, was on the horizon loomed, and eventually they could no longer take it, pulling out their capitalist pig iPhones in unison so that they could check their Facebooks, aiming to discover exactly what was going on.
There was a period between 2006 and 2009 where the deathcore scene was exploding as progressive elements started to get introduced into the sound. The genesis of the sound of many bands that are loved today was in that scene – be it The Faceless, After the Burial, Born of Osiris, Within the Ruins, Between the Buried and Me, The Contortionist – the list goes on. Now, in 2016, things are different. Enter Shadow of Intent, a progressive/technical deathcore duo. Their take on the sound manages to be fresh way past the prime of the genre, and hearkens back to the feeling of finding a new band on a random blog doing interesting things, a band that is on the verge of greatness.
Is there comfort in predictability? One can certainly argue for the affirmative and claim that summer should always be warm for example or a good night’s sleep will have you feeling better the morning after. On the contrary, predictability can be a precursor of monotony and lethargy as is certainly…
With their cosmic imagery and lyrical themes, melodic-yet-alien riffing, oldschool Cynic-influenced jazzy breaks and calm-yet-powerful approach, Obscura have become one of the biggest names in the genre with their past two albums Cosmogenesis and Omnivium. After losing several of the most talented musicians in metal from their roster, they’ve come back with a new lineup for their fourth album Akroasis. Usually a huge shake-up in a band is dangerous, especially when the members who left, Christian Muenzner and Hannes Grossmann (Alkaloid, their own respective solo projects and much more) were known to contribute to the writing process of the band. Clearly, founding member and frontman Steffen Kummerer has within him enough of the DNA that not only can he preserve what made Obscura great in the past, but even take the band to the next level, as Akroasis is nothing short of fascinating.
On November 9th, 2014, Jonathan Anthon, the bass player and vocalist for Black Tusk, tragically passed away after sustaining serious injuries during a motorcycle crash. It was a tragic day in the world of sludge metal as many were left to wonder what was to possibly to become of one of sludge metal’s most promising one bands and true, stalwart defenders of the Southern sludge sound. Luckily, the band decided that to truly serve Anthon’s memory, they must carry on, and carry on they did, touring extensively after the accident and now, nearly two years after his death, releasing their final album recorded with the vocalist, a masterpiece of punked out sludge that perfectly captures everything the band has done prior while still amping it up to exciting new levels.
Textures have once again reminded us why they are revered and respected by many as trailblazers of the modern progressive metal scene. Though Phenotype retraces elements of their back catalogue, it was a necessary step in order to set them back on the path to doing what they do best while still managing to expand their sound, take new risks, and bring the more subtle elements of their sound to the forefront.