MNHM – Of Empires Past

Mannheim, Germany (while an important industrial center) is not somewhere you’d expect to be given the “chic lettering” treatment but here we are. MNHM (who are not, in fact, from Mannheim) play a weird blend of math rock and post metal, perhaps somewhat hinting at the industrial prowess of their namesake. Their sound manages to be both bright and oppressive at the same time and, while their previous release featured plenty of progressive wheeling and dealing, Of Empires Past wastes no time on subtlety or too much nuance. Instead, the album leans heavily on its musical haunches, continuously battering the listener with its chromatic (in the aesthetic sense) styling. As a last effort to convey the sensation before we jump into the thick of it, imagine being pummeled over the head by And So I Watch You From Afar’s All Hail Bright Futures. Repeatedly. For about forty minutes. OK, now we’re ready to get started.

Yazz Ahmed – La Saboteuse

World fusion’s possibilities are truly endless; this year alone, clarinetist/composer Wacław Zimpel led his ensemble Saagara through a blend of jazz and Indian classical music on 2, while Nguyên Lê and Ngo Hong Quang spliced Vietnamese folk music and jazz guitar on Hà Nội Duo. Not only does Yazz Ahmed ‘s phenomenal La Saboteuse add to 2017’s exceptional world fusion offerings, her sophomore album is easily one of the most significant releases in modern Arabic jazz. The London-based composer, trumpeter and flugelhorn player leads an eclectic nine-member ensemble through psychedelic chamber pieces that effortlessly continue in the legacy of Arabic jazz greats like Ahmed Abdul-Malik, Rabih Abou-Khalil and Anouar Brahem.

Harvestman – Music for Megaliths

One of the main missions of music is to influence how we think and feel. The scientific possibilities for music to create altered states in humans transcending the aural into the psychological and beyond into physical manifestations have been studied at length. That the Journal of Music Therapy exists, among…

Wreche – Wreche

Black metal has arguably the most eclectic genre palette in the metal pantheon. Though simple at its core, the genre’s aesthetics have been applied to countless concepts and shaped to include a multitude of other genres and accompanying instrumentation. Yet, the guitar still remains the one constant element in nearly all iterations of the genre, whether as a lo-fi wall of distortion or thundering gallop over equally blistering blast beats. It’s a rare occurrence when a band decides to forgo this six string staple; the only example this reviewer is aware of is Botanist, who instead opt for hammered dulcimers and harmonium. But when a guitar-less black metal album does surface, fans of the genre typically take notice to see if the experiment pays off. As such, the union of piano and drums in unholy matrimony on Wreche’s self-titled debut makes for an intriguing experience that’s deserving of at least an exploratory listen.

Fortis Amor – Fortis Amor

When you look back at the history of metal, it’s funny and somewhat weird that so-called “bedroom studio projects” have gotten so popular. It’s weird only when given the retrospective of the present, of course, now that we’re past their rise and, somewhat, fall. What makes it weird is the seeming incongruity between metal’s origins, so founded in the concept of the band and everything that comes with it, and the aesthetic of the bedroom project. Of course, given what we know now about how the internet and better/cheaper production abilities would affect metal, it seems obvious. More people can make music and they can spread that music to larger audiences. However, even knowing what we know today, it would have been hard to predict exactly how this scene would look and the various mannerisms which it today exemplifies.

Elephant Tree – Elephant Tree

Elephant Tree released their newest self-titled album back in April of 2016 but it recently received a bigger retail release. All the more reason to talk about this tripped-out, fuzzfest. They’re not quite a metal band, but they certainly draw from metal influences. According to their Facebook page, their earlier endeavors were in London’s metal scene and it’s only recently that they’ve switched to their bluesy stoner rock sound. You can hear their metal past in the way they completely overdrive their guitarwork, using their riffs as a foundation for everything else in their songs.

Shadow of Doubt – No Mercy

Some bands manage to find that sweet spot where they can emulate their heroes while still introducing some sort of new energy into the music. Unfortunately, it does not seem that Shadow of Doubt is one of those bands, nor is there debut, No Mercy, much more beyond your standard NYHC-in-2017-emulator fare. Truly the gang’s all here on this one, be it from the overly forced gang vocals to the mid-tempo “grooves” to those ever so (lovably) cheesy mosh calls. And, fortunately for those digging into this EP, one does not need to look any further than track two, “No Mercy.”

John Frum – A Stirring in the Noos

Man, this has been quite the year for weird, skronky extreme metal, hasn’t it? In the past four full months, we’ve gotten releases ranging from great to genre-defining from Sunless, Dodecahedron, Ingurgitating Oblivion, Artificial Brain, and Ulsect, in roughly that order chronologically. It’s almost too much to handle, especially in a genre as heady and labyrinthine as this. Truly, our collective cup has been runnething over for some time now, and now John Frum is here to refill our cup once again, whether we like it or not.