Weekend Nachos – Apology

Going to a hardcore show nowadays is an interesting, if not slightly disturbing, thing. Upon walking in, almost immediately, you are greeted by the sight of legions of hardcore kids; close shaved hair cuts, Nike Air Maxes (or similar shoes), camo shorts, and a shirt from one of the same three 80’s/90’s hardcore bands (Trapped Under Ice, Madball, or Youth of Today). And, more importantly than how they look – standing there in their get ups, arms folded across their chest or firmly bringing a cigarette to their lips – is the attitude they exert; one of hostility and, somewhat oddly given hardcore’s basic principles, of conformity. These people are unflinching, devoted to whatever character they are playing and seemingly unable to take a joke at the expense of hardcore or deviate much from their standard genre listening beyond hardcore.

Dark Funeral – Where Shadows Forever Reign

Sweden’s Dark Funeral is a band steeped in bold claims, the most frequent being “The Ineffable Kings Of Swedish Black Metal”. It says so on their t-shirts and right on their website, so it must be trve, right? Let’s break it down: The band’s inception dates back to 1993, right in the thick of the Norwegian church burning and murder scandals, so that gives them longevity and proper Scandinavian black metal cred. A discography spanning twenty-two years, with six full lengths, four EPs, one live album and two video albums. Tours spanning the globe. Albums stamped with a few of the most significant labels in metal history. All of the aforementioned facts are significant accomplishments for any band to boast about, but in the land of Odin, the only band to rival Dark Funeral with those stats is Marduk, indeed surpassing them in both longevity and prolificity with releases (We will exclude Bathory from mention here, as they were the progenitors of the first wave of black metal, with Dark Funeral residing in the second).

Withered – Grief Relic

Absence makes the great grow fonder. Absence also makes the wait for a new album somewhat tortuous. Will the wait be worth it? Are people still going to be receptive of what the band try to do? Will there be clean singing? Grief Relic answers these question with two positives and a flat no. Just the six years after their last record, Withered lay down the groundwork for a movement of doom inspired blackened death metal that may never take off. Not because the primal, depraved music is not good enough. No. This movement may never take off because it’s foundations are that spectacular, anything built on top wouldn’t match up to the original craft.

Sumac – What One Becomes

Given the huge cult followings of metal pioneers like Isis and Botch, it’s honestly quite puzzling why Sumac didn’t completely explode last year with their debut LP, The Deal. It felt like some of frontman Aaron Turner’s most inspired and chaotic material ever, constantly ebbing-and-flowing between angular/dissonant hardcore and pummeling…

Katalepsy – Gravenous Hour

On the back of a brutal death album that is far too catchy for it’s own good, Katalepsy are back with an all new, all singing beast of the most barbaric nature. Not the usual Unique Leader product by any breath, Gravenous Hour picks up where the Russians left off on…

Binary Code – Moonsblood

Making melodic progressive metal is hard. Progressive metal is already steeped deeply in melodic influences, which should be an easy starting point. However, dipping too much into these roots can lead your creation to move away from metal, losing its rough edge and sounding forced. So too with the other end: if you increase the heaviness and aggression, you often lose the progressive sense which was supposed to make your album interesting. Textures are the masters of this fine balancing act and one of the first bands to achieve it. No one has quite reached the same level of melodic dedication spliced with a progressive wildness that can erupt at any time. Well, no one except Binary Code.

The brainchild of Jesse Zuretti caught the community’s ear in 2009, with their debut Suspension of Disbelief, a refreshing take on what it means to record progressive metal today. That album was chock full of interesting ideas and compositions. However, in the seven years of (relative) silence, the scene has done quite a lot with itself: multiple Textures releases came and went in the interim and bands like A Sense of Gravity and Gods of Eden changed what we think and feel about the music and what it means. So, with Moonsblood coming out tomorrow, does Binary Code still have things to say or has the community outpaced their melodic, rich sound?

DevilDriver – Trust No One

Back in 2016 after a three year break, their longest spell between albums to date, DevilDriver released Trust No One on 13 May 2016. The record marks their return from hiatus and the first recorded appearances of Neal Tiemann (Midwest Kings, The Anthemic) on guitar and Austin D’Amond (ex-Chimaira) on…

The Schoenberg Automaton – Apus

Yo, to be totally honest for a second? It doesn’t really matter for shit how good your riffs are if you can’t string them together properly. There’s a real art in graceful transitions connecting various melodic barrages, and even if it sometimes seems easy to throw in a quick pause…

Katatonia – The Fall of Hearts

Often, when you look back at things, two phenomena which seemed unconnected were actually just two instances of a third, unknown actor. Thus, even if they seemed to be related or following on each other’s footsteps, we couldn’t know at the time that something more was beneath the surface, a direction or reason guiding their disparate trajectories. With the release of Katatonia’s latest album, The Fall of Hearts, it has become apparent that this is the case with their previous two releases. While Dead End Kings and Dethroned & Uncrowned were obviously connected, the second being an acoustic rendition of the first, it appears that their relationship is much more than just causal. The Fall of Hearts consolidates these three releases into a new chapter in the life of Katatonia, coalescing the styles found on both into an album.

You see, Dethroned & Uncrowned was much more than just an acoustic covers album, or so we have been saying for a while now. The fact that a lot of the instruments and vocals were re-recorded, the differences in composition and the complete feeling that the album had, led us to view it as a separate release. The Fall of Hearts confirms that, as it blends the style heard on that album with the one of its progenitor. Thus, it is an album which continues to dig into the acoustic elements of Katatonia’s dark themes while incorporating plenty of heavy moments. This makes The Fall of Hearts an outstandingly complex and subtle album, one which requires multiple listens before you can crack its bleeding, aching heart. In the stead of the more straightforward approach that once informed Katatonia albums, this one ducks and weaves, fades and returns, runs and then is still.

I Am Noah – The Verdict

Sitting behind a screen and pulling apart a piece of art is easy. Critics that ascribe difficulty to smashing keys in the name of reviewing music in particular, you suck. Taking an art form that requires time, effort, money and creativity and rendering it down into 500 words of “this was good but this sucked” will always seem harsh. Harsh and necessary. I Am Noah’s The Verdict is the exception that proves this rule. For every swell of appreciation that this record gives, there’s a counter move that disappoints aggressively. The effort put into the crafting of this record is unquestionably greater than the hours dedicated to picking it apart but’s still not been a routine piece. A mixed bag, for great want of a better term.