Metal, usually black metal, that’s made under the avant-garde auspices tends to have this grandiose flair to it which seems to come from opera and from the theater, in vocals and instruments both. In that sense, Lychgate are perhaps not the best example of the genre. While enough touches of the avant-garde style exist on The Contagion in Nine Steps to merit the moniker (like the synths on “Republic”, which open the album or the vocals on the selfsame track), those touches are enveloped in so much sounds from atmospheric black metal and doom that they often lose definition. But this might not be a bad thing; it makes The Contagion in Nine Steps a more approachable album than, let’s say, Dødheimsgard’s A Umbra Omega and less overbearing than album like Aenaon’s Hypnosophy.
Howling Sycamore is a supergroup which does interesting things within the avant-garde milieu but also does much that doesn’t immediately fall into the definition. Comprised of the cream of the crop of progressive metal, namely Jason McMaster (Watchtower), Davide Tiso (Ephel Duath), and Hannes Grossman (Necrophagist, Obscura), Howling Sycamore’s self-titled debut is a whirling mass of influences, ideas and composition drawn from the diverse world of progressive metal. These ideas, however, have been fed through a mirror darkly and now carry a distinctly sinister vibe that is wholly avant-garde. The result is an album that is often bewildering and scattered but which also feels convinced of where it’s heading, as paradoxical as that might sound.
EDIT: In case you needed any more evidence that black metal is downright insane in its ingenuity, Inferno have informed us that none of the “synths” on this album are actually synths! They were all created with guitars, which is pretty incredible considering some of the sounds they make. Enjoy! What…
For those who missed our last installment, We post biweekly updates covering what the staff at Heavy Blog have been spinning. Given the amount of time we spend on the site telling you about music that does not fall neatly into the confines of conventional “metal,” it should come as no surprise that many of us on staff have pretty eclectic tastes that range far outside of metal and heavy things. We can’t post about all of them at length here, but we can at least let you know what we’re actually listening to. For those that would like to participate as well (and please do) can drop a 3X3 in the comments, which can be made with tapmusic.net through your last.fm account, or create it manually with topsters.net. Also, consider these posts open threads to talk about pretty much anything music-related. We love hearing all of your thoughts on this stuff and love being able to nerd out along with all of you.
It’s been a long road, but the sax is back, baby. For years the instrument, once employed lavishly upon all sorts of classic and progressive rock tracks through the 60s and 70s, became a revolting cliche and symbol of rock excess, softness, and melodrama. And, frankly, given how the instrument became abused and synonymous with the type of smooth jazz playing that would coat pop and rock ballads through the 80s into 90s with a sonic perfume strong enough to make you gag, it’s not surprising that it fell out of style. In many ways it went hand-in-hand with the back-to-basics mentality that ran through the punk, DIY, grunge, indie, and (to a different extent) metal movements of the 80s through the 90s and well into the turn of the century. Since then, though, the pendulum has slowly but steadily moved back into the other direction, and more bands and listeners view the sax and other woodwinds as viable and enticing flourishes or even centerpieces to give their music either a certain distinction or whiff of nostalgia. And though metal has perhaps resisted incorporating the instrument for longer than most other genres, there is now an utter wealth of examples of artists and bands using the instrument to (mostly) good effect, particularly in the more progressive black, death, and doom spheres, where bands like Wrvth, Aenaon, Dreadnought, and, of course, SHINING – Jorgen Munkeby probably more than anyone has made the idea of sax-heavy metal sound forward-thinking and “cool” – are releasing high-quality work that makes use of the instrument in a whole wide range of ways.
Black metal is having a fantastic two years. Besides the sheer volume of great releases, the best tell-tale of this prolific outburst is the sheer variety of sub-genres actively contributing to the main genre. This year alone, we’ve seen more “straight-forward” contributions (like Orm’s excellent, self titled release), atmospheric releases (like Somnium Nox’s excellent Terra Inanis), and more avant-garde experimentation (like Dodecahedron’s death metal tinged kwintessens or netra’s weird Ingrats). To this latter category, of black metal blended with unusual influences, we can now add White Ward’s Futility Report, a third release from a relatively unknown band which should, hopefully, garner them more attention.
Just this past week we saw how important the ACLU still is. One of the first to confront the so called “Muslim ban” enacted by the indifferent pen of Donald Trump, it began the long and arduous legal battle against this administration. With not only the presidency but also Congress and Senate painted in the most extreme and reckless red imaginable, their work will grow seven-fold; now they must take on the legislative branch instead. Thus, and despite of the already remarkable success their fundraising has seen in the past week, Bandcamp’s contribution to the ACLU is admirable. We’re here to do our share; below you’ll find a list of artists that are worthy of your support on this Friday.
With our general list for 2016 out of the way, we can now shift the focus from our aggregate opinion to individual ones. Both outlooks have their own merit; the former provides us with an overview of our year in music. However, the latter shines a light on something we’re extremely proud of and that’s the varied and eclectic nature of our staff these days. We used to have a very certain type of music associated with Heavy Blog and while we still have a long way to go, we feel like we’ve done a good job at expanding our palettes and the representation of different kinds of music and metal in our staff. The lists below reflect that; you’ll find black metal, avant-garde, technical thrash metal, hip hop, rap, noise, ambiance, post metal and rock, melodic death metal and much more throughout these lists.
I’m lazy so I’ll copy paste this from last week:
So we’re doing a two-part series on picking the podcast’s official albums of the year 2016. We start with the blog’s list of 400+ albums that are worth consideration this year, whittle it down to 86 albums we care about, and then start cutting them. The objective is to get to a ranked list of 10 items and an overall list of 20 albums. We got down to about 45 last week until the cuts really start to hurt. This week we go down to 20, then to 10. This was real fun to do, so I hope you all enjoy too! The lists will be posted below.
So we’re doing a two-part series on picking the podcast’s official albums of the year 2016. We start with the blog’s list of 400+ albums that are worth consideration this year, whittle it down to 86 albums we care about, and then start cutting them. The objective is to get to a ranked list of 10 items and an overall list of 20 albums. We get down to about 45 this week until the cuts really start to hurt. This was real fun to do, so I hope you all enjoy too! The lists will be posted below.