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.
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.
When looking through a tag in music curation services, encountering “avant-garde black metal” means clicking play will either result in something incredible or terrible. Few artists have the combination of self-irreverence, self-respect, sense of the fundamentals and how to think outside of them to be able to pull off the latter. As if that’s not enough, take a black metal band, add a saxophone, power metal-esque clean singing, a blues/jazz tint – does it sound potentially disastrous already? Several bands this year alone have attempted this formula and failed. Well, good news is, the Greek masterminds Aenaon have totally nailed it with Hypnosophy.
Contrary to what many other sites and publications would have you believe, 2016 is, in fact, still not over yet. So while the first major wave of year-end lists has hit us this week, we’re here to tell you that there are still a bunch of recently-released albums that you seriously need to consider before settling on your own favorites for the year. It’s certainly true that by the time November rolls around the pace of high-profile and superb albums tends to drop off, especially compared to the September/October rush. There was some truly great music that came out this past month though, and the fact that all of it and any music released next month will be automatically disqualified by default from most end-of-year lists is both annoying and completely shitty for those bands. You’ll hear us talking about the problems and merits of end-of-year listmaking plenty in the coming days and weeks, but for now let’s just give a moment to some bands who will inevitably be shafted and discounted by far too many.
Ok. News time. New stuff from Pain of Salvation, Metallica, Cyclamen, Benighted, August Burns Red, Protest the Hero. Shining are doing a Patreon, Dream Theater an Images and Words tour. Blood Music are going legit. The piracy/community site What.cd is dead. Keep of Kalessin are involved in a pyramid scheme somehow? The Faceless’s debut Akeldama is 10 years old. And there’s this AMAZING avant-garde black metal thing, Hypnosophy by Aenaon. Real cool. Enjoy! Also read our editorial on edginess.