Literature has been one of the foremost sources of inspiration for metal lyricism and composition alike, regardless of subgenre. The list of examples is significant—Ernest Hemingway and Cobalt, Georges Bataille and Deathspell Omega, H. P. Lovecraft and seemingly everyone, and so on. Drawing inspiration from a novel is a challenging but relatively structured undertaking; a plot can be interpreted into numerous sonic and lyrical directions but will always follow the same trajectory of its narrative. Poetry contrasts this process by its very nature, as its natural code of symbolic meaning and suggestive prose necessitates musical decoding drawn from a strictly thematic place. Even poems with a decipherable narrative are often told in a verbose, indirect manner that challenges metal lyricists and composers to write with a liberated hand, looking beyond the words on the page to a deeper understanding of the poem’s true meaning and mood. Agalloch’s interpretation of W. B. Yeats is a stellar example of this process being executed beautifully, as is the latest offering from Ehnahre, a Boston-based avant-garde metal collective who count Kay Dot alumni among their ranks. Their incredible four-part song cycle on The Marrow captures the essence of Theodore Roethke’s eponymous poem* through consuming landscapes of avant-garde death-doom that are as ridden with despair as the poet’s initial musing on whether or not life is worthwhile.
There’s an inherent alchemy required to successfully combine two seemingly disparate forces into something new. Famous, enduring pairings can be volatile and even counter-intuitive at first glance, but when done properly the result can be something far greater than the sum of each part. Peanut butter and jelly are each perfectly enjoyable on their own, but when paired together they create one of the most well-known and universally enjoyed sandwiches in modern history. Likewise, Calvin is a perfectly funny — albeit bratty – cartoon character and, similarly, Hobbes is a charming and occasionally profound tiger. But it’s their pairing that creates something greater: a friendship that serves as a vehicle for an entire comic strip, a philosophical and temperamental foil for each character to bounce off, and the sheer intangible joy the strip provides readers by allowing us to live inside their friendship. By fusing two independently enjoyable ingredients, an effective pairing can not only allow for a greater appreciation of the pair’s individual components, it can simultaneously create something richer and more meaningful in the magic as well.
Starting about a year ago signs of life began to stir once again on the Facebook page of Philadelphia black metal band Woe. At first, they only promised shows. Another chance at seeing a band who’s delicate blend of crust and black metal formed a uniquely progressive style all their own. This was exciting news to the wider Philadelphia area extreme music scene as the band was a long time favorite of many, sort of a source of pride. However, soon the murmurings of shows for the summer went silent, and fans were left wondering if it had all just been the hopeful ramblings of one member.
Last year I took it upon myself not only to organize and compile our own staff’s AOTY list, but to take things one insane step further and compile a bunch of lists from major metal or metal-covering publications and websites into one MEGA AOTY list to rule them all. Eden and I then analyzed the list and made some (mostly snarky) comments about the metal journalism industry and how they approach these sorts of things. Though I still 100% stand by what we wrote there and the conclusions we drew from it, I was really interested in seeing how well some of them would stand up to another year to use as a data point. Thankfully, this year I had a lot of help in all of our list-making efforts thanks to fellow editor Noyan, who put a ton of work into coming up with the method we ended up using to aggregate our lists (if you haven’t already, you should absolutely read his post delving into the nitty-gritty of that methodology) and then did the actual number-crunching.
Since we publish our individual Top 10 lists right after our main one, you can clearly tell that there are always albums missing for each writer from the general list. We embrace that fault as one of the inevitable limitations of general lists for the collective power such aggregations hold; we wouldn’t give up doing a main list, ever. However, it’s always been a habit of ours to allow each writer to highlight one album from their Top 10 selections that didn’t make the final cut. This allows us more flexibility and the chance to, one last time, shun a light on some of our favorite music from the year. In a fantastic year such as 2016, it’s almost a necessity, as our list, more than ever, misses out on so much of the greatness contained therein.
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.
Ken Sorceron has never been content with just sitting still. The Phoenix to Olympia transplant is the only remaining founding member of black metal act Abigail Williams, and is prolific in not just the USBM scene, but a prominent figure in underground and extreme music at large in recent years thanks to frequent collaboration with Finnish record label Blood Music as their go-to mastering engineer — with credits on releases from Emperor, Cloudkicker, and Perturbator alike — as well as serving time in acts such as Aborted and Lord Mantis.
With so much great music out there and so much music that our staff reviews (and plenty that we don’t), it can be difficult to keep up with it all and determine which releases are the most worth your time. Harnessing the wide-ranging and diverse tastes of our editorial staff, our monthly Editors’ Picks column is our gift to you to guide you towards the music that’s impacting us the most. You can read our picks from previous months right here.
Ah, March! The end of winter is nigh, spring is nearly upon us, and the heavy hitters are preparing to unleash more music than we possibly know what to do with. Even though all of us here at Heavy Blog are practically salivating at everything that April has in store for us, this past month wasn’t exactly shabby. We’ve got a lineup of some incredible albums for you to check out if you haven’t already, and for the first time, we’re also including a shortlist of other albums from the past month (metal or otherwise) that get our collective seal of approval. Also for the first time, you’ll notice that we’ve installed a nifty little Spotify widget in our site sidebar featuring a playlist of said top picks from this past month. As always, feel free to share your own top picks in the comments, and without further ado, let’s dig in into this month’s offerings!
OK. 2015 is now officially over and what an insanely great it has been. Like all years however, it is followed by another one (unless induction isn’t a thing in which case, we’re screwed) and it’s time to start turning our eyes towards the one which awaits us now. 2016…
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…