MONARCH! – Never Forever

Managing an album’s length is more than just a numbers game. As important as the song count and run time of a track list may be, an album’s experiential length is more closely linked to the content contained within each track. More specifically, this is defined not by the quality of an album’s ideas, but the quantity of those ideas, as well as their organization. As an example, consider your standard 20-ish minute, 20+ track grindcore album—though it may be shorter than most people’s morning commute, a band with the the most simple genre formula is introducing the listener to roughly two dozen song ideas, and if these ideas are executed poorly, the album is going to drag and lose its appeal despite presenting bite size compositions. This isn’t relevant to Never Forever because it suffers from an ineffective length; to the contrary, MONARCH! (Monarch, from here on out), have crafted an album with perfect pacing and structure that enhances the impact of the record. But the band operate in a genre rife with overindulgence, as evident by the sheer number of doom and drone metal albums comprised of a handful of tracks that each rival the entirety of a grindcore album while presenting barely enough ideas to rise above being musical melatonin.

Big|Brave – Ardor

Being a writer for Heavy Blog comes with a lot of perks. Unlimited beer in the break room fridge, the annual staff retreat to Bora Bora, an on-call office masseuse – these are just a few of the major draws for blog employees. But probably the most personally rewarding benefit…

Ehnahre – The Marrow

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.

White Suns – Psychic Drift

Over the past several releases, New York-based White Suns have crafted an abrasive and esoteric noise rock formula. Rather than operating in the genre’s standard fare of “noisy rock,” the trio of Kevin Barry (vocals, guitar), Rick Visser (guitar, electronics) and Dana Matthiesen (drums, electronics) have opted instead for a seamless marriage of noise and experimental rock, with an elevated mood of unease conjured by Barry’s cryptic lyricism and spoken word delivery. It’s a peculiar formula which unfolded spectacularly across nine disorienting tracks on the band’s previous effort, Totem (2014). The album presented an abundance of these unhinged noise rock bastardizations accented by extended passages of dark ambiance and industrial noise that created a painful degree of suspenseful dread before the band finally released the listener back into its chaos-ridden assault. It’s the styling of these moments that composes the bulk of Psychic Drift, a four-track bludgeoning anchored by a nightmarish lyrical* journey as disturbing as the music that engulfs Barry’s narration.

Gravetemple – Impassable Fears

Eliot’s The Waste Land is a masterpiece of poetry. It is stark, vast, singular, and dreadful. At once immediate and unknowable, it is a tale of desolation, decay, and death told in hallucinatory fragments. Poetry is often like this. So also is music. Though, obviously, not all of it. Most popular music pushes back against this concept by creating sounds that are pleasant and accessible, though they may not always leave a very lasting impression. It isn’t intended to confuse or disturb. Instead, it thrives on its lack of offensiveness, opening itself to the widest swath of listeners that it can for maximum outreach and effect. This is not an inherently bad thing, by any stretch. Accessible music is no less valuable because of its ease of approach. But there are times when music almost ceases to feel like music at all, but instead a shattered mirror reflecting musical impressions rather than solid, knowable forms. This is music that digs itself deep into the subconscious with its unrelenting strangeness, leaving the listener exposed to sounds that give no shelter, no relief. Gravetemple falls squarely in this most peculiar of musical spaces, and Impassable Fears begs the listener to abide in this space of abject peculiarity. It is as frustratingly obtuse and unsettling as it is sonically rapturous. Like Eliot, it creates a strange noise, and is all the more wonderful for it.

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…

Editors’ Picks: April 2017

Man, 2017, y’all. We realize that it’s kind of our m.o. to be proponents of the whole “Golden Age of Metal” narrative and be incredibly positive about the consistently great level of stuff that is being put out from pretty much every part of the musical spectrum, but it’s such an easy thing to do when we are so constantly bombarded with new material that utterly consumes our attention. Even in months where one of us might not have as many new albums that really impressed them, without doubt there will be another one who could barely keep up because of all the superb releases from genres they pay close attention to. This April has certainly been no different in that regard, and we have a whole slew of top-notch albums to recommend to you all.

Pharmakon – Contact

The Ancient Greek word “φάρμακον” (or “pharmakón”) is ingrained with a dichotomous etymology and, by extension, philosophical implications. At its root, the word has a conflicted translation of representing any drug, appropriate to use for discussing either a remedy or a poison. Yet, when extended to its use in the culture of…