Half-Life – Napalm Death, Pt. 1

There are very few bands in extreme metal that can be rightly considered significant influencers in the formation and development of multiple subgenres. Napalm Death are one of them. From their inception in Birmingham, England in 1981 through their most recent full-length output in 2015, the band have explored the…

Ripped to Shreds – Mai-zang

In 2018, it’s surprising the number of projects that have come out of all types. There is so much access to so many things that it’s sometimes difficult to find the real gems. But don’t worry, they’re out there! Just take a look at the Bay Area’s Ripped to Shreds,…

Morbid Angel – Kingdoms Disdained

After finally listening to Kingdoms Disdained, its clear that guitarist Trey Azagthoth’s deterioration as a songwriter has been a key, unaddressed factor that’s affected Morbid Angel’s recent output. While he may have written some of death metal’s greatest riffs during the band’s heyday, Kingdoms Disdained is the best case study thus far in terms of demonstrating Azagthoth’s slipping capability as the driving force of Morbid Angel’s sound. It was easy to overlook Heretic given how generally forgettable it was, and the predominant critiques of Illud Divinum Insanus revolved more around the band’s decision making than anything else. But now that Morbid Angel have entered into the perfect setup for a successful comeback, it’s difficult to overlook how complacent Azagthoth’s songwriting is across the entirety of Kingdoms Disdained. There’s no denying the album is an incomparable improvement over their industrial metal excursions, but it’s also difficult to avoid comparing the album’s aggressively average delivery with the milestone records that have preceded it in the band’s discography

Hey! Listen to The King is Blind!

What exactly qualifies as “metal” can be a contentious issue. As any dedicated listener knows, the label itself accounts for a wide spread of sub-genres—ranging from softer, more atmospherically-inclined fare such as post-black/gaze and folk metal; to the frantic, bombastic realms of speed and power metal; and onto the spasmodic worlds of math- and grindcore; and even the bleak, all-encompassing, sonic oppression of drone and funeral doom. Many of these sub-genres remain contentious, and what is considered metal, or even just heavy music can shift and change depending upon what circles you frequent. Then again, there are those bands who (for any number of reasons) simply ooze the ideal of heavy metal, no matter which way you look at them, so that their status as a nothing less than a fucking heavy metal band cannot be denied. The King is Blind are one of those bands.

Hey! Listen to Gregorio Franco!

When one thinks about synthwave they more often than not conjure up images of neon landscapes made up of transparent grids, sunsets, beaches, palm trees, fast cars and anything else that may fit into such an aesthetic. That said, one does not tend to think about upside down crosses, demons, serial killers and an overall sense of evil in turn. However, for every genre that has ever existed there lies a much darker side, a subgenre which turns things on their head and produces a much more heavier sound in response. For synthwave that would be darkwave or darksynth, either seem to be interchangeable for the most part, with well-known acts such as Carpenter Brut, GosT, Perturbator, and Dance with the Dead carrying the torch. Of course, for every well-known act, there are those who are scratching, clawing and going through hell to be noticed, many of whom were influenced by those already leading that proverbial charge.

Gregorio Franco is one of those dark souls of the synth and, if what he’s produced thus far is any indication, he is not only one to keep an ear to the ground on but one to keep an eye out for as well.

Expulsion – Nightmare Future

Ever been in a real fight? A knock-down, drag-out brawl where chairs are launched, punches are thrown, and elbows are swung? Yeah, me either. Let’s be real, when a bunch of drunk dudes decide they want to start a fight for no reason whatsoever my first reaction is typically “check, please…”. There’s a part of me that wants to get into the thick of it, though. That primal, untapped portion of my psyche that not-so-secretly desires to feel the force of a fist slamming into my jaw, and my own bone-splintering retort. But I generally like my face (and most others’ faces as well), so seeing my handsome visage brutally disfigured over a disagreement regarding whose football team is the unequivocal and absolute best seems a bit silly. Thanks to our infernal overlords that we have grindcore and death metal to give wannabe brawlers such as myself a much less painful and infinitely more enjoyable release! Expulsion is the latest death/grind band to cross my ears and allay those violent urges, and with their debut album Nightmare Future they create a violent dystopia harsh and brutal enough to slake even the most fervent extreme metal fan’s bloodlust.

Vallenfyre – Fear Those Who Fear Him

A whole host of good oceanic adjectives come to mind when trying to describe Vallenfyre’s sound, like “roiling,” “crashing,” “deep,” or “furious.” Although these UK extreme metal stalwarts don’t play music particularly themed towards deep bodies of water in the same way as, say, The Ocean, their sound burbles and hisses in a similar manner to some forgotten Cambrian trench, oozing and rushing in various degrees through briny swill and hot gas. Fear Those Who Fear Him, the third outing from Vallenfyre, doesn’t do much to change this – no big stylistic shift in trajectory has occurred in the three years since Splinters – but hey, when you’ve got a formula that routinely kicks this much ass, is there any reason to mess with it?

Cut Up – Wherever They May Rot

Sweden has quite the reputation for crusty, gruff death metal. Familiar legends like Entombed and Dismember are eternally inscribed in the brains of metalheads but they might not be as well acquainted with Vomitory, a band with a string of brutal, gory minor classics in the 1990s. Before breaking up 2011, Vomitory was signed to Metal Blade Records, so they aren’t exactly unsung heroes. Nonetheless, they are certainly still overshadowed by their more famous fellow countrymen. Two long time members of Vomitory, drummer Tobias Gustafsson and bassist/vocalist Erik Rundqvist, returned in 2015 with a new project, Cut Up, who are now releasing their sophomore album.