Welcome to Death’s Door, nerds. We’re freshly past Our Lord and Infernal Master’s designated holiday, and I’m so hopped up on candy and the blood of the non-believers that I can’t even function. Despite my shot adrenal glands and ever-expanding waistline, there’s a whole lot of premium death metal to cover, as has been the custom in this most nefarious year of 2017. Praise be. October is typically a fantastic month for premier releases, especially in the world of metal. In that regard, this October did not disappoint. Melodic death metal in particular saw a glut of fantastic releases, while death-doom and progressive death metal both unleashed releases that are poised to transform the way we think about death metal as a whole. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, 2017 is one of the finest years for death metal of nearly every shape and type in recent memory. This is legitimately the second golden age of death metal, and I hope and pray it continues in perpetuity. Regardless, let’s celebrate the health of the music we love while it continues to fester and rot in new and unexpected ways. Our picks this month pull from many different sectors of the death metal world. Post your picks in the comments and let us know what you loved/what we missed. Let’s do this.
I’ve written before, as I’m sure I will again, about the therapeutic nature, if not outright necessity, of music. The healing properties and medicinal purposes of this art is fairly well-chronicled but we can never be reminded of that enough. In my own experiences, and where I find myself in life, a lot of that healing or mental well-being is cultivated in listening to varieties of post-fill in the blank music. I listen to it at night when I need to calm my brain down, when I need to be able to focus on work, or I feel something that I can’t express. Others will inevitably have their own preferred niche, genre, or style. None of them are invalid options.
This year charges on and doesn’t appear to show any signs of slowing down. As we near the six month mark (and our own Top 25 of 2017 So Far), it’s becoming apparent that 2017 hits on broader fronts than 2016 did. While the previous year was an amazing year for some very specific genres, there were others that suffered less than stellar performance. With 2017, there’s very little that’s left untouched, with great releases coming from left and right. The list below is a great example of this; it contains post rock, grindcore, jazz, psychedelic electronics, death metal, stoner and oh so much more. Each of these sub-genres have been producing great releases this year, giving 2017 the illusion of a siege. From us, the nominal besieged, a measure of elasticity is required; we must keep our ears open and listen to new places, places we might have abandoned up until now.
A few years ago, long time Heavy Blog friend/staff member, Geoff Smith, turned me on to Secrets of the Sky. I immediately fell in love with their super dark version of post metal, spliced with plenty of doom and other stuff I am generally known to enjoy. I got to listen to their sophomore album, Pathway, and review it for the blog, further deepening my connection with them. Thus, when I had heard that Clayton Bartholomew (who’s also ex-Lycus by the way) had left the band, I was crushed and very fearful of the future for that niche brand of sound that I had gotten used to. Luckily, my fears were short lived as Bartholomew began gathering musicians around him again in the form of Mountaineer. The project promised to scratch all those places that I needed scratch with Secrets of the Sky’s demise. Finally, only a few weeks ago, their first album dropped and lo and behold, the promise has been kept.
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.
Last year, my interest was piqued by a surprise release from Woodsplitter, an instrumental solo project from Ben McLeod, guitar player of one of my favorite “new” bands, Nashville’s All Them Witches. Inflamed examines metal guitar through a variety of lenses: post, prog, death, stoner, doom, and even krautrock; showcasing an impressive variety and a refined level of comfort as each track seems to pare down to the core of what makes these sounds appeal to so many. His newest venture, Egyptian Overload explores an even wider swath of sounds and textures, plus the addition of saxophone. I asked Ben a few questions about the project, the rawness of his latest record, and future plans.
The ambient and lo-fi intro to the new Vasudeva record, No Clearance, gives way to a whirl of feedback before diving into the Minus the Bear-style instrumental rock of “Take Away”. It’s given to all of the positive aspects of the sort of danceable post-rock and at its outset avoids the pitfalls given to this. The clean production highlights agile guitar lines over the top of a very solid rhythm section. The track hints at the kind of soaring highs the band are capable of. The “Whatever, bye” at the end of the track is a nice touch.
It’s been a while since we mentioned Boston instrumental post-rock group Pray For Sound here. Originally we told you to listen to their 2014 album Dreamer, which Eden complimented for its open, cinematic sounds calling to mind the likes of sleepmakeswaves, Explosions in the Sky, and plenty more. True to form, after telling you all to listen to that album over half a year after its release, we somehow managed to let these guys slip through our fingers again as they released their truly excellent follow-up Everything Is Beautiful last fall. Don’t ask us how it happened because we don’t have a good answer other than us being fools. Certainly don’t think it has anything to do with the quality of the album because Everything Is Beautiful is undoubtedly the most fully-realized and expansive record Pray For Sound have put out. It’s sweeping, cinematic post-rock at its finest that knows how and when to hit heavy and add plenty of interesting knots throughout while maintaining its general feel of open, pastoral beauty.
Mothership, out of Dallas, TX, claim a lot of ‘70s hard rock as influences while making one of the more interesting styles of stoner-space rock. The opening and title track of the album sounds more like a mashup of Monster Magnet and Explosions in the Sky than it does, say UFO or Black Sabbath. That said, the second track, “Ride the Sun”, on their third album, High Strangeness, lands squarely in that wheelhouse. One can also hear elements of Kyuss in the noise Mothership bring and it’s easy to see why they have become a favorite in their local scene and are now getting out on their own headlining tour. Just two songs in and they show a surprising range when they create a positively Iron Maiden-esque break around the 2:45 mark before locking down into a half-time groove to wind down the song.
The moniker “cinematic” post rock is constantly used today; it denotes the orchestral, drawn out and melodic grandeur of a certain type of post rock, first made famous by Explosions In the Sky and God Is An Astronaut. The ties to cinema are purely conceptual, running through the linked themes of soundtracks and their musical habits. However, what if I were to tell you of an actual cinematic post rock band, one which draws on film not only for its concepts but also as samples in their music? Enter Féroces, a French band which does just that; their debut EP, Juliette, integrates film right into the music to create an intriguing take on somber, melancholic post rock.