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.
Many genres have their own holy grails. “Weird tech death”, which can also be called avant-garde death metal, has a few such releases, but the one that is perhaps most untouched is Demilich’s 1993 masterpiece Nespithe. Artificial Brain’s 2014 debut release Labyrinth Constellation was a clear attempt at this throne, but it focused more on an old school death metal sound than the sheer weirdness. Enter Infrared Horizon, their sophomore release. Here we have a much more focused and experimental album that is closer to the prize than any other album has ever been, and it also happens to be a fantastic record.
Welcome to Death’s Door! Please wipe your feet on the mat. This portion of hell is particularly bloody, and I will NOT mop the floor again today. Grab a stiff drink, pull up a chair of bones, and let’s sit around the roiling fires of eternal damnation whilst we discuss one of my favorite things: death metal. 2016 was a great year for the stuff. Blood Incantation. Ulcerate. Gorguts. Mithras. Yeah, it was a good time. Death metal as a whole has been experiencing a creative resurgence as of late, praise be to our loathsome and infernal overlords of metal. A quick glance at Bandcamp’s metal page or Spotify’s myriad of death metal playlists will provide a clear indication of just how widespread the resurgence of death metal has become, with dozens upon dozens of bands vying for your rage-filled attention. Our bloody cup runneth over, and there is much rejoicing.
It seems to come up every time a new record pops up within the niche that Gorguts, Portal, and Deathspell Omega built; there’s not much room left in the sphere of dissonant, atmospheric, and abstract extreme metal due to the limitations of the style. Murk chords and blastbeats can only carry a record for so long (as we’ve seen with first casualty Plebeian Grandstand), and the novelty is wearing thin. Bands such as Ulcerate and Sunless thrive on the death metal end of the spectrum by offering depth and creative riffing, but black metal has yet to have much success in challenging Deathspell’s monolithic reach. Dutch black metallers Dodecahedron are the best bet at carrying the torch into new territory, whose debut five years ago came (from seemingly) out of nowhere and quickly reached cult status. The group, who has significant ties to prog-fusion group Exivious, takes a more overtly progressive and technical approach to the sound, and therefore, into further extremities.
The genre of technical death metal is tricky to do well. Oftentimes the songs are so densely arranged and executed that they are impenetrable and listeners may struggle for something—anything!—to latch onto. There are bands that do it well, and it’s probably time to start paying attention to Replacire, as they’re bringing some new perspectives and ideas to the genre. Their new album, Do Not Deviate, condenses some of the ideas from their debut, The Human Burden, into a heavily detailed monster. If listeners want a visual cue for what to expect, the bad ass cover art provides a perfect look. Robotic ferocity, Escher-esque labyrinths and the occasional mystical occult vibe–because, hey, why not? And, despite giving plenty for listeners to digest on early listens, this album practically screams that obsessive listens will reveal hidden layers and secrets.
The state of progressive or technical death metal is an interesting one as it has relatively quickly found the fancy of many modern musicians, swiftly becoming a well-canvassed style with no shortage of quality records. In no small part dominated by giants like Gorguts, Deathspell Omega, and Portal, the genre…
While we’ve previously covered topics more along the lines of specific scales, intervals, and chords, today’s topic is unique in that it concerns a technique (or, well, a subset of that technique) that’s mostly specific to guitar playing, as opposed to a general musical concept.
I couldn’t be more excited to premiere a track from the upcoming full-length from Minneapolis-based avant-garde death metallers Sunless. Urraca (out February 24th) is a Gorguts-ian psychedelic death metal trip that will impress with their technical proficiency as much as their ability to craft attention-grabbing and captivating songs. Engineered by Adam Tucker and mixed/mastered by Colin Marston, this record is a simple remedy for the aforementioned yuck production. Even at their most dissonant, everything locks together nicely without any one thing sounding like it’s dripping with sonic highlighter.
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.
As has been discussed on the podcast twice now, the French Canadian death metal scene has continued to be unbelievably innovative and prolific for over two decades now. Propped up by a roster of key musicians who often have multiple projects to their respective names, it goes without saying that the scene has birthed entirely new approaches to tech death. Just last year, we were treated to stellar releases from both long-established acts (Gorguts) and equally excellent debut albums (First Fragment) — but it appears the scene insists on being the gift that keeps on giving well into 2017 as well.
Enter Samskaras, a two piece featuring multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Eric Burnet of Derelict alongside drummer Alexandre Dupras of Unhuman. At its core — as one might expect — the debut EP Asunder is built on the same fundamentals underlying most of the French Canadian scene, both in its approach to technicality as well as its sense of melody.