Welcome to the fifth part in our ongoing series of Heavy Blog Is Heavy’s “Best Of” selections where we explore a genre of music and each of our dedicated authors picks a favorite album to share a personal experience with. After mixing things up a bit with the previous list, we’ve decided to return to a genre limitation. Remember, we’re interesting in limiting ourselves as much as possible by picking a narrow genre because we believe limitations breed creativity. This time, we’ve chosen to focus on another genre who’s definition is a bit hazy: progressive black metal.
Black metal is one of the most misrepresented and ill-understood sub-genres within the metal community and outside of it. These specific albums add even more chaos to the mix by taking the basic black metal sound and either adding new influences to it or mixing up the basic formula completely: from folk-infused conceptual albums to fearlessly brutal descents into madness, this sub-genre is both abrasive and unique, musically complex and furious. Hold on tight as we spiral into the frost-bitten embrace of these albums.
Another year has come and gone. Music was had and enjoyed by all. Some of it ruled. Some of it sucked. Some of it was okay. What follows is the opinion of one writer fortunate enough to broadcast his opinions on a site that cares about it.
So here you go.
BRING FORTH THE NUMERICALLY CATALOGED ORGANIZATION OF EXCEPTIONAL MUSICS.
01. Le toit du monde
02. An Ocean of Wisdom
03. Forgotten Arrows
04. Colored Sands
05. The Battle of Chamdo
06. Enemies of Compassion
07. Ember’s Voice
09. Reduced to Silence
[Season of Mist]
The original masters of technical death metal with eldritch, unsettling and innovative songwriting have finally come out with a new album after twelve years. The band had broken up due to the suicide of drummer Steve MacDonald. Several years later, Luc Lemay (founding member, guitarist, vocalist) reinvented the band in 2009 with an all-stars lineup consisting of himself, Colin Marston of Behold… The Arctopus, Dysrhythmia, Krallice and several other amazing bands on bass, Kevin Hufnagel of Dysrhythmia on guitar, and John Longstreth of Origin fame on drums. Considering the legacy of the band and how well regarded their 1998 album Obscura is even to this date, making a new album that doesn’t disappoint fans after more than a decade of waiting is an extremely tall order to say the least. Yet here we have Colored Sands, Gorguts’s fifth album, and it’s clear that Gorguts are back again.
The art of the instrumental is a delicate one. Taking away the vocals is a surprisingly big step, whereas before there was a ‘wall’ that would divert the focus away from the instruments a little, now every note and flourish is on display at the forefront for all to see. But, whether they use that method to craft obscenely complicated displays of musical proficiency or build a soundscape with which to immerse the listener in, the challenge is always the same — keeping it interesting without the most human and instantly connective element present.
The rules were fairly simple:
The track must be instrumental. No vocals, guest or otherwise.
Must have been released in the last 10 years. To keep it simple, this basically means any album released between 2003 and 2013. This was done to rule out some of the more obvious contenders such as ‘Orion‘ and ‘Transylvania‘.
Although I hate to be that guy, the band must be predominantly metal. This meant the omission of some important and influential bands that fell more under the post-rock banner such as Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Explosions In The Sky.
So, with some collaboration with rest of Heavy Blog, here’s what I came up with:
The return of Gorguts is an exciting prospect for many, something that’s been on the hook for the last 12 years. After all, their album Obscura spawned a new breed of prog and tech death and even became the namesake for one of our favorite bands in death metal. Hint: It’s Obscura.
I love a good split release. It allows me to branch out my musical taste in some ways and discover bands I wouldn’t have otherwise listened to if one of the bands involved is an established act that I’ve been aware of for some time. This year, split releases have been kind to us. Cough and Windhand released a stellar psychedelic doom split album Reflection of the Negative, Phil Anselmo and Warbeast wowed folks with their collaboration, and avant garde black metallers Smohalla and Omega Centauri came together for the post-black madness in Tellur — Epitome (more on that later this week!). The latest split that I’ve been enamored with is the atmospheric black metal release from Vestiges and Panopticon.
If I had my say, there would be a top one hundred list, because I enjoyed so many different albums this year. I’ve changed this list fifty seven times over the past week, so this list is me finally making a decision. It’s honestly been harder choosing this list than it has been choosing classes for next semester. I must say that 2012 has shown that music has not totally gone down the drain, because there are still so many amazing bands I’m just now hearing about, and so many great albums to listen to. So, without further ado, here are the twenty best albums to come out in 2012, and the six best albums that would be twenty one through twenty six that just didn’t make the cut.
Every so often there’s an album that can change someone’s perspective on music. For whatever reason, good or bad, this record alters the way a person thinks of music. Records like Gorguts‘ Obscura, Cynic‘s Traced in Air, or Primus‘ Frizzle Fry push musical boundaries and cause people to think of it in a whole new light. Behold the Arctopus‘ latest release, Horrorscension, has the potential to be one of those albums for a lot of people.
Black metal is a curious beast; it can either be really beautiful and transcend the five senses we are born with and expose us to new pleasures previously unknown, or it can unlock seething vitriol and hatred, eschewing the misanthrope, violence, and racism for which the genre is notorious. Whatever the case, it’s easily one of the most controversial and centralized of all metal sub-genres. Every brand has its clique: trve kvlt, atmospheric, post, experimental, progressive, etc. All of these separate sub-sections stay within their limits, and so do the fans. Now there are some exceptions to the rule, of course, and there will always be overlap for those who love all metal, but as a whole metal fans — and fans of music in general — tend stick to their own little sphere. Krallice fall in the gray area; an area in which all boundaries are knocked down and the music encompasses far more genres and influences than ever thought.
There is a reason I gave Krallice’s last record a perfect score. They do black metal so well that it’s hard not to take notice. Fanboy-ism aside, they are one of the few USBM bands that really capture my attention, and that have been able to keep it since I discovered them. I thought it was ridiculous when they announced a new record, roughly about a year and a half after their last one, was completed and is being released in three weeks. They posted a new song with the enigmatic title ‘IIIIIIII’ and while it’s definitely not their weirdest stuff, it’s still great. Exactly what I wanted to hear from Krallice. A brutal 10+ minute long black metal onslaught. Listen to the track below.