Djent had an explosive entrance into the world of heavy music, around the start of the decade. It was a truly exciting occurrence, with first-wave acts like Periphery, Animals As Leaders and Cloudkicker filtering the technically-driven progressive sound of acts like Meshuggah, Sikth, and those of the budding “Sumeriancore” movement, into something altogether more accessible, while still retaining much of their forebears’ technical and progressive edge. Yet, like most new sub-genres, djent quickly devolved into pastiche and gave way to over saturation—perhaps a little bit quicker than most. Djent, it seems, has had a propperly ballistic trajectory, and—in 2017—as its momentum trails off, it’s hard to get excited about this once-promising phenomenon.
Fun times! This week we discuss a bunch of new music. Leprous, Tesseract, Archspire, The Haunted, Aborted, Cloakroom, and Fox Territory. Then we have some live footage from Zeal & Ardor, Spotify suffering losses, and Rolling Stone’s top 100 metal albums. Then we discuss the Transformers movies, and what makes a good villain. Enjoy!
Some albums are a long time coming; production, schedules, lack of inspiration, and much more can all lead to a delayed release. When that happens, there are two possible results. Either the eventual release falls short of expectations which have been brewing for so long or the album is elevated by catharsis and a long wait reward. Happily, the latter seems to be the case with ZETA’s debut. Born from a collaboration between Katie Jackson, Paul Antonio Ortiz (AKA Chimp Spanner), and Dan Tompkins (TesseracT, ex-Skyharbor), the album is a retrowave trip tinged with a slew of 90’s pop influences. The wait for the album has tallied years of teasers, singles, artwork, and baited breath for a collaboration that seemed too good to be true. Finally, as of today, it has been released to the world and lo! we are pleased, for it is good.
What’s the difference between a good concept album and a shit one? Hard to say. Does it depend on the lyrical content? Thematic refrain and reprisal? Who knows. There’s even sneaky concept albums, the likes of which the layman listener wouldn’t even begin to fathom had intentions beyond riff, chorus, solo, repeat. The Cold Sun might be one of these; Loathe seem like a band bold enough to attempt such a thing on their debut full length. What isn’t up for debate is this – The Cold Sun is just about all filler. Twelve tracks. Six songs. Zero (or damn close to it) cares.
Is it possible for a post-black metal artist to sit still? Not that we would ever want them to, mind you, but it’s worth pointing out that many of the artists responsible for the creation and popularization of the genre have all moved away from the genre’s nascent sound and…
How to navigate the sheer number of festivals now available for the metal fan? With the aim of helping you sort through this vast variety, we’ve compiled the following primer. It’s by no means extensive; it’s simply impossible to write about all of the festivals we would have liked to mention. We focused on those we’ll be attending and on those who have the most attractive setlists in our eyes. That being said, do feel free to share more great festivals with us in the comments and please enjoy this, our selection of festivals for 2017.
Newcomers RIVIẼRE (please don’t ask us what that tilde is doing there, we don’t know) show us the lack of identity which the post-progressive genre is afflicted with. This comes with its share of challenges and problems. On their debut album, Heal, RIVIẼRE attempt to tap into the aesthetic of post-progressive metal and generate the melancholy, ambient vibe which the genre is beginning to be famous for. When this works, it works extremely well; the heavier or more dynamic moments on the album are straight up brilliant. But in between those peaks, where the band have to rely on “duct tape” passages to keep everything whole, Heal falls a bit flat, confused as to what exactly is required of it in the interim between climaxes.
Third albums. What a goddamn mystery. We’ve spoken about the unique challenge posed by them before on the blog but there’s never been any concise solution offered to their peculiar problem. Should bands double down on their established sound and “dig deeper” (like TesseracT’s Polaris for example) or throw everything to the wind and experiment wildly with their sound (like Karnivool’s Asymmetry for instance)? Both options entice with their advantages but both also hold pitfalls. Too often, bands simply don’t choose and try to walk a golden, middle round. This “secret” third option is extremely difficult to pull off but also hedges the band’s bets, since failing it carries less hazards. At worst, it leaves an album a little bit forgettable. Otherwise, this third choice skirts many of the potential disasters of the other two options. This “best worst case scenario” is exactly what Soen’s third release embodies.
Earthside remind us of what finesse in progressive metal looks like. Their 2015 A Dream in Static was a perfect exercise in sincerity and musical integrity, revolving on varied vocal guest spots, sprawling compositions and flawless execution. Needless to say, it’s truly a superb album. Thus, we’ll take any reminder we can get of it, especially if that reminder comes in the form of an astonishingly excellent video from the always excellent Erez Bader (Silent Flight Productions). In charge of excellent music videos for The Dear Hunter (“Gloria”), Thomas Giles (“Devotion”) and Wings Denied (“Catalyst”), Bader is a singular producer in the music video industry (and beyond). Together with Earthside’s powerful lyrics, assisted by one Daniel Tompkins (TesseracT), he has produced a convincing and striking music video, steeped in its own myth and symbolical meaning.
Even with the hundreds of albums we come across every year, let’s face it, we still sleep on things. Especially with a large group such as ours, even if most of us on staff have listened to and obsessed over a particular album, it’s inevitable that at least a few of us won’t have jumped on the hype train. For a variety of reasons, we either dismiss certain albums when they come out, can’t properly give the time to them at first, or were simply unaware of them until someone recommends them. With that in mind, we’ve decided to make a fun new addition to our annual end-of-year lists, which is one comprised entirely of our favorite albums we heard for the first time this year or learned to love that weren’t released in 2016. Though most of these have been released in the past 5 years, there are a few that are far older, all the way to the most classic of thrash. Being a music enthusiast means constant discovery, and that includes digging back through the annals of music history. We encourage you to share your own favorite non-2016 “discoveries” this year, but in the meantime check out some of our staff’s top picks below.