Welcome, one and all, young and old, to our Album of the Year 2016 week! We have SO MUCH content lined up for you! Some of that content includes guest lists from artists that either released music in 2016 or of which we’re just huge, dorky fans. To kick us off, we have Maeth’s…interesting list. In case you’ve forgotten, Maeth released the exceptional “Shrouded Mountain” this year, putting us to shame for ignoring them so far. They’ve also submitted the list below of their Top 10 Albums from 2016 , which we’ve left u-ranked and also unedited, making them the first contributors to our brand new Heavy Blog Guest List feature.
One of the biggest trends of 2016’s seemingly-ubiquitous djent scene has to be the fact that most bands have tried to stray as far away from their metal roots as possible, all while still trying to maintain a semblance of grit. What fans have been left with is a mostly watered-down clone of any number of bands’ earlier material. Too many musicians out there have decided that their heavier past simply isn’t cool and have instead opted to make what can only be described as progressive metal’s take on elevator music. Thankfully for Canada’s Auras, they’re out for blood on Heliospectrum. This record may be just as uber-clean and electronica-influenced as they come, but it’s one of the only times in recent memory that something out of this subgenre has sounded this pissed.
A month or so ago, I wrote a post titled “The Occult in Modern Day Metal”. In it, underneath countless of apologies for the simplifications I was about to present the readers, I took a brief look at how the occult has lent words, images, ideas and themes to the metal genre. Charting three main movements, I attempted to offer an initial direction for asking questions, a jumping point for something much more extensive. Perhaps where I’d left the most gaps was with the last part; the post was getting long, the hours were getting late and the subject matter was growing more complex. This should come as no surprise to those versed in the source material itself (and my writing/sleeping habits, if we’re being honest). You see, that final part dealt with the New Age and its ties to progressive metal. The thing is, however, that New Age is one of the most loosely defined, scholarly debated and impossible to understand spiritual movements to have ever existed. It’s right up there with Zen Buddhism, Sufism, Swedenborg-ism (I swear that’s a real thing, you can Google it) and other obscure, esoteric belief systems.
It’s time for another review that throws everyone’s favorite trigger word around with reckless abandon. A word with so many meanings that using it is akin to farting during a job interview or calling your significant other the wrong name. Progressive. Yes, The Room Colored Charlatan are a progressive deathcore band. Or are they? Over the course of the last few years and releases, the band have pushed square riffs into isometric structures – somehow coming away with something pretty cool each time. The Veil That Conceals is the next part of this band’s journey and it definitely goes somewhere. It’s just unclear what the scheduled destination was/is.
“The occult” is a term that gets thrown around quite a lot these days. It’s mostly used to describe a certain aesthetic, one laden with candles, burly cloaks and pentagrams. It can also be used to connote an eerie or bizarre, a sense that something is off. That shouldn’t be surprising; after all, “occult” comes from the Latin “occultus”, something hidden or secret. However, the occult is also a field of study, a body of knowledge and a sociological term which underwent plenty of historical permutations to finally end up with the meaning and context is bears today.
Usually in our Best Of columns we try to tackle either something genre-specific or something conveying a very specific idea. Today we’re doing something a little different though. Given that we’re now officially more than halfway through the 2010s, it seems fitting to take a hard look at some of the albums that have defined the current generation of metal. Since this site was formed in 2009, this list encompasses the vast majority of the music we’ve had the pleasure to experience and review in real time. And as a site who strongly believes we’re currently in the throes of a new Golden Age of Metal, what better way to prove that than with this brief shortlist of phenomenal music we believe best encapsulates that notion.
Has death metal started to feel a bit too homogeneous for you lately? Do you think that a lot of djent bands djumped the shark a few years ago? Or maybe you want to check out a prog band that keeps songs at a reasonable length? Let California’s Entheos be your golden ticket out of this musical rut you’ve found yourself in. Trust us here at Heavy Blog when we say that The Infinite Nothing is an absolute gut-punch; a motherfucking flurry of warped guitar riffs, crushing production and some of the most amazing bass performances you’re likely to hear in the style for the next couple of years. I had the privilege to speak with the band’s vocalist, Chaney Crabb, last week about how the band has improved since their debut EP, confronting anxiety through writing, tour homies and a whole lot more!
Genres can really only be so much on their own: even with metal, where there’s microgenres within subgenres within larger subgenres within genres, there’s still only so much that can be achieved by sticking within one certain area and refusing to branch out. It’s why so many bands within metal opt to either bring multiple genres together into a much more diverse combination, a la Agalloch’s combination of dark folk, doom, and post-black metal, or to evolve and switch from one genre to another, such as The Contortionist’s transformation from deathcore to progressive metal. Never ones to stifle their own creativity, metal musicians constantly are expanding and adding new elements into their toolkit, either by way of growing said kit or by switching out some of the older appliances within.
There was a period between 2006 and 2009 where the deathcore scene was exploding as progressive elements started to get introduced into the sound. The genesis of the sound of many bands that are loved today was in that scene – be it The Faceless, After the Burial, Born of Osiris, Within the Ruins, Between the Buried and Me, The Contortionist – the list goes on. Now, in 2016, things are different. Enter Shadow of Intent, a progressive/technical deathcore duo. Their take on the sound manages to be fresh way past the prime of the genre, and hearkens back to the feeling of finding a new band on a random blog doing interesting things, a band that is on the verge of greatness.
It’s been a while since we did one of these, but…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…