Hey, have you stopped to consider the title of this column? Or, more specifically, have you ever stopped to consider what an “editor” actually is? I mean, you can ask the question about the broader field of “journalism” — what sort of purpose does an editor play in the writing industry? You’ll get plenty of answers, from those that skew technical (“an editor is someone who makes writer’s writing better”) to those that view an editor is some sort of manager (“an editor is someone who decides what gets run and what doesn’t get run”). The answer, unsurprisingly, depends on the place you’re talking about and the segment of “the industry” it falls into (if such a term is even still relevant, seeing as how fragmented independent, i.e. non-corporate, journalism is).
For Heavy Blog, an editor has always been someone who shares in the load of running the blog. That makes sense: in a volunteer organization, volunteering to do more is the main currency. There’s no salary increase (since there’s no salary to increase), the privileges are minimal (you get earlier access to promos, sometimes), and the responsibilities can be tedious (no one wants to deal with social media, believe me). So, like the rest of the blog, editors do what they do out of passion and “what they do” is run the blog. There were times, lost now to the fog of time and memory, where the blog was mostly one person: Jimmy, for the first few years, and then myself, Eden, for the interim in 2014 before we stood up the (more or less) same structure we’re using today. That is, for us, essentially, an editor: someone who helps make sure the blog keeps going.
There have been many changes to the editorial body the last few years; not every editor contributes to this column and we want to keep the roster fast and loose. What’s more, people’s lives change and the amount of time they have to dedicate to the blog fluctuates alongside that. We don’t often add editors but they sometimes leave and so, from time to time, we find ourselves needing to add to the roster of editors. Which is what this whole intro has been about! Thanks Eden. Maybe I could use an editor? Absurd! Anyway, I am pleased to announce that Calder Dougherty is now a Heavy Blog editor! Calder joined the blog just over a year ago and has done great work with running Rotten to the Core, which he will continue to do. He’ll also be on this column, running a few other things, and generally assisting us with keeping this place afloat and staying sane while doing so.
So! Welcome Calder everyone. And please enjoy another fine selection of albums our editorial body enjoyed this month because, beyond any other definitions, editors are also people who really, really like music. After all, they’re willing to dedicate hours of their time to it.
Craven Idol – Forked Tongues (blackened thrash)
When blackened thrash hits, it’s some of the most exhilarating music on the planet. There’s something about the mix of blazing speed, black metal tremolo, and that almost hardcore vocal bark that gets me all levels of hype. I’m not exactly sure why, but for some reason it seems to me that blackened thrash is a subgenre that’s unfortunately a bit more scarce in quantity than many of its other blackened siblings. Wish there were more of it. But that’s just a general digression prompted by the magnitudes of awesomeness exuding from Craven Idol’s monumental third record Forked Tongues. If you like your thrash blackened with just the right amount of death sprinkled on top, this is your AOTY and it’s not close.
While not everyone agrees, I thoroughly enjoyed Craven Idol’s last record The Shackles of Mammon. While not as immediate as their debut, Shackles showcased the band’s most ambitious and technically dazzling songwriting to date. But even with my love for Shackles in tow it would be an absolute lie to state that Forked Tongues is the band’s best outing by a wide stretch. The performances are insanely tight, the songwriting is wild and purposeful, and the production is just right, fitting the album’s overall sonic vibe like a glove. Opening one-two punch of “Venomous Rites” and “The Wrath of Typhon” should give you just about all you need in regards to the album’s overall aesthetic. The tracks are fast, mean, and exactly as long and intense as they need to be. The band’s improvement on their already formidable songwriting chops is a sight to behold, and the remainder of the album follows suit in terms of excellence.
I really don’t have a single negative thing to say about Forked Tongues, except that I wish there were more of it. But at 40-minutes in length I can’t complain about that too much. It’s an exceptionally paced and written album with the best performances of the band’s career and there’s honestly not much more to say outside of that. Listen to thing immediately. You won’t be disappointed.
Linn da Quebrada – Trava Línguas (art pop, funk carioca)
Oddly enough, Trava Língua (“tongue twister”) was the first of three consecutive new Brazilian releases I stumbled upon earlier this month while browsing Rate Your Music — all unique, and all excellent. João Pessoa-based Papangu blend sludge and zeuhl on Holoceno, while Recife native Amaro Freitas incorporates elements of frevo and fusion with piano jazz on Sankofa. Americans often assume other country’s music sounds like the traditions and stereotypes we’re used to hearing in Western media. I’ve made it a point to explore music outside the United States, United Kingdom, and Europe, and the results have led me to this kind of diverse selection from the rest of the world.
So what does Linn da Quebrada have to offer on Trava Línguas? The São Paulo singer, actor, and screenwriter unleashes a dance pop festa on her sophomore album, embodies the genre and gender-bending tendencies she’s honed since her 2017 debut Pajubá. There’s plenty here that will attract Western listeners, including elements of deconstructed club, UK bass, and glitch-hop/pop. But it’s the Brazilian influences that truly set Trava Línguas apart. The album falls under the broad umbrella of “música popular brasileira,” though I was especially impressed by the subtle notes of latin jazz and funk carioca (danceable hip-hop from the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, rooted in Miami electro and bass music).
The way Quebrada blends these styles is varied yet cohesive, leveraging her native Brazilian influences to enhance rather than overpower her synthesis of modern dance subgenres. “amor amor” is perhaps the most “Brazilian” track on the album, as a rumbling bass line runs under traditional drumming and melodies. Quebrada’s singing is relaxed with understated sex appeal, never overpowering the music and matching the shifting themes across the album. “I míssil” sees bright trumpet punctuating watery, posh synth textures, as Quebrada croons, “I míssil, em sua direção” (I’m a missile, heading in your direction). “onde” brings out some drum & bass and jungle influences for a club banger, while “pense& dance” pulls. out. all the stops for arguably the best rack on the album. The beat screams “dance comigo,” as vibrant pops of synth and trumpet weave together before the music takes a sharp, noisy turn at. the climax.
Amid all the excitement, Quebrada lets her softer side bring additional variety to the mix. She flexes her vocal muscles over a soft trumpet and guitar duet on “medrosa – ode à Stella do Patrocínio” and a piano ballad on “tudo.” But after the latter track, she closes out the album with “quem soul eu,” a mildly industrial, string-powered track that sounds like Depeche Mode colliding with Xiu Xiu. It’s a fittingly creative track from a refreshing voice, which I’m excited to follow more closely moving forward.
Ophidian I – Desolate (tech death)
When making music in extravagant genres, you have two choices: one, you can rein things in and bring in “calming” influences from somewhere else or two, you can drive the pedal to metal and go all out and through. With Desolate, Ophidian I definitely chose the latter. When assembling their house of riffs and blast-beats, they did actually elsewhere but it wasn’t for a “calming” effect; quite the opposite. Instead, Ophidian I have spiced up their technical death metal foundations with many-noted solos and bridges which wouldn’t sound out of place on a neo-classical progressive metal album like Symphony X and which, very often, cross into DragonForce territory. The end result is an album that manages to sidestep many of the clichés of the technical death metal genre, firmly solidified over the past decade and change, and create music that is as breathtaking and exciting as it is complex and intricate.
I mean, just press play on “Diamonds”, the opening track of the album, and listen for yourself. The main riff is standard enough, right? The guitar riff is central to the sound, the drums are fast and furious, and the bass supports both while deep, guttural death metal vocals crown everything. But uh, hold on, what’s that incredibly chromatic and bright guitar lead that plays on top of all of that? The first time you hear it you might be able to dismiss it as just a bit of decoration, a lightning fast sweep to embellish the riff, but then it comes back again and again, funnily blowing up into the mini-solo at one minute and nineteen seconds. There is definitely no denying that passage; those bright tones are given pride and place and, alongside liberal use of effects, create the kind of chopped up, blazing fast sound of the aforementioned DragonForce.
Honestly, it fucking rules. The album is filled with that sort of sound and it works so well with the main tech-death influences. The secret is, of course, that no part of the sound is simply a discard, something played just to hold up space. Everything is as polished as everything else and the end result is more than “just” a great technical death metal with some different tones. Instead, Desolate is nothing less than unique, showcasing Ophidian I as a band with their own sound and take on the genre. I dare you to play this just once; I was completely unable to. There’s something so addictive in Ophidian I’s style that I spun this album dozens of times upon receiving it. Those extra fast/bright leads just worm their way into your ear in the best way possible. Let them in!
nightlife – new low (nu-soul, djisco)
The new low EP by Baltimore trio nightlife hasn’t left my daily rotation since it dropped. It’s just too good. Executing a perfect blend of modern post-hardcore, neo-soul, pop, and r&b, nightlife twist compelling melodies and bouncy funk with swagger and ease. While the three track EP leaves you eager for more, its replayability is off the charts; I dance around the house doing my silly little tasks with it on repeat. Often. It’s like a little aural shot of serotonin to help get you through the mundanity of everyday life, just like k-pop or hearing your pet make a funny noise. And I truly mean that as a compliment — I’ve gotten through days on those things alone.
Title track “new low” picks up where Issues left off with their infectious brand of r&b-influenced djent pop, forgoing its jazzier elements for disco in an unforgettable summer banger. Imagine Jamiroquai with 8 strings and lush, velvety Earth, Wind, and Fire vibes and tell me you’re not dancing. A difficult act to follow, “all i know” is a perfect slow burn rock ballad that gives dark pop Chevelle. Though it’s a simple formula to follow, nightlife show a masterful grasp on tension, navigating the push-and-pull of its movements with passion and restraint. And last but not least, bless their hearts, nightlife gifted us with a downtempo, Massive Attack meets Chon rendition of “Lonely No More” by Rob Thomas. Honest to god, I thought they had written some strange, beautiful take on the Gerudo Valley theme from Ocarina of Time until the lyrics short-circuited my brain for a second while I processed the reality of what I was hearing. Again, I don’t mean any of these things negatively in the slightest; I almost squealed when I figured it out. It’s a legitimately wonderful cover, with just enough original twist to give it their own sound while keeping it totally recognizable.
I cannot recommend this release highly enough, especially since it’s such a quick listen at barely 12 minutes. It is expertly crafted, deceptively catchy, and guaranteed to make you groove. We all need a little hip shaking, right? Isn’t there a daily requirement to help offset depression? Well here’s your medicine, sweetie.
Noctambulist – The Barren Form (blackened death metal, dissonant death metal)
Denver post-death powerhouse Noctambulist ramps up the subtle blackened tendencies of dissonant death metal acts Ulcerate and WAKE for broader, bleaker strokes of darkness for their sophomore LP The Barren Form. Shades of Hate Eternal and Behemoth alike litter landscapes informed by the likes of Gorguts and Isis. Dips into psychedelic soundscapes and tribal percussion carve out a set and setting for the album that is often stunning. It’s a trippy blend that really works well in an increasingly crowded field of murky and atmospheric extreme metal.
We’ve featured the band plenty already, with a glowing and more detailed review in addition to a feature wherein the band members themselves break down their most pressing influences, so please accept this brief ﬁreminder to check out one of the more interesting death metal records 2021 has to offer, and perhaps the first best death metal to grace the year’s second half thanks in part to its July 2nd release date.
Billie Eilish – Happier Than Ever (pop)
Okay look, I’m going rogue here and did not consult the other editors with this inclusion so direct your fury at me personally and not the blog as a whole, but I am absolutely obsessed with this album for the weekend I’ve had it before this post going live. I was a latent fan of Billie’s breakout When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, and was not super hyped up on the singles for her highly anticipated follow-up Happier Than Ever. If I’m being honest, the singles are some of the weakest songs on the record, and you could probably stand to shave off a cool ten to fifteen minutes, but the absolute bangers on here — “Oxytocin,” “I Didn’t Change My Number,” “Overheated,” “NDA,” and the blowout arena rock title track — make this one worthwhile for those who aren’t too good to foray into mainstream mass-produced pop.
DARKSIDE – Spiral (art rock, neo-psychedelia)
I struggle to identify this project from musical duo Nicolás Jaar and Dave Harrington with genre tags, so forgive me for the incredibly vague and non-descriptive tags above. Let’s put it this way: Spiral takes cues from Radiohead and Pink Floyd within the context of the music festival electronic producer aesthetic. Maybe I don’t even have the vocabulary to articulate this record, but at the very least, it’s a fantastic record to put on when you just need to vibe.
Year of No Light – Consolamentum (post-metal, atmospheric sludge)
I already wrote a whole ass review about this album but I love using this section of Editors’ Picks to remind you to listen to something. And this “something” is one of the best post-metal albums I’ve heard. Ever. Play it, get sad, get crushed, come back, play it again.
Fugitive Wizard – Obscuri Æternum (lo-fi black metal, dungeon synth)
I cover this album over at Kvlt Kolmvn as well but it’s too good not to bring up again. This is one of the more unique albums you’ll hear in 2021; lo-fi black metal, wonderous synths, and ambient atmosphere all brought together into one heady, non-conventional album.
Sallow Moth – Stasis Cocoon (progressive death metal)
If you want a more in-depth gushing of words regarding this album, check out our Death’s Door column for this month. If you only want to read the SparkNotes (can’t say I blame you), Sallow Moth have released a thoroughly captivating death metal record that infuses progressive, psych, and tech elements into something worthwhile and special. Good shit.
King Woman – Celestial Blues (stoner-doom, blues metal)
Lantlôs – Wildhund (alt-metal, post-metal)
Underdark – Our Bodies Burned Bright On Re-Entry (post-black metal)
Black Flak and the Nightmare Fighters – Ad Meliora (post-rock, prog rock)
FULCI – Exhumed Information (brutal death metal)
Cognitive – Malevolent Thoughts of a Hastened Extinction (progressive deathcore, brutal tech death)
The Grasshopper Lies Heavy – A Cult That Worships a God of Death (noise rock, post-hardcore)
Mesa – Collapse (avant-garde metal, post-metal)
Wizardthrone – Hypercube Necrodimensions (progressive metal, symphonic black metal)
Morningstar Delirium – Morningstar Delirium (dark ambient, progressive electronic)
Mountain Caller – Chronicle: Prologue (progressive stoner, post-rock)
Mütherload – Ü (death thrash, groove metal)
No Living Witness – Cosmic Simulacra (progressive death metal, atmospheric black metal)
Butcher In the Fog – Exonerate Me Baby (black thrash, stoner metal)
Scythelord – Earth Boiling Dystopia (death thrash)
Voland – Voland III: Царепоклонство – Il culto degli Zar (avant-garde black metal, symphonic black metal)