Let’s talk about discourse, variety, and the rich tapestry that is Heavy Blog’s staff! As you’ve undoubtedly noticed over the last several years, we’ve expanded our coverage to include a wide array of genres. Personally, I think the blog is better for it. Do you have friends who almost exclusively listen to one genre of music? Did they happen to be one of the most monochrome members of your social circle? I remember one friend in high school who was a ride or die metalhead; you know, the guy who would have carved Slayer into his arm if hie parents wouldn’t have kicked him out? I remember back in 2012 when I first joined Heavy Blog, and I wasn’t sure if I was “allowed” to include good kid, m.A.A.d city among my top releases for the year. I came into my own as a music listener/critic by diving into the metal scene, and I clung to the insular ideology many metal fans identify with. As someone who included Fleet Foxes, Pyrrhon, and Run the Jewels in my top 5 last year, I can safely say I’ve moved on from that mindset.
Our monthly Ed Picks column is another reminder that we don’t move as a monolith. Sure, we have some “on brand” picks like we do every month: Ænigmatum is a must-listen for death metal fans, blog favorite shit stirrers Fawn Limbs are back, and of course BTBAM is tagging along for the ride. But naturally, things get weird the further down you scroll. Even just a few years ago, I don’t think you would have seen a radio pop artists like Halsey, a left field selection with Lingua Ignota, and then whatever the hell Lantlôs are doing these days. And you know what? All of that is great. There’s too much music out there for metalheads to limit themselves to one genre, however eclectic it might be. In essence, we don’t need to choose between recommending good music and heavy music.
Yet, on a related note, we also don’t move in unison within the world of heavy music. While you won’t be surprised to see BTBAM and Deafheaven included below, some of you might be taken aback by the fact they aren’t unanimous inclusions. And while I’m among the dissenters when it comes to those albums’ acclaim, the fact we’re celebrating them is totally cool! Really! How can i complain about including albums from our scene and then turnaround to feature a weird art rock band like Horsey? I’m glad we aren’t exclusively featuring “safe” releases topping metal charts and subreddits, in the same way I’m glad this column isn’t jus ta collection of obscure albums we’re trying to show down your throats. Because at the end of the day, our job is to create discourse — positive or negative — around album we believe are worth discussing. Whether you agree with our selections or want to (respectfully) share your dissent in the comments, I promise that we’re all ears.
Ænigmatum – Deconsecrate (death metal)
We’ve talked a lot about “production” over here on the blog over the years it’s been running. Of course, this topic is talked about outside of the blog as well; it’s one of those things that everyone has an opinion on. There are a lot of reasons for that, first and foremost the fact that we’re all very sensitive to sound and, to be specific, very sensitive to bad sound. For real, research shows that bad sound is one of the most immediately and gutturally off putting things out there. But I think another reason that production is so talked about is that it runs the interesting line between something that is “””objective””” (that is, governed by a set of more or less well understood rules and scientific principles) and something that is “subjective” (that is, something formed by personal taste and opinion). That space is really tantalizing because there’s grounds for discussion from both directions: it’s not so personal that all that can be discussed are descriptions of our individual experiences and not so objective that every answer is clear cut and has only one, clear, correct solution.
Here’s an example: I could break down why I like the production on Ænigmatum’s Deconsecrate so much in clearer, “objective” terms; I can talk about how I love how much the bass is audible without impacting the clarity of the guttural vocals at all. I can talk about how much I love the crispness of the drum tones and how the cymbals work super well with the higher pitch guitar tones on both the solos and the leads. But I can also go with a more “subjective” description: Deconsecrate just sounds incredibly cohesive and well put together. Unlike a lot of albums in this genre of very complex and intricate progressive death metal, it sounds like all of the instruments are playing together instead of at each other. It sounds, and moves, like a hulking, momentous whole, making it all that much heavier.
And the beauty of it is, both those levels of description are entirely “correct”. That is, they are sufficient for you to understand what I mean and they adequately highlight how good this album is. In a sense, the very fact that the album makes me want to have this discussion is already testament to that. You don’t have these sorts of discussions about mediocre, or even “just” good, albums; the album needs to be truly excellent for that. And Deconsecrate is just that: truly excellent. It’s one of the best sounding death metal albums I’ve heard in a while for all of the reasons that I’ve cited above and more (the drum tone is really fucking good, oh my god). It’s aggressive, it’s cohesive, and it wastes exactly zero of your time in getting to the point which is something hyper-intricate and engaging death metal. Get to it!
Between the Buried and Me – Colors II (prog metal)
They did it! The absolute madmen! Colors II is not only a worthy follow-up to one of the greatest albums of all time that recaptures the essence and energy of Between the Buried and Me’s golden years, but a genuine album of the year contender that has the potential to reinvigorate the band’s entire career. …for me at least.
I’ve seen a fair few criticisms of this record, with the common denominator being that it comes off more like a disjointed stream of consciousness than purposefully crafted songs or a well-constructed record. I can totally see how someone might arrive at that conclusion from their first, or even first few listens. I, however, have had a completely opposite experience. When BTBAM first announced Colors II I wasn’t even apprehensive, just disinterested. Sequel albums are rarely, if ever, good and its’s been a while since the once prodigious North Carolinian quintet have produced anything that even approaches the quality of the original Colors. Such was my indifference to Colors II that I didn’t even bother checking it out until a few days after it had been out. I’ve listened to it at least once a day since.
Having prepared myself for a bloated, over-long record like their last 3–4 albums have been, I was truly shocked when Colors II seemed to zip by on first listen. The album not only held my attention for the entirety of its 80-minute runtime, it utterly demanded it. The record is packed with moments that aren’t simply “zany” (as much of 2018’s Automata was) but instantly memorable, anchoring me in place as its twelve tracks flowed by, seamlessly and without any detectable dips in momentum. While I don’t think it quite matches up to the quality of the original Colors, I do think Colors II pulls off the “one continuous song” thing much more convincingly. I could see maybe taking out “The Future is Behind Us” and “Turbulent”, simply for the sake of truncating the experience, but each and every other moment on the record is completely indispensable.
Whether it’s the Geezer Butler-esque bass solos on “Fix the Error” and “Stare into the Abyss”, or the … Every track on Colors II has at least one big, memorable moment, often more. There are however two clear highlights as far as I’m concerned. The first is the album’s near-twelve-minute centrepiece “Never Seen / Future Shock” which interrupts the record’s frantic proceedings with a futuristic, upbeat ‘80s sheen. It’s bombastic digital drums sound huge and fantastic and the climactic ending solo reminds me of that time Bill and Ted won the battle of the bands, making it an instant entry into my top five BTBAM songs of all time. The other highlight– and I realise I’m going against Jimmy’s better judgment on this one – is fifteen-minute closer, and “White Walls” analogue, “Human Is Hell (Another One With Love).” Yet, while Jimmy found the track “unceremoniously and frustratingly anti-climactic”, for me it was the moment when Colors II cemented its classic status and became a true contender for prog metal supremacy. There’s maybe a few too many tempo-changes across its lengthy runtime, but each shift in direction is also utterly elating and a forceful reminder that BTBAM are genuinely unrivalled when it comes to this sort of thing.
It’s possible I get more out of “Human is Hell”, having spent the majority of my short-lived career as an amateur musician learning to play “White Walls” on bass, so that I get more out of it from simply recognising the different shifts in and subversions of the original Colors template. If that’s the case, then I can’t imagine how someone who actually knows how music works, and whose intimate knowledge of BTBAM song-structures extends beyond a single song might get out of it. Being familiar with and a fan of Colors certainly helps going into Colors II, but I don’t think it makes or breaks the experience, only accentuates it. Between the Buried and Me defied the odds by making a great sequel record but, in true BTBAM fashion, they went that extra step more and wound up just making a great album as well.
Devoid of Thought – Outer World Graves (progressive death metal)
Outer World Graves puts the “Incantation” back into “Blood Incantation.” Okay, thanks. Needed to get that one out of the way. Keep going for actual thoughts:
The growing cosmic death metal microgenre, spearheaded in our moment by Blood Incantation’s ascendancy and responsible for phenomenal recent releases from acts such as Cryptic Shift, Question, and Siderean, typically leans on death metal’s sharper edge. Its characterization could be described in brief as “Schuldinerean-Azagthothian-Masvidalian;” tech thrash-indebted odd-time riffs, root-fifth melodies, and mood-setting instrumental breaks guide the genre’s generally uptempo and technical feel. Every band brings something a bit different to the proceedings, of course, but the cosmic death metal guidebook seems to be based on the earliest crop of technically and musically challenging albums that spawned from the revered Florida death metal scene of the late ’80s and early ’90s.
Devoid of Thought, while no less a group of stargazers than any mentioned above, take a step back from the technicality that has come into its own as a trademark of cosmic death. That’s not to say they’re not talented musicians – I would say they top out at least around the same level as Starspawn, which certainly has its impressive moments – so much as that they’ve found a path through the stars that doesn’t rely on the same level of fireworks. In fact, more than any bowing to other cosmic death albums, Outer World Graves seems to owe its largest debts to Diabolical Conquest and Graves of the Archangels. These are two of the best death metal albums of all time, but a far cry from the perihiliac overtures that Devoid of Thought’s scene peers draw from (other than perhaps Perihelion Gnosis, ironically).
It’s a breath of fresh air hearing these slower, grimmer influences worm their way into something so unabashedly in the topical framework of sci-fi death metal, for two reasons. First, it lends a great deal of credence to the terror of Unknowable Outer Space; the palpable atmosphere brings the suffocating thickness of Nothing directly to the audience in a remarkably effective way. Second, when Devoid of Thought do speed up – most notably on “Sidereal Necrosis”, a proggy barn-burner that proves exactly how much of a conscious choice Outer World Graves’ typical slower tempo is – it feels genuinely climactic and exciting in a way other bands in the scene have trouble executing.
Anyone familiar with the E-to-G trajectory of Morbid Angel albums probably won’t be thrown for a loop by the fact that slower tempos can seem like an epiphany in the moment, but Devoid of Thought have proven that bringing the infinite frontier to your ears doesn’t necessitate a single minded devotion to the Floridian lineage. We all see the same moon, it seems, and Outer World Graves constitutes a subtle but exceptionally effective argument that there is no one correct path to outer space. Sit back, relax, and be overwhelmed.
Fawn Limbs – Darwin Falls (experimental mathgrind, audio drama)
I’m really at a bit of a loss regarding how to approach this album, both because it’s intimidating as fuck, but also because it might be one of my favorite pieces of art I’ve encountered in recent years across any medium or genre. To be totally transparent, I even broke one of my own rules in preparation for this and checked out reviews written by others at similar outlets. I was glad to find I wasn’t alone in feeling a bit inept and without the proper language to process or objectively review this album due to its complete uniquity. With that said, I do also feel a particular need to cover this as someone with a background in audio fiction, because this album is far more than just an album — it’s a narrative noir audio drama played out between salvos of grinding, hackles-raising, titanic punishment. Put simply? It’s a blackened mathcore musical.
Hear me out. Darwin Falls is the continuation (dare I say conclusion?) of the story Fawn Limbs introduced on 2018’s experimental EP Thrum, which set the format of spoken word passages performed by drummer Lee Fisher interspersed with the actual musical content of the album. On Thrum, the narration was accented by sounds available to the band at the time, e.g. the pounding of a tom or an open note plucked, if it was accompanied at all. On Darwin Falls, the trio have employed the expertise of seven other musicians from all over the world, incorporating a laundry list of classical and synthetic instruments from the oboe to the mellotron and everything in between. While these added textures turn an already sickeningly brutal assault of sludgy mathcore into something sincerely, viscerally upsetting, their use over the spoken word passages transforms them into something else entirely.
The inclusion of classical elements essentially creates a background score for the narration, adding depth and atmosphere to an already eerie story. The outcome is something more akin to original horror-adjacent audio dramas like Old Gods of Appalachia or The Silt Verses, following the anonymous protagonist’s nightmarish odyssey as he treks out into the wilderness alone on a VanderMeerian collision course with horror, nature, and the abyss of man’s ego. Certain moments feel absolutely cinematic, drawing jagged parallels to films like The Hurt Locker or Blade Runner in how well the score slips its ominous tension between your ribs as the story unfolds. The tale is truly haunting, delivered in an exhausted, almost euphoric deadpan drawl, unceremoniously ripped from the listener’s ears at every turn by the maddening screams of guitarist Eeli Helin as the band plunges into ruthless chaos.
With an overarching narrative performed between songs within songs, it’s really not a far cry to consider this a musical in its basest form. Especially with a counternarrative in the harsh lyrics running perpendicular to the protagonist’s journey in the spoken passages, Darwin Falls could easily have drawn inspiration from the musical The Last Five Years or Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves. Either way, it’s a brilliant, affecting move, keeping the listener engaged and sickened. This album should technically come with content warnings for things like animal death and body horror regarding some of the narration, though anyone willing to really dive into record in the first place should probably steel themselves for an uncomfortable, captivating time.
TL;DR: What if Into The Moat and Ion Dissonance fell down a mountain, picking up world instruments as they plummeted, while someone narrated the bloody details before being annihilated and reborn themselves? Fawn Limbs continue to impress and push the envelope in insane and inspired ways, bolstered by how prolific they are while doing it. The group is only in their fourth year of existence, but Darwin Falls counts their ninth release in that time. It’s truly astonishing stuff, and I am absolutely rabid for more.
Halsey – If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power (art pop, alt-rock)
New Jersey pop star Halsey (arguably most known for her feature in the regrettable Chainsmokers hit “Closer”) might seem like a fish out of water in the midst of a Monthly Best-Of list curated by dudes who run a metal blog, but her fourth studio album If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power (henceforth Love/Power) may prove to be relevant to many of you who would otherwise choose to keep a distance from the widely-commercial pop music industry that Halsey has been associated with in the past and might have missed the memo: Halsey has teamed up Nine Inch Nails core duo Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross to create a cinematic opus with meditations on the power and horrors of femininity, sexuality, and motherhood, and it’s honestly quite incredible.
Opening with the stark piano and vocal of “The Tradition,” the team of Halsey and Reznor/Ross seem to purposefully echo the Nine Inch Nails classic “Hurt” as Halsey weaves lyrics about sexual assault and rape culture against somber and dissonant pianos. Lines such as “and they said that boys were boys, but they were wrong” and “ask for forgiveness, never permission” are dark and biting, setting a tone for the album to come. “Bells In Santa Fe” feels very much in keeping with the Nine Inch Nails milieu, particularly in the duo’s film score work that builds from slow and meditative synth work into a massive and abrupt conclusion.
It’s here on the industrial and punky third track “Easier than Lying” that Halsey proves committed to bucking contemporary pop tradition as we hear the first hits of percussion after nearly eight minutes of play into Love/Power, and when we do, it’s propulsive and loud, accompanied by fuzzy basslines and soaring, shimmering guitar chords. Halsey proves her diversity in songwriting throughout the album and offers shifting micro-genres as Love/Power evolves. “Lilith” recontextualizes the vibe of 90’s RnB with a dark and ambient sheen. “Girl is a Gun” is a frenetic exercise in industrial pop and EDM that feels kin to another NIN classic, “The Perfect Drug.”
Some quick hits that scatter the record: “You asked for this” is a dreamy shoegaze rocker; “Darling” is a folksy lullaby featuring the unmistakable guitar arpeggios of Fleetwood Mac’s Lindsey Buckingham; “honey” is a beautifully haunting pop-punk track that trades distorted guitars for ethereal synth pads and features drums from Dave Grohl; “The Lighthouse” features a stomping fuzzy doom riff and a low-key backing vocal from Reznor once the song collapses in its second half. Longtime fans of Nine Inch Nails will absolutely adore “I am not a woman, I’m a god” as well, with a melodic industrial sensibility that could have easily appeared on material from The Slip or one of the How To Destroy Angels projects.
Love/Power has no overt “features” in the pop sense despite its legendary personnel, nor were there any pre-release singles. In fact, there are no clear-cut safe singles on this record. It’s an album that takes risks and experiments with genre, and is unafraid of being relatively weird compared to the broader popular music scene. So here is your notice: give Halsey a chance, because this record deserves success and acclaim as their best work to date. Hopefully the artistic relationship between Halsey and Nine Inch Nails continues beyond this album in the future, especially as Halsey finds comfort and confidence in their artistry beyond what associations with the pop mainstream seem to otherwise dictate.
Horsey – Debonair (art rock, experimental rock)
Did Debonair “T E C H N I C A L L Y” come out on July 30? Yes. Am I empowered with sweeping editorial judgment given my role on the blog? Also yes. Are Horsey one of the best new rock bands I’ve heard this year? Oh yeah.
The UK experimental rock scene has been enjoying quite a moment in 2021, thanks to excellent new releases from bands like Black Country, New Road; Black Midi; and Squid. Horsey operate in a unique position within this movement, in that they embody the ethos yet stand out as a unique, refreshing voice. It’s not just their unique infusion of rock subgenres into this strain of UK rock; the usual mix of post-punk and art rock clashes with a brand of jazz-rock that rests somewhere between lounge and piano pop. And sure, the fact bassist Jack Marshall’s brother is Archy Marshall (aka King Krule) provides some nice trivia, as well as a noteworthy cameo on closing track “Seahorse.”
But above all, what sets Horsey apart is just how fucking FUN they are. Debonair sounds like all the aforementioned bands teamed up to try their hand at making a proper pop rock album. Granted, it sounds like pop that Mr. Bungle fans could get behind, but that’s what makes it so great. You get all the adventurous songwriting you’d expect from the UK rock scene delivered with a smorgasbord of hooks and zaniness. If Cavalcade felt like a bad acid trip, then Debonair is a blissful joyride through ecstasy-fueled daydreams.
This manifests in so many amazing ways that I’m not sure which tracks to highlight in this limited space. “Sippy Cup” opens like a indie summertime musical with hipsters dancing through the streets of London, before “Arms and Legs” crashes in like the most maniacal version of Talking Heads from an alternate timeline. Later on, “1070” offers up one of the most unhinged, enthralling piano ballads you’ll hear this year. The track is such a whirlwind that you forget you’re listening to just piano and vocals with some light percussion in the background. “Clown” quickly disrupts the proceedings with a Mr. Bungles-meets-Captain Beefheart carnival nightmare, which is just as bizarre as that comparison suggests.
But above all, if you inexplicably listen to just one song from this album, make it “Lagoon.” If there was any room for experimentation of mainstream rock radio, this would easily be the anthem of the summer. The track revolves around a BANGER of a piano rock hook, complete with sweet and sour lyrics like: “Makes no sense to sleep/With you here next to me/It’s far too hard to keep my body close to yours/If I could turn these sweaty palms to ragged claws.” We’re only treated to the final, triumphant chorus after a bridge that features ‘80s ballad reverb before a Flash Gordon breakdown, because why the hell not?
And overall, that’s what I love most about Debonair: the seemingly endless supply of “fuck it” moments that Horsey pull off flawlessly. As much as I love Cavalcade and For the First Time, neither gave me as much of a good time as Debonair. I’ll absolutely be spinning this for years to come and eagerly awaiting what they do next.
Lantlôs – Wildhund (heavy shoegaze, post-rock, alt metal)
As one of the leading figures in the “blackgaze” movement of the late 2000s into early 2010s – along with their more commercially successful American counterparts in Deafheaven – it seems only fitting that Germany’s Lantlôs would put out an album in the same month as Deafheaven and that both albums would demonstrate different routes in dropping the “black” while maintaining the “gaze” part of their sound. Following the musical trajectory of both bands since their early successes though is a study in contrasts. As Deafheaven have bounced around from album to album leaning heavily on a consistently shifting set of influences following their debut Roads to Judah and the iconic Sunbather – from thrash on New Bermuda to new wave on Ordinary Corrupt Human Love to finally settling in on a mixture of shoegaze and post-punk on Infinite Granite – Lantlôs’s evolution has been a bit more linear.
Similar to Deafheaven, their first two albums played a significant part in shaping and popularizing the post-black metal or blackgaze sound (the addition of Alcest’s Neige on .neon only heightened the band’s prominence and success). 2011’s Agape tinkered around the edges as the music became more freeform, incorporating some jazz-like textures in the softer sections. 2014’s Melting Sun maintained Agape’s longer, meditative song structures while washing the overall canvas in far brighter textures. With Neige out of the picture, founding member Markus Siegenhort took the reins on vocals, which were now all clean. Fittingly, the music itself is far more hopeful, more indebted to post-rock bands like Jesu with its drawn-out vocals serving as a grounding device for the sweeping landscape of guitars. And now, seven years later, on Wildhund that linear evolution takes its next logical step as a full-fledged shoegaze/post-rock album. And it might just be one of the best rock albums of the year.
Given that none of Siegenhort’s catalog prior to Wildhund featured anything that would be considered “conventional” songwriting, it’s frankly incredible the extent to which this album rides on – and succeeds due to – Siegenhort’s capabilities as a “pop” songwriter. The 12 tracks that make up Wildhund are all exceedingly tight and taut. Tracks like “Magnolia,” “Cocoon Tree House,” “Dream Machine,” and surprising finisher “Lich” are brimming with energy and hooks for days. “Cocoon Tree House” in particular is nothing if not essentially a classic Explosions in the Sky track compressed into a few minutes of sheer bliss. Siegenhort truly comes into his own as a vocalist throughout the album, finding comfort in an expanded range, incorporating harmonies, and adopting a tone similar to Torche’s Steve Brooks.
Torche in general is an almost perfect comparison to much of the music on Wildhund, with its thick, sludgy lower end offset by brilliant riffs and textures above. Songs like “Home,” “Vertigo,” and “Amber” all exist in this entrancing space of perpetual forward momentum while savoring each honey-dripped moment. It’s a constant study in contrasts that simply coincide in the best way possible. Where else this year will you hear the mixture of grungy pummeling offset by jazzy chord progressions like on “Bubble?” The outro of that song is something I can only describe as akin to watching the sun set on a cool Pacific night. I find on every listen there’s something new that grabs my ear and refuses to let go.
For an album that is a somewhat formidable 51 minutes in length, there is nary a moment wasted. Even the brief instrumental interlude “Cloud Inhaler” leading into the celestial “Planetarium” feels like a much welcome breather from the almost relentless run of burners preceding it. To bring this thing full-circle, while Deafheaven’s Infinite Granite has received plenty of plaudits for its ease in taking the band’s core sound and settling it into an established shoegaze framework, Wildhund is a shoegaze record that sounds like no other shoegaze record I’ve heard. It stands on its own as a tremendous accomplishment, and it should more than please fans both new and old.
Lingua Ignota – Sinner Get Ready (avant-folk, post-industrial)
“And the fires of hell burn on and on…”
Kristin Hayter certainly isn’t a middle-ground sort of artist. From performing in blacked out rooms with a hanging light and microphone as her only accompaniment to writing religiously imagery-soaked songs about the visceral misery of survival, there aren’t many aspects to her aesthetic that fall down the middle of the road. Her last album, Caligula, felt like a spiritual second half to her debut, and in no way was this a bad thing. Hayter’s neo-classical vocals laced over industrial piano ballads still felt uniquely her, though perhaps not as jarring on first listen due to familiarity. But in her third record, Sinner Get Ready, the project feels like it’s reached an early culmination that’s simply stunning. This is Lingua Ignota blossoming fully into her own, creating an absorbing and mesmerizing sonic and lyrical world that is gorgeous and mortifying in equal measure.
Let’s start with the music itself, which presents the most complex and bombastic component of the record. This is far and away Hayter’s best work as a songwriter, pulling together minor key, dissonant industrial misery with sacred instrumentation in a manner that’s simultaneously elegiac and fierce. The whole thing feels like an embittered funeral, with congregants using the wake to spew concentrated rage and grief at the empty vessel of the deceased. “I Who Bend the Tall Grass” fills out this sonic template most starkly, replete with organ, tinkling bells and shimmering production that is as gorgeous as it is menacing. There are too many stand out moments to count on a musical level, but “Many Hands” sticks out as another distinct sonic tour de force, blending repetition and dissonance with stark vocal beauty in a manner akin to Fever Ray/The Knife, balancing beauty and destruction with equal ferocity. The album’s final moments, however, display some of the most adventurous and resplendent compositions to date. The second half of “Man Is Like a Spring Flower” in particular is simply gorgeous, with banjo and folk instrumentation intermingling with Hayter’s voice in a stunning, emotional apex that’s breathtaking. It’s her most stunning musical work to date.
The lyrical content, as is customary with this project, is intensely personal and steeped in religious imagery. The latter component comes across more robustly than it has in any of her previous work, bathing listeners in a spiritual world of Christianity adrift, spewing vitriol and reverence in equal measure. “Pennsylvania Furnace” is a sincere, grief-stricken opus that is among the most affecting pieces she has yet written, balancing vague storytelling with an oddly stark, clear lyrical style that is absolutely absorbing and sacremental, lifting the listener into an abstract frame of mind that feels both remote and deeply familiar. Which, in many ways, is the principal power of Hayter’s songwriting ability. Mixing soundscapes and lyrical themes that invite the listener in without sacrificing a labyrinthine execution that requires mental and spiritual involvement from the listener. There are few artists operating on this level of mastery, and Lingua Ignota has certainly elevated itself to that category of craftsmanship.
There’s a lot more I could write about this album. But like any complex religious text, the rest is best discovered and explored free of preconceived opinion. Sinner Get Ready is a masterpiece of mood and madness, of piety and unmitigated wrath, of reverence and disgust. It’s a high wire balancing act that’s among the most unique, captivating, and moving records released in 2021 thus far. I will be listening to it for many months to come.
Bendigo Fletcher – Fits of Laughter (alt-country, folk rock)
Sometimes, you don’t want an insane reinvention of the wheel; you just want great tunes that remind you why you fell in love with a genre in the first place. Bendigo Fletcher provide folk fans with a “greatest hits” of all the genre’s contemporary highlights — and they do it in a way I’ll be singing along to for the rest of the year and beyond.
The Bug – Fire (illbient, grime)
If you’ll excuse the pun, Kevin Martin’s first solo album as The Bug in seven years is incendiary as hell. Fire is a pissed off amalgamation of industrial subgenres and some of the filthiest grime I’ve ever heard. Seriously, any album that gets Moor Mother spitting like THIS over THAT kind of production is a must-listen in my book.
Deafheaven – Infinite Granite (shoegaze, dream pop)
We’ve come a long way since their 2013 breakout success Sunbather, and since then, Deafheaven have shed almost all of their black metal influence in favor of nostalgic shoegaze, alt rock, and post-punk. They’re perhaps better off for it, with Infinite Granite being the band’s most inspired music (and unreasonably catchy!) since that aforementioned opus, even though it sounds more like Smashing Pumpkins than anything even remotely frostbitten.
Homeboy Sandman – Anjelitu (abstract hip-hop, conscious hip-hop)
As the album’s opening track will tell you, this album goes hard. Aesop Rock’s production on this one is as minimal and abstract as it gets, leaving the lyricism of Homeboy Sandman to really shine through. And shine through it does, cutting with insight, humour, and unstoppable sense of flow.
Moon Unit – Differences in Language and Lifestyle (alt-metal, prog metal)
Like Eden, I too am popping up once again to simply tell you to go and listen to this album! If you missed the original pitch, what we’ve got here is Croatian alt-prog that mixes prog instrumentation with Real Thing-era Faith No More song writing along with hefty hints of hip hop and nu metal to create something truly unique and invigorating. Oh, and they also sing about Super Nintendo and shit.
Old Nick – Iam Vampire Castle (lo-fi black metal, “symphonic” black metal)
Since the beginning of 2020, Old Nick have become one of the most fascinating forces in underground metal, probably best described as The Return/Under the Sign of the Black Mark-era Bathory by way of cavorting goblins with carnival instruments and undergirded by a hilarious and dry sense of humor in the overall presentation. Iam Vampire Castle sees the group embracing more “serious” songwriting, pushing the juxtaposition to even goofier heights. Beware the vampire!
Sermon of Flames – I Have Seen the Light, And It Was Repulsive (death metal)
Death metal that makes you go “holy shit what the fuck oh my god what wait hold on seriously holy fuck what the fuck is this????”. Noise, riffs, aggression, pain, metal. All the time, constantly, more of it than you think. Caustic. Abrasive. Just listen to this OK? DO IT, I DARE YOU.
Sturgill Simpson – The Ballad of Dood and Juanita (Americana, bluegrass)
East Kentucky native Sturgill Simpson’s new record takes a dive into the more traditional and classic sounds of country and American folk for a concept album about his grandparents, pulling threads off the back of his bluegrass experiment Cuttin’ Grass. I for one was hoping for more psychedelic and arena rock influence following the trajectory of Sailor’s Guide and Sound & Fury respectively, but this foray into outlaw country is just as welcome. If you grew up admiring the O Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack and otherwise have no connection or point of reference to this style of music, give Ol’ Dood a spin.
Terminus – The Silent Bell Toll (melodic doom, stoner metal)
Here I am, once again telling you to listen to this album. Listen to it! It’s amazingly emotional, well made, in your face, melodic doom metal! It rules! That’s it!
Wolves In The Throne Room – Primordial Arcana (atmoblack)
Thrice Woven is a solid record, but not one I would consider a high watermark of the Wolves in the Throne Room discography. My hopes for Primordial Arcana were tempered going in given my lack of interest in listening to its predecessor after a few weeks, and I must say it feels good to have lowered expectations blown out of the water. Primordial Arcana is possibly the band’s best overall album since Two Hunters, with enough atmoblack texture and intensity to cover multiple records from lesser bands. It’s a cohesive, gorgeous, menacing affair that proves WITTR haven’t lost their edge just yet.
Act of Denial – Negative (modern melodeath)
Burial in the Sky – The Consumed Self (progressive tech death)
Burn In Hell – Disavowal of the Creator God (hardcore, powerviolence)
Chvrches – Screen Violence (electro pop, indie pop)
Fluisteraars – Gegrepen Door De Geest Der Zielsontluiking (atmospheric black metal)
Gost – Rites of Love and Reverence (synthwave, goth rock)
Guhts – Blood Feather (atmospheric sludge, post-metal)
Leprous – Aphelion (prog metal)
Oceanhoarse – Dead Reckoning (alt-prog, melodic groove metal)
Our Place of Worship is Silence – Disavowed, and Left Hopeless (prog blackened death)
Oxygen Destroyer – Sinister Monstrosities Spawned By the Unfathomable Ignorance of Humankind (death metal, blackened thrash)
Raccoon City – For Nobody, Nowhere (post-hardcore, post-rock)
Ranges – Cardinal Winds (post-rock)
Sugar Horse – The Live Long After (doomgaze, sludge)
Súl ad Astral – Heritage (post-black metal, prog metal)
Suncraft – Flat Earth Rider (heavy psych, hard rock)
The Tacoma Narrows Bridge Disaster – The World Inside (progressive post-rock, post-metal)
Utopia – Stalker (math metal, tech metal)
Andrea Von Kampen – That Spell (indie folk, singer/songwriter)
Woman Is the Earth – Dust of Forever (atmospheric black metal, post-black metal)