Ah, April! Insert some platitude about the Spring right here! Seriously though, it’s really funny to me how every April the sheer amount of great music which suddenly releases catches me by surprise. Did I write the same thing or something to that effect last year? I refuse to check. Whether I did or didn’t, the facts remain the same: whenever Spring rolls around, the true deluge of music of the year commences and 2022 is no different. Another funny thing is how much this fits the season and its archetypes; fecundity, prosperity, and growth are all staples of Spring and it just so happens by pure coincidence that the music industry fits into these brackets perfectly? Fat chance.
Maybe, instead, we should try to pay attention to some of music’s lessons and remember that we are not as distant and disconnected from our bodies as we’d like to imagine ourselves to be. And that maybe, just maybe, these bodies whose templates have been walking around on the Earth for millions of years in tune to the seasons are geared towards these cycles? And that, yes, when Spring starts to roll around we feel the lifting chill of winter and start to awaken, start to be prolific, and to rise alongside the earth itself?
Whatever, man. You might agree and you might now. But, regardless, here’s another crop (get it) of fantastic music which might, or might not, sing out to the reborn world of remembered death, coming joy, rebelling, sadness, youth, power, defeat, and so much more. Enjoy.
Aeviterne – The Failing Facade (avant-garde/blackened death metal)
It seems like once per year, especially in the first quarter, there’s a death metal record that comes along that coils the entire year around its orbit. Last year, Ad Nauseam blindsided the extreme metal community with one of the best avant-garde death metal releases in recent memory, and in 2022 it seems New York’s Aeviterne have lifted that torch. Comprised mainly of members of insanely underrated death metal cyclone Flourishing, Miasmic Necrosis, and Artificial Brain, the band’s debut record The Ailing Facade acquits itself as an unstoppable force. It’s a kaleidoscopic fever dream of sonic textures that sounds like nothing else released in 2022, and it’s nothing short of a debut death metal masterpiece.
On a sonic and technical level, The Ailing facade is just about everything one would expect from a marriage of these kinds of musical minds. The guitar work is jagged and sinuous, the percussion is simultaneously relentlessly brutal and jazzy, and the vocals feel peeled from the flesh of some rotten beast, barked and spewed with a similar fervor to Aaron Turner’s work in SUMAC. But what makes Aeviterne stand apart from its many influences is its songwriting, which weaves and flows with an energy that feels very unique in the context of these musicians’ previous material. Rather than a conglomeration of established sounds, The Ailing Facade traverses bold territory that blends style and execution into something deeply refreshing that feels distinct and invigorating. If you’re a fan of any of these artists’ other projects there will be plenty here to delight you, but don’t expect a carbon copy of Infrared Horizon or The Sum of All Fossils.
As mentioned above, songwriting is the secret sauce that sets The Failing Facade apart from its contemporaries. These tracks are manic, aggressive, varied, and deeply controlled in a way that only seasoned veterans of some fairly extreme styles could pull off. Like the way “Denature” moves with the blistering speed of a Dormant Ordeal track while incorporating percussive acrobatics that should make Ulcerate fans quake, only to switch into a woozy atmoblackened slab of Schammasch-esque weirdness in “Still the Hollows’ Sway”. It should feel like whiplash, but shockingly such transitions work beautifully throughout the record. It’s the product of obviously talented songwriters operating on an entirely different level.
The same can be said for the instrumental performances, which are uniformly superb. Ian Jacyszyn in particular is exceptional, offering up one of the best and most compelling performances behind the kit I’ve heard all year. The guitar tone on The Failing Facade is also spectacular, proving once again (in similar terms to Suffering Hour’s last amazing record) that tone goes a long way in creating the right type of atmosphere. All of these elements are pulled together and arranged to sonic perfection by the incomparable Colin Marston, who reins in the chaos by creating the type of clarity that his production work is known for. Jacyszyn’s mix is also sensational, letting each instrument breathe without sacrificing the manic aggression contained in most of these tracks. It’s a superbly constructed and executed record on all fronts, and I couldn’t be more hyped on it.
“Supergroup” is such a loaded term, with many different meanings and connotations. Thankfully, Aeviterne shirk all of them by creating a work that feels far from a throwaway collaboration between bored musicians, but is instead a singular work that stands on its own as a superb example of what creative minds are capable of achieving when unified. The Ailing Facade may well be the best death metal record I’ve heard this year, and I can’t foresee a single reason why it won’t end up on my year-end list. An absolute gem.
Hath – All That Was Promised (progressive / blackened death metal)
New Jersey’s Blackened Death Metal quartet Hath have built a slowly growing hype over the years, even leading up to their 2019 Willowtip debut Of Rot and Ruin. The record was rightfully celebrated by us and others, but the act didn’t get much of an opportunity to tour in support of the record within its release window due to the pandemic, which could have been a blow for such a promising young act on the precipice of greatness. It’s easy to forget that this was in fact three years ago (time is an illusion), but the downtime didn’t put the band’s progress on hold. Their sophomore LP All That Was Promised raises the bar on the band’s particularly progressive take on blackened death metal and is one of the most stand out releases in extreme metal for the year’s first quarter.
Across All That Was Promised, Hath dip into a series of influences ranging from Ulcerate’s high-minded dissodeath to Behemoth’s muscular command of aural violence and beyond in order to craft a record that’s equally introspective and aggressive — see opening track “The Million Violations” with its pairing of hypnotic and swirling ambiance with swathes of blasts and discordant guitars. Likewise, tracks such as “Lithopaedic” reach into the heaviest moments of Colors-era Between the Buried and Me for inspiration (sans musical ADHD, and foot firmly on the gas) and “Iosis” feels unmistakably Opeth-ian. Finale “Name Them Yet Build No Monument” feels ironically monumental as it stomps through riffs one might hear from early-era Gojira before crashing out into a haunting cinematic instrumental.
All That Was Promised may not be as intense and technical as Of Rot and Ruin, but it does engage with broader atmospheric work and melodicism that could find it to be more approachable to wider audiences who might be just finding Hath for the first time. It’s a vicious, dynamic, and intelligent record that checks all the boxes for immensely satisfying extreme metal, and paints Hath as masters-of-all while still sounding sonically cohesive and distinctive.
Of Rot and Ruin was strong, but a sophomore slump, this is not.
Humanotone – A Flourishing Fall in a Grain of Sand (prog doom, stoner prog)
Yes, I wrote this album up for this Missive’s iteration of Doomsday as well. It’s really that good; potentially, it’s my Album of the Year. Over on that heavier, fuzzier column I understandably focused on the tone and delivery of A Flourishing Fall in a Grain of Sand, choosing to describe its approach to doom and stoner. But here, I would like to dedicate some words to talking about the atmosphere that it manages to create and make a mighty promising comparison, once again, to Elder. You see, storytelling has always been one of Elder’s most endearing qualities. This quality made them, at least for me, an all-time favorite band. Their ability to effortlessly conjure up, both with words and with sounds, an atmosphere, a certain air or mood and, as with their best album, Lore, an entire sensation of travel and of story, is second to none.
Humanotone are possessed of this same rare capability and, interestingly enough, they use many of Elder’s tools to accomplish it. Whether it be via evocative vocals, repeating leitmotifs communicated through recurring passages in the midst of the intricacy that is the guitars or synths, cover art, lyrics, or otherwise, Humanotone manage to summon that same hard-to-define but easy-to-get-addicted to feeling of witnessing a story. This makes A Flourishing Fall an incredibly rewarding album to dive into, as repeat listens make you more acquainted with the “chapters” of the story, more aware of the repetitions and the ways in which certain sounds or chords “relate” to each other.
But it also adds a certain mystery to the album, a quality which you can’t really, and don’t want to, decipher. When you listen to A Flourishing Fall, it’s almost like there’s another instrument playing, one which doesn’t make any obvious sounds but which, nonetheless, adds the air and power of delivery to the release. It’s partly the techniques I mentioned above being used with great expertise, partly the inherent epic nature of the type of progressive stoner metal being used on the release, and partly the unique timbers of A Flourishing Fall (especially their unique use of vocals, both clean and otherwise, and their synth tone).
Whatever it is, it’s this mood that keeps me coming back to this release, more than “just” the usual desire to dive deeper into, and unravel, a great piece of music. I keep listening to other releases, fantastic albums in their own right, and there’s something missing, something that Humanotone have brought forth on this release. I’ll probably keep searching for the right words to describe it for years, until I eventually give up and simply point towards the album and tell people to listen to it, please. Like I’m doing right now.
Iomair – Fishing For An Apparition (progressive folk metal)
It seems to be a trend this year that blind first listens to artists a little out of my wheelhouse are becoming some of my favorite releases. Of course, this could just point to my tastes changing, but there’s still nothing like discovering a new band that rocks major cock in ways you’re not used to or expecting. To wit, Toronto’s Iomair are something else. Even sticking with their own self-imposed genre tag ‘progressive folk metal’ seems base and misleading, as Fishing For An Apparition sounds almost nothing like any folk metal I’ve encountered before.
Album opener “Cathartic Fable” is an intriguing foot in the door, but “The Return of the Phoenix” blows it wide open. Taking cues from a grab bag of disparate genres, banjos, strings, and sax soar around staccato prog riffs in major cinematic fashion to create one hell of a ride. The bluegrass influence bleeds into the Flogging Molly-esque folk punk fight song “Gallows”, an absolute barnstormer of a track and my favorite of the bunch. Ska horns, accordion, tin whistle, and epic melodeath synths make appearances throughout the album as well, painting musical complements to songwriter Dylan Gowan’s penchant to follow funky, poppy vocal runs with blackened growls and symphonic flourishes.
It’s difficult to find specific touchpoints to this album, which seems equal parts Finntroll and Punch Brothers distilled into a proggy, bluesy, and ultimately extremely fun folk metal soirée. And, ultimately, I don’t care what it’s attempting to reference. Fishing For An Apparition exists in a space all its own as far as I’m concerned – a space where some of my favorite sounds converge into single tracks full of mischievous, gleeful, heartening compositions. It’s so much fun, y’all. Get into it.
Messa – Close (progressive doom, stoner)
There are albums that are great because they deliver on the “fundamentals” – big hooks, powerful songwriting, and earworm melodies that make the entire package instantly memorable. There are also albums that are great because they challenge and shape our understanding or relationship with a certain kind of music or sound. Allegedly this is what the entire concept of “progressive” music is supposed to be were it not for so much of it simply retreading the work that their forebears laid. Then there’s the sweet spot where those two strains of “greatness” meet, a kind of platonic ideal for new music that is equal parts satisfying and genre-pushing or defying. Italian purveyors of doom Messa have flirted frequently with both of these aspects over their first two albums, crafting songs that can be crushingly heavy and headbang-worthy as they are woozy and jazzily introspective. On their previous album, Feast for Water, in particular, that kind of exploration led down dark, fog and smoke-filled alleys that could almost sound like hearing music from two very different clubs on either side bleeding together. But with Close, they’ve managed to both refine the blending of their dark jazz-doom fusion while pushing the execution of both aspects even further. The result is nothing short of breathtaking.
Eden already went in deep on what makes several tracks – the run of the kicking “Dark Horse,” achingly pretty “Orphalese,” and epic “Rubedo” – tick and work so well in his review from last month. Instead, I want to zoom in on a different pair of tracks, namely the two that made me understand the extent to which Messa simply isn’t interested in being locked into whatever box or sound typical fans of the genres of doom and heavy stoner come to expect. First is, fittingly, the opening track “Suspended.” Though it opens with the warm tones of the Rhodes keys they frequently go to in their songs, the track pretty quickly transitions into a classically lurching and filthy groove that is only offset by clarion calls of vocalist Sara Bianchin. It’s not too far off from the kind of post-y doom-laden sweetness that Iress brought successfully a couple of years ago. At the 4-minute mark, however, the song suddenly shifts into a completely different frame of mind. The bridge frequently switches between 7th-chord laden dreaminess and aggressive punchiness until it resolves into a straight-up clean jazz guitar solo from Alberto Piccolo. To put it mildly, this shouldn’t work as well as it does. The incongruity is jarring, and I imagine it would be even more so for those not already deeply familiar with that kind of jazz vernacular and tone. But because of the bread crumbs they dropped leading up to that moment – the Rhodes, the muted chords, and Bianchin’s own vocals that are screaming for a smoky lounge stage from which to belt out – it somehow makes sense.
Same goes for the absolutely epic “0=2,” except the contrast is even greater. What starts as a slow-burner dark folk ballad once again turns on a dime midway through. A new march-like punchy theme takes over, slowly inserting in richer chords and sounds until the dam breaks loose with an absolutely wild sax solo straight out of my own musical fever dreams. This is followed by another killer jazz-inflected guitar solo that goes in deep on whole tone runs. Once again, this just isn’t the kind of stuff you hear frequently, if at all, in this kind of music. But good mercy is it exciting. And more to the point, it feels both seamless and effortless. That is fundamentally why it all works so damn well. Close takes the various puzzle pieces of influences brought by each band member and not only makes them fit together, but manages to form an entirely new picture that is far more interesting and enthralling than where they came from. Right now it’s claimed top spot in my yearly list, and it will take a monumental effort to knock it down from there.
Soul Glo – Diaspora Problems (hardcore punk)
Over the last seven or eight years, Philadelphia punk quartet Soul Glo have exhibited something of a Katamari Damacy effect. As they’ve morphed and raised their sound from a strong but somewhat conventional take on the eyes-down screamo of the late ‘90s to a far more energetic and raucous style of “traditional” hardcore, they’ve collected numerous influences and extended their reach wider than one would have ever imaged based on 2014’s untitled record. Their activity in that time resulted in two LPs (2016, 2019) and four EPs (2018, 2020, 2021, 2021), each of which signaled a growth in their set of tools and influences. Diaspora Problems is the payoff to their experimentation and work so far, an album that is as recklessly energetic and raucous as it is texturally diverse and eclectic.
For the most part, the foundation of Diaspora Problems is the same hardcore punk sound that bands have been honing for forty-plus years now. Don’t let this fool you, though, into thinking that Soul Glo have any traditionalist angle here: the group are completely comfortable throwing anything from third-wave ska horns to juddering metalcore breakdowns to blown-out trap beats into their tracks. What’s more impressive is that these genre switch ups never come across as disingenuous, which is mostly due to how well integrated these moments are into Diaspora Problems’ flow as a record. It’s common with heavier bands that these types of additions come across as insincere and as a novelty for its own sake, but the attention that the band has brought to making sure each aspect is fully formed in its own right instead makes these integral factors for deciphering Soul Glo’s identity in 2022.
The unifying factor for Diaspora Problems, the stitching and tape holding this enormous bundle of energy and ideas together, is the incredible performance that vocalist Pierce Jordan delivers on every song. Pierce is consistently the spearhead for the band, and their performances (and lyrics, holy shit, please go look at the lyrics to these songs) always exemplify the overall mood and energy that Soul Glo strive to embody across the record. Make no mistake, the entire band is locked in at an astounding level of unity and precision, but it’s Pierce’s consistent presence, energy, and placing that brings the songs here up to a consistent level of excellence.
Diaspora Problems is a triumphant surge forward that shows a group that has gone from being consistently good to uniquely excellent. Soul Glo don’t reinvent the hardcore wheel here, but their ability to pull an eclectic mix of outside influences together culminates in a record that is exhilarating, rewarding, and unbelievably fun. This band has deserved their time in the spotlight for a while, and I can only hope that this record is the one that sees them reaching everyone that needs to listen.
Without Waves – Comedian (alt-metal, mathcore)
Comedian had a lot going for it before I even pressed play. I mean, a flamingo stabbing and/or vomiting on another flamingo, with its blood and/or bile dripping on an unsuspecting chick? Arguably the best pink-centric metal album cover I’ve seen (sorry, Sunbather). I became well-acquainted with the cover after an array of people in the Heavy Blog community heaped praise on Without Waves and Comedian specifically. I’m not sure what I expected after all of that, but it wasn’t the absolute bludgeoning that Comedian treated me to across its dense, eclectic tracklist.
Throughout the album, every song provided the answer to a unique question: “What if Car Bomb and [insert Band Name here] got into a bar fight?” The band’s mathy, proggy, alt-djent gives off major Meta and Mordial vibes, but the additional elements they bring to the table increase the heaviness and oddities in varying degrees. Opener “Good Grief” splices mechanical grooves with the Jekyll and Hyde of Slipknot’s career, i.e. jump the fuck up riffs one moment and spooky, moody atmospheres the next. Immediately after, Without Waves smash their calculators on “Animal Kingdom,” a compendium of The Dillinger Escape Plan’s career with the groove raised to an exponential degree. Then, unwilling to rest on their laurels, “Algorithm” unleashes a Marilyn Manson-meets-Mr. Bungle “what the fuck” fest, that’s also somehow danceable?
By this point, I was intrigued.
I could whip out these unholy marriages all day, like how “Set & Setting” sounds like a long lost Diamond Eyes demo Deftones recorded after listening to a bunch of Cave In. Or how the title track feels like vintage Opeth trying their hand at a mathcore track (hey, why not, Mikael?). I could do that, but I’m starting to run out of highlights from the album, and you probably get the point: Comedian is a rip roaring good time that constantly keeps you guessing. Everything that Without Waves tries works in ways it shouldn’t, with a cavalcade of melodic, chaotic, and psychotic moments coalescing into an exceptionally unique experience. You’ve probably heard all the disparate influences and styles that appear across Comedian, but I doubt you’ll hear them performed in tandem quite like this, let alone at the level of quality that Without Waves maintains throughout.
Animals as Leaders – Parrhesia (instrumental progressive metal)
Animals as Leaders need no introduction, least of all within the pages of Heavy Blog. However, I am here to tell you something that you’re surely aware of by now, and it’s that the latest Animals as Leaders record Parrhesia is among their best work to date. So whether you’re a longtime fan or you fell off the hype train over the last decade, be sure to check in with Parrhesia, particularly standout tracks like “Red Miso” and “Conflict Cartography.”
Chalk Hands – Don’t Think About Death (screamo, post-rock)
It doesn’t get much better than this. Gorgeous, heartwrenching, and sophisticated, Chalk Hands scratch that itch between We Never Learned To Live and Explosions In The Sky with masterful ease. An album for devotees of both genres.
Falls of Rauros – Key To A Vanishing Future (progressive black metal)
The premier atmospheric black metal band is back to deliver a more oppressive, grim, and haunting album than they ever have before. Key To A Vanishing Future is an album to curl up to and dive into the darkest recesses of what the future holds.
Ghost – Impera (heavy metal / hard rock)
Like them or not, Ghost are one of the biggest rock and metal acts on the planet, and listening to Impera, it’s not hard to imagine why. From the blistering Rush-ified arena rock of “Kaisarion” to Black Album era Metallica worship on tracks like “Call Me Little Sunshine,” the occult rockers kick up the ABBA-meets-Blue Oyster Cult formula to 11 with stadium-sized rock songs dripping with theatrical camp and 80’s glam, and I’m not even a little bit upset about it.
Helpless – Caged In Gold (mathcore / deathgrind)
UK mathgrind outfit Helpless dropped their sophomore LP on Church Road this month, and it’s a sleeper hit you’re not going to want to miss out on. Caged In Gold is a corrosive and violent record that feels like distant cousins of Converge or Botch, but raised on a steady diet of Misery Index and Brutal Truth. Fans of recent faves Pupil Slicer will find lots to love here.
Kvaen – The Great Below (blackened thrash)
Rules, rules, fucking rules. Check out this month’s installment of Kvlt Kolvmn if you want deeper analysis, but my god this record slaps. Proving far more than a one trick pony, The Great Below solidifies Kvaen as a voice in black metal that’s here to stay. Adventurously written, brilliantly executed, and one of the most legitimately fun records I’ve heard all year.
Absent in Body – Plague God (atmospheric sludge metal, post-metal)
Astral Tomb – Soulgazer (progressive death metal)
Hellbore – Panopticon (progressive death metal, tech death)
Lack the Low – God-Carrier (avant-pop, baroque pop)
Arkaik – Labyrinth Of Hungry Ghosts (tech death)
The Cast Before The Break – Where Are We Now (indie-emo, post-rock)
Answer From Cygnus – Cygnus (post-black metal)
Izthmi – Leaving This World (post-black metal)
Oh Hiroshima – Myriad (post-rock, art rock)