Ed Picks! That's what we call my favorite column behind the scenes. Ed Picks! How I love its name! I love it mostly because I've gotten to know this wonderful group of individuals we call our editors (which changes over time because of the realities of doing the blog as a passion project) and have seen their tastes both change and remain the same over time. Therefore, I always have a few correct guesses as to what they'll pick for each month but then I am also surprised by the albums they include and I always, always find at least one new album to listen to.
This month is no different, as some of the releases below simply had to be included but a few them mark a departure or a twist to an editor's taste. See if you can guess which one I mean while you enjoy another absolutely excellent month of releases, metal or otherwise! And, as always, make sure to scroll all the way down to the albums we included but didn't write up this time around; there are some especially excellent gems in there this month!
Necropanther - Betrayal (blackened thrash)
While I’ve always enjoyed Necropanther’s high intensity take on thrash metal, and while we’ve covered them several times on the blog before, I must admit that none of their previous releases really stuck with me. But I’m starting to understand that this was probably more to do with me than with them; I find that I need to be in a certain mood to enjoy the sort of metal that they make. Possibly fortunately, possibly unfortunately, I seem to be more and more in that mood and when I am, my fingers inexorably gravitate towards Betrayal. It’s not just that Necropanther make some of the most pissed off, aggressive, and heavy metal around (they do) but it’s also that there’s something uniquely theirs about how they do it.
I think it’s mostly about how they “sneak” melodies into their ultra-direct style, something that not many bands in these sub-genres are able to do. Oftentimes, albums like Betrayal end up sounding very same-y, with the buzzsaw antics of the style’s riffs taking over most forms of subtler expression. But tune into the second track on this release, “Covenant”, as an example and listen to how well those soaring leads work with the track’s galloping, bass-heavy main riff. The thrust and powerful delivery of the main riff is only made grander by these guitar leads, not to mention the vocals, both high and low, something about the composition and melody of these parts “setting off” the rest of the instrumentation.
This device is utilized throughout this album, blending more dynamic compositions with the high octane, thrash-laden core of the album. Add in those crispy screams and bordering-on-the-disgusting gutturals (that work even better on the next track, “Breathe Evil”) and you start to understand how the puzzle that is Necropanther gets put together. I guess it’s time to revisit some of those old albums and see whether my angrier, more receptive current mood allows me to dig them as much as I dig Betrayal because I love this album very much.
Enslaved - Heimdal (progressive black metal)
It’s hard to believe, 16 albums into an illustrious career in extreme metal, that a band is capable of releasing new music that rivals their best output. But if the last few years have taught us anything, it’s that old dogs may not always be able to learn new tricks, but they can sure as hell perfect and expand upon the ones they already know. Last year’s Immolation record was a perfect example of this, and Enslaved’s latest release Heimdal follows a similar pattern. While I would definitely categorize the latter as a more sonically adventurous foray, there’s little that’s genuinely brand new here. But… there’s something about Heimdal that feels more raw, organic, and wild than the band’s most recent releases. It’s the kind of record only a band in full creative renaissance releases, and that’s exactly where we find Enslaved in 2023. You love to see it.
If you’ve been a fan of this band in any capacity over their decades-long career you’ll find plenty to love here. Heimdal knows exactly where it fits in the band’s discography and pulls no punches establishing that it is, indeed, an Enslaved record (and a great one at that). But the usual polish found in the band’s late discography is chipped away, revealing a warmer and more raw Enslaved than we’ve heard in a minute. The production throughout is weirdly thick but never muddy, allowing each instrument to shine… just through a thick, hallucinatory fog. It’s a decision that works brilliantly throughout, adding a level of mystery to these tracks without sacrificing the integrity of the mix.
Production aside, Heimdal excels where most Enslaved records do, and that’s in the songwriting balance the band strikes. While the traditional folk elements one would expect from an Enslaved record are still present, Heimdal feels like a more propulsive and balanced outing, cranking up the riff writing emphasis to 11 throughout. Tracks like “Congelia”, “Kingdom”, and “Caravans to the Outer Worlds” riff to high heaven, using folk interludes to accentuate the brutality of these tracks’ core tenets brilliantly. It’s the type of effective blend I felt has been missing in the last few Enslaved records, making Heimdal perhaps my favorite release from the band since RIITIIR.
Anyone afraid that Enslaved might have lost a step can breathe a huge sigh of relief. Heimdal is the band’s best record in over a decade, and a thoroughly enjoyable and superbly constructed outing front-to-back. The production is unusually effective here, and the songwriting is as always superb, showcasing the band’s immense talents in yet another fantastic album. Nearly 30 years in and Enslaved continues to produce legitimately awesome and thoughtful music. What a gift.
Telos - Delude (progressive blackened hardcore)
Danish supergroup Telos have supplied us with the first true AOTY contender coming from the core realm with their long-awaited sophomore album Delude. Containing members of powerhouses like LLNN, Eyes, Demersal, and Regarding Ambiguity, it should be no surprise to spin this record and find yourself paralyzed by how quickly their virulence overtakes you. Hardcore is barely the foundational building block from which their pendulous, rancorous assault blooms. Shades of acidic black metal, befuddling mathcore, and monolithic walls of discordant sludge color the palette of Delude’s mesmerizing violence.
Their metallic chaos feels both barely contained and expertly wrangled as Telos constantly lock grooves in out of thin, dissonant air, either to force the riff to fully submit and slow it down to a crawl or to bait and switch the listener into something even wilder. The former is perfectly encapsulated by “I Accept / I Receive”, Delude’s seven-plus minute centerpiece that makes monks of us all in the face of a singular riff built, deconstructed, and reconstructed with religious delicacy.
It’s becoming more and more common for bands existing in such specific niches to bend and borrow from multiple extreme subgenres, creating a fused musical lexicon that defies true categorization and draws in listeners from every house of heavy music. Telos have become masters of that extreme crossover appeal, and I’m intrigued to see who else finds themselves enamored by Delude’s acrid, jarring elegance.
JPEGMAFIA x Danny Brown - SCARING THE HOES (experimental hip hop)
JPEGMAFIA and Danny Brown, two of the most influential names in experimental hip-hop, have released their long awaited and much teased collaboration, SCARING THE HOES: Volume One. Hopes were high for this project, as these two artists have created some of the most respected forward-thinking hip-hop albums in the past decade. Danny Brown’s 2016 opus Atrocity Exhibition and JPEGMAFIA’s most recent record LP! are both in the top five experimental hip-hop records of all time on Rate Your Music, and their success as musicians and personalities continues to permeate the zeitgeist in interesting ways. JPEGMAFIA capitalized on LP!’s success with a tour with Turnstile and appearing in a recent Deftones fashion campaign while Danny can be seen on his viral podcast The Danny Brown Show.
The expectations on this collaboration from two highly celebrated artists couldn’t be higher, and yet they still surpassed every one. As telegraphed by the album’s name, Peggy and Danny go full-on weird, with some of the wildest and most infectious beat production and sampling out there. The title track features sampled clapping and screeching saxophones while the two trade self-deprecating lines about making off-putting music: “How the fuck we supposed to make money off this shit?” and “We don’t wanna hear that weird shit no more, what the fuck is that? Gimme that aux cord.” They’re wildly self-aware about their place in music, and they’re eating it up.
The duo’s wide array of influences are put on display across the record, with Peggy’s vaporwave and plunderphonics influenced production style gluing weird sounds together for unlikely bangers. “Lean Beef Patty” flips a P. Diddy classic way past chipmunk soul into frenetic textures, blown-out bass, and triumphant synths. “Fentanyl Tester” is built upon a bed of Kelis’ “Milkshake” and tempo-shifting IDM and breakcore. Tracks like “Run The Jewels” and “Jack Harlow Combo Meal” dip into jazz rap, and the finale “Where Ya Get Ya Coke From?” hears the duo rapping over bossa nova samples with menacing crescendos. It can be overwhelming at times, but there’s something whimsical and endearing about a record that’s so daring.
SCARING THE HOES without a doubt attains new heights in industrial, experimental, and abstract hip-hop and is a record that, while rough around the edges with its blown-out production style, has some genuinely charismatic and captivating performances from two underground icons. You’d be hard pressed to find a more creative album than this regardless of year and genre; this is a new paradigm that has every possibility to surpass Death Grips’ The Money Store when it comes to weirdo alternative hip-hop, if time is kind (and correct).
Boygenius - the record (indie folk, singer/songwriter)
With anticipation for a new Phoebe Bridgers project at an all-time high following 2020’s smash hit Punisher, her supergroup with fellow indie darlings Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus at long last released their debut full length the record. Those who experienced Punisher know what they can expect - sadboi indie folk from a feminist perspective - but this isn’t the Phoebe Bridgers show. These three musicians shine across this record as they trade lead vocal duties on tracks that are sure to make you feel a certain way.
Endless, Nameless - Living Without (blackened mathcore, noise rock)
There is something so immediately uplifting and whimsical about a tasty math rock lick that SSRIs could never touch. “A World So Kind” opens with such a lick, swirling into a groovy swancore track that gives the listener a completely false sense of what they’re in for with this album. Endless, Nameless will flip those expectations constantly on Living Without, where the promise of a twinkly fun time often devolves into dissonant chaos and blackened, keening screeching. Endless, Nameless have that duality down to a science and use it to great emotional effect throughout Living Without, skirting the line of emoviolence without tipping over the edge. A sprawling math rock record with fangs. Just what the doctor ordered.
Invent Animate - Heavener (progressive metalcore)
I’m going to be very clear: after over a decade of prevalence in the wider modern metal scene, Invent Animate have perfected the djenty prog metalcore sound on Heavener, and thus, no more records in this style need to be made. Shades of every movement and microcosm within the genre are present and accounted for, from heartrending Silent Planet rips to thallborn Vildhjarta breakdowns, mystically sexy Deftones-by-way-of-Thornhill bops like “Without a Whisper”, and literally everything in between. It’s the platonic ideal djent record that serves as a perfect retrospective of the journey we’ve undergone since Pairy Fairy and the Nice Guy Predators wholesale lifted the Meshuggah approach and gave it to rich kids looking to quickly exit the swoopy-haired white belt scene for legal reasons. Can we move on now?
Liturgy - 93696 (avant garde black metal)
Experimental black metal outfit Liturgy have returned with what may very well be their most ambitious and glorious record to date, 93696. This is a perfect realization of the Liturgy sound, from the foundational pairing of rhythmic noise rock and post-black metal with its glitch influences and choral and orchestral arrangements making 93696 truly transcendent. Don’t let its placement down in this section lead you to believe this is anything but album of the year material, because it certainly is.
Majesties - Vast Reaches Unclaimed (melodic death metal)
Imagine with me for a moment that Obsequiae and Inexorum decided to write a melodic death metal album together. Imagine exactly what that would sound like. Have it? Well, they actually did just that and it’s called Vast Reaches Unclaimed and it’s exactly as awesome as you imagined it would be. That’s it. That’s the blurb. Listen to this shit immediately. It’s fantastic.
Slowthai - UGLY (post-punk, grime)
UK grime rapper Slowthai has done an incredibly stylistic shift on his third LP UGLY. He introduces punk rock elements into his sound for an incredible and deeply personal record about mental illness and addiction.
Ice Age - Waves of Loss and Power (progressive metal)
I’ve already covered this album for The Prog-nosis, but I just love it so much. I’ve hardly gone two days without spinning it at least once, it’s dark, heavy, and emotional take on progressive metal and rock tickling all of the things that first made me fall in love with this genre right around the time this band was releasing its debut records.
REZN - Solace (progressive doom)
Another album I’ve also written up for a different column but which I couldn’t leave out of here because I love it so much. Solace is currently my favorite doom metal release of the year, with its intricate structures, penchant for drone and ambience, and beautiful, soaring melodies.
Keep of Kalessin – Katharsis (Progressive Black Metal, Power Metal)
August Burns Red – Death Below (Metalcore)
Dawn Ray’d – To Know the Light (Black Metal)
Gatekeeper – From Western Shores (Heavy Metal, Power Metal)
Ne Obliviscaris – Exul (Progressive Blackened Death Metal)
Spectral Lore – 11 Days (Black Metal, Ambient)
Foretoken – Triumphs (Symphonic Blackened Melodeath)
Afsky – Om Hundrede År (Atmospheric Black Metal, Depressive Black Metal)
Choir – Songs for a Tarnished World (Dissonant Death Metal)
Downfall of Gaia – Silhouettes of Disgust (Post Black Metal)
Stömb – Massive Disturbed Meta Art ((Mostly) Instrumental Prog Death)
Yves Tumor – Praise a Lord Who Chews but Which Does Not Consume; (or Simply, Hot Between Worlds) (Neo-psychedelia, Post-punk)
Astriferous – Pulsations From the Black Orb (Weird Brutal Death Metal)
Fluisteraars – De Kronieken Van Het Verdwenen Kasteel – I – Harslo (Black Metal)
Arriver – Azimuth (Post-metal, Post-doom)
Ciemra – The Tread of Darkness (Kinda Proggy Black Metal)
Entheos – Time Will Take Us All (Progressive Death Metal, Deathcore)
Hamasaari – Ineffable (Prog Rock, Post Metal)
Witch Ripper – The Flight After the Fall (Progressive Stoner Sludge)