In which a lot of good bands release some very average albums.

a year ago

Top Picks

Pronostic – Chaotic Upheaval (progressive tech death)

You know what kind of album Chaotic Upheaval is going to be from the moment you press play. Track one begins with a spacey, fretless bass solo and it's not long before the sexy sax and choral backing vocals come in on track two. This is progressive tech-death baby, complete with all the hallmarks of everywhere the genre's been and where it is right now. It's also probably better than 99% of other tech-death records ever released.

Just because Pronositic aren't reinventing the wheel doesn't mean they don't come damnc close to perfecting it, while there's nothing innovative or surprising about Chaotic Upheaval, the album is made striking by its sheer quality. If there is one eyebrow-raising moment to be had, it's that the rhythmic section that kicks in halfway through the album's instrumental centrepiece , "Waves", is literally just the intro to Bullet for My Valentine's "Your Betrayal" with a couple of extra beats thrown in. Oddly, that's not the only time the Welsh outfit were brought to mind, once I started listening for them. The intro to "Drained by Remorse" also sounds a lot like Gojira's "Gift of Guilt". For the most part though, Pronostic draw their closest comparrisons from their countrymen in bands like Beyond Creation, Augry and First Fragment. Personally, I'd take Chaotic Upheaval over anything any of those bands have released, and it's only really genre heavyweights Obscura and their various spin-offs that I'd give the edge to when it comes to the more traditional side of contemporary tech death.

Cattle Decapitation – Terrasite (progressive deathgrind)

This is probably going to be more of a “State of the Roundup Address”, but I wanted to use this entry to talk about the overall quality of some of the bigger releases this week. There are a lot of larger names putting out albums today, including many I consider longtime personal favourites. For the most part, however, the results are far less than I hoped for.

The main offenders are The Acacia Strain. I love everything the deathcore pioneers put out, up to, including and especially Death is the Only Mortal (2012). All the albums they’ve put out since then though have left me largely wanting. I’ll give them Coma Witch (2014) as an interesting-if-ultimately-unsuccessful experiment, and their previous outing Slow Decay (2020) (which I had to look up the title of, despite that being the whole point of its release…) suggested somewhat of a return to form. I haven’t gone back to it though, and it seems that—whatever their quality, The Acacia Strain seem far more interested these days in whether their song titles spell out an acrostic poem or whatever than making good, or even memorable music. This brings us to the first part of today’s superfluous double-release Step into the Light, which is a fine, hyper-aggressive hardcore record in and of itself, but pales in both interest and impact when compared to contemporary offerings like the latest Jesus Piece or Brand of Sacrifice records. It would be inoffensive on its own, but for some reason it comes paired with a second record, Failure Will Follow, which contains three tent-to-seventeen-minute long doom tracks that offer absolutely nothing redeemable across their combined forty-minute runtime. It would be an interesting experiment if they hadn’t already done this a decade earlier with Coma Witch already and also raises the question of why the band haven’t spent the years since working out ways to integrate their doom-inclinations into their trademark hardcore template, rather than insisting on their separation and unnecessarily gimicky presentation. It’s been diminishing returns for me and The Acacia Strain for some time now, but when The Amity Affliction are releasing heavier and more interesting albums than you, you know you’re in trouble. Speaking of which…

The Amity Affliction’s unexpected return to form, by way of an even more unexpected, almost-unimaginable, yet also wholly evident and effective embracing of genuine, Cradle of Filth-inspired extreme metal on their last album, Everyone Loves You …Once You Leave Them (2020), is one of the more pleasant unexpected surprises I’ve enjoyed in recent years. they were also shockingly solid when I caught them at the Good Things festival last year and I’m glad to see they’ve continued down that path on Not Without My Ghosts. Having said that, this album falls into a similar trap to previous Amity Affliction albums like Chasing Ghosts (2012) and This Could Be Heartbreak (2016), where they feel like inferior rehashes of the albums that preceded them, regardless of any innate quality. I think Not Without My Ghosts is a far better record than both of those examples. In fact, I’m quite satisfied with it and there’s a handful of songs I’m sure I’ll be going back to, including their killer colab with Comeback Kid’s Andrew Neufeld on “Death and the Setting Sun”, but there’s still an air of “stockness’ that pervades both it and this week’s other offerings.

Moving on, it’s hard to believe but DevilDriver were once one of the best metal bands on the planet. The run from their 2003 self-titled debut through 2009’s Prey for Villains is the equal of any other NWOAHM band of their era, and I’ll even extend that good will to both Beast (2011) and Winter Kills (2013), which, although lesser offerings, are still standouts in their overall field. Since then though, the band’s output has more or less dropped off a cliff, with the band offering up passionate if poorly-executed country covers albums and now, the sequel to an album I (and I’m sure many others) had completely forgot even existed. As with The Amity Affliction, Dealing with Demons Vol. II is a solid offering in its own right. In fact, it’s probably the best DevilDriver record since the aforementioned Winter Kills, but that might also only be due to its lacklustre completion. The guitar playing is on point, but—whether due to recent complications or not—frontman Dez Fafara’s vocals and overall delivery both sound rough, and the lyrical hooks that entrenched those first four albums within the common metal consciousness are nowhere to be seen or (more importantly) heard.

Finally, we come to Cattle Decapitation’s Terrasite, which this entry is ostensibly about. Make no mistake, Cattle Decapitation continue to be one of—if not the—very best death metal bands on the (ravaged and rapidly deteriorating) planet. Bay any other band’s measure, Terrasite is an absolute masterpiece. Within the band’s own discography, however, it feels like a bit of a rehash. Before this, every Cattle Decapitation album has had its own identity, while also pushing the band’s sound forward into more expansive and apocalyptic territories. As good as it is—and it really is quite good—Terrasite feels like an amalgamation of the Cattle Decapitation’s two previous records. On paper, that sounds great, and it sound great coming out of my speakers as well, but it also doesn’t really bringing any of its own (vegan) twist to the table. I’ll admit I rolled my eyes a bit when I saw that the album’s final track, “Just Another Body” was ten-minutes long, while the rest of the album’s offerings hovered around the four-to-five-minute mark. Although The Harvest Floor (2009), Monolith of Inhumanity (2012) and The Anthropocene Extinction (2015) split their climaxes across multiple tracks, that’s effectively five-times in a row now Cattle Decapitation have pulled this trick. Moreover, while Death Atlas (2019) earned its epic conclusion by threading musical and narrative threads throughout what came before, Terrasite’s elongated finale feels like it comes out of nowhere, especially when the preceding track “Solastaglgia” also feels like a fitting conclusion to what could have served as a masterful “back to basics” death-grind assault. As it is, Terrasite is merely a really, really good death metal album rather than another of the progressive genre masterpieces the band have been busy cranking out over the last decade or so, and it suggests that they might need to shake things up a bit if they want to produce another one. Anyway, look for this sitting deservedly atop “best death metal album” lists come the end of the year, which is where they should stay, until everyone else (except Pronostic) catches up.

Release Roundup

The Acacia Strain – Step Into The Light (brutal hardcore, deathcore)

The Acacia Strain – Failure Will Follow (why tho?)

Aelvica – Lichdragons Spewing Gloom (weird gothy black metal)

Alastor – Gates of Darkness (thrash)

Alconaut – Endless Skies (stoner metal)


Artificial Sun – The Giants Collapse (progressive blackened groovecore)

Ascended Dead – Evenfall of the Apocalypse (death metal)

Astrodeath – Vol. 2 (stoner sludge)

Battle Born – Blood, Fire, Magic and Steel (power metal)

​​Black Spiders – Can’t Die, Won’t Die (hardish rock)

Blutengel – Un:Sterblich: Our Souls Will Never Die (industrial goth metal)

Booby Trap – The End of Time (hehe, booby)

Burial Clouds – Last Days of a Dying World (prog doom)

Chained To the Bottom of the Ocean – Obsession Destruction (prog sludge)

Chronogoria – Fragments of a Dream (raw melodeath)

Cronos Compulsion – Malicious Regression (death metal)

Dark Shadow – Chapter One (power metal)

The Dark Side Of The Moon – Metamorphosis (symphonic alt metal)

Dead Shape Figure – The Sworn Book (symphonic melodeath)

Death Of Giants – Ventesorg (melowdeath doom)

DevilDriver – Dealing With Demons Vol. II (groove thrash, melodeath)

Duskwood – The Last Voyage (stoner metal)

Emphasis – Lazaret (atmospheric post metal)

Esoctrilihum – Astraal Constellations of the Majickal Zodiac (weird black metal)

Exitium – Imperitous March For Abysmal Glory (blackened death metal)

Genophobic Perversion – Malodorous Emanations (brutal goregrind)

Godsnake – Eye for an Eye (butt rock, melodeath)

Gonemage – Astral Corridors (bleepy bloopy black metal)

HASARD – Malivore (weird blackened doom)

Heavens Edge – Get It Right (hard rock)

Hex A.D. – Delightful Sharp Edges (prog rock)

Hollowed – Soulkiller (groovey death thrash)

Human Abomination – Dismal Foreshadowing (brutal death metal)

Industrial Puke – Born Into The Twisting Rope (crusty crossover deathmetal)

Ifryt – Płuca (definitely not black metal)

Iron Buddha – Raze//Repose (death sludge)

JOTA – Cold (screamo, blackened crust)

L’Homme Absurde – Stranger (depressive blackened post doom)

Left To Suffer – Feral (nu deathcore)

Lifeless – From Cradle To The Grave (depressive post black metal)

The Machine – Wave Cannon (alt sludge)

Michael Thompson Band – The Love Goes On (rock)

Midwife + Vyva Melinkolya – Orbweaving (dreamgaze)

Miriah – Conditions Red (heavy metal, thrash)

Mission in Black – Profit Reigns Supreme (melodeath)

Moonreich – Amer (blackened melodeathcore)

Noirum – Pusťte netvora do otvora (electro metal)

Non Est Deus – Legacy (blackened death metal)

Ocean Districts – Phantom Islands (posty prog metal)

Omnerod – The Amensal Rise (proggy prog metal)

ONKOS – Vascular Labyrinth (weird folk)

Parity Boot – Fast Forward (SYL-core)

Profeci – Ubóstwo (blackened death metal)

Quasarborn – Novo oružje protiv bola (prog thrash)

Sacrilegious Inpalement – IV: Infinite Victor (black metal)

ScreaMachine – Church of the Scream (heavy metal)

Subterfuge – Philosopher (flutey prog metal)

Sunbeam Overdrive – Diama (bullshit philosophy-core)

Thanatomass – Hades (raw blackened death metal)

They Watch Us From the Moon – Cosmic Chronicles, Act I: The Ascension (prog doom)

The Troops of Doom – Prelude to Blasphemy (death thrash)

Unmaker – Limb From Limb (melodeath thrash)

Veil Of Maya – [m]other (melodic tech metal, electrodjent)

Veriluola – Cascades of Crimson Cruor (black metal, death metal)

Wilczyca – Magija (black metal)

Worth – Worth (death metal, melodeath)

Wounded Not Dead – The Alchemist (death metal)

Woyote – Mother Of The Universe (proggish alt rock)

Joshua Bulleid

Published a year ago