Editors' Picks // March 2024

Hello! It's happening again. Spring starts to rear its head and everyone goes absolutely berserk, releasing some of the best music that will be released this year.

a month ago

Hello! It's happening again. Spring starts to rear its head and everyone goes absolutely berserk, releasing some of the best music that will be released this year. As always, this makes March's edition of Editors' Picks second to only two - that of April and May. It also makes it incredibly eclectic, with fantastic releases hitting left and right from every direction. And so, I invite you to take part, once again, in ritual of the ebb and tide of release schedules. Come celebrate the thawing of the world with us and the absolute massive deluge of great album.

P.S yes I know that for half the world this is the beginning of winter, please don't make me write yet another intro taking down narratives and how accurate they are. Let me have this one.

-Eden Kupermintz

Wandering Oak - Resilience (black/heavy/thrash/progressive metal)

I’ve spoken about restraint many times on the blog and, as times goes on, I am more and more convinced it is the number one attribute I look for in my music. But restraint doesn’t mean “less”; that is an overly simplistic attitude and one which gives artists a major break. Equating restraint with minimalism is like claiming you’re strong because you avoided doing push-ups. Rather, restraint is the ability to go far, to take chances, to make something, to do the push-up, while keeping control of technique, craft, and artistic direction. It is much harder than simply cutting into the flesh of things and excising more and more; it is the surgeon’s blade, cutting only what is needed so that the rest can breathe and grow. 

This definition of restraint and lead to some pretty weird combinations. By most definitions, “restrained” is far from an adjective that can be assigned to Wandering Oak’s Resilience. If anything, the album is even more ambitious than the already eclectic release which preceded it, further deepening the band’s reluctance to settle on a genre. How can an album which can be cataloged as thrash, heavy metal, black metal, folk, and power metal be called restraint? Only under the new definition which I posited above which, even though it seems counter-intuitive, captures what Wandering Oak have done on this release quite well. 

While most elements of their sound have been turned up and flung farther than ever before, Wandering Oak have shown restraint in their control and the impressive degree of cohesiveness they’ve managed to maintain even as they’ve gone wilder than ever before. This lends the album an irresistible energy, exactly the power that comes from undertaken the task while paying meticulous care. The title track is probably where you want to go if you’re looking to sample what I’m talking about here. The track features a killer heavy metal riff at its core, a galloping base level that lends the track its main theme and energy. But it is quickly embellished by haggard cries that belong on a black metal album, while the bridges on the track supercharge the riff into a thrash-y, serpentine monstrosity before returning to its original groove and levity near the center of the piece.

The end result is perhaps best compared to Thrawsunblat, especially when the deep, resonant clean vocals are indeed in, but Thrawsunblat by way of an Iron Maiden fan-club bus crashing into a black metal concert. Or something, I don’t know. I didn’t want to open this review with “it’s one of those albums you just really have to listen to for yourself” but it really is so I guess I’ll close with that. Listen to Resilience and keep my thoughts about restraint in mind even as the countless genres and sounds crash around you. Many have been lost in the idea that this means the album “does too much”. Instead, I present to you that it does a lot but also just the right amount.


Job for a Cowboy - Moon Healer (progressive/technical death metal)

There are few transformation journeys in metal as stark and complete as that undergone by Job for a Cowboy. It’s pretty much a household tale at this point, especially within the death metal world. My Space deathcore unit from Arizona drops an influential EP, gets a lot of love and an equal amount of hate, then valiantly attempts to branch out from their chugga chugga roots over several records. This isn’t a particularly uncommon story as bands evolve in the extreme music space. Plenty have tried (and many have failed) to successfully turn themselves into something different while maintaining the core aspects that made their early work special. It’s hard to do, but it’s nothing new. What is pretty unique in this context, however, is a band attempting this type of transformation releasing a record as universally bold, monolithic, and powerful as Sun Eater. By far the band’s most universally respected and adored release, 2014 saw JFAC bring in progressive death metal elements into their already solid tech death sound to absolutely dazzling effect. It was a watershed moment for the band and these subgenres that increased hype surrounding their work to a fever pitch. 

Then just like that… they were gone. Life. Responsibilities. Everything. At the absolute peak of their creative and performative powers, one of the most exciting bands in death metal ceased to exist. 

Enter 2024, and after a 10 year hiatus we find ourselves discussing the band’s fifth full-length record and the spiritual and sonic successor to the best album of their career, Moon Healer. By all accounts this should absolutely not work. Several members of this band began entirely different careers (with one even finishing medical school) and started families, and with this much time passed and water under the bridge I confess that I did not have high hopes for Moon Healer

I was wrong to doubt. 

I’ll state it plainly. Moon Healer is better than Sun Eater. It’s better than anything the band has touched up to this point. It’s not only the best music they’ve ever produced, but also among the best proggy tech death records I’ve heard in quite some time. It’s an absolutely astonishing feat for a band that hasn’t created music in this capacity in a decade to release something this excellent, and I’m all the way here for it. 

From the first notes of album opener “Beyond the Chemical Doorway”, it’s very clear that JFAC are not fucking around when it comes to either songwriting or performance. Both facets are as good as they’ve ever been here, with ripping riffs, incredible kit work, and an inspired vocal performance from Jonny Davy. Each track develops, evolves, and ascends with a control and precision that the band has seldom employed with this level of technical flair and songwriting concentration. “Etched In Oblivion” and “The Forever Rot” are two particular examples of the band operating at their absolute peak, but it’s honestly hard to pick out highlights because every single track on this record is a straight up banger. 

But there’s a fine balance that is seldom struck between instrumental and songwriting prowess and clarity of sound, especially in this musical space. I’m brought back to the brilliance of Mithras’ truly exceptional record On Strange Loops and its compressed-to-shit mix as an obvious example of a wonderful record being marred by incessant sound issues. It’s rare that we get records in this subgenre as clear as First Fragment’s Gloire éternelle, but damn if Moon Healer doesn’t also absolutely nail the production work behind the boards. Jason Suecof’s work here is uniformly excellent, allowing the record to breathe and pulse with its own life. The decision to bring Nick Schendzielos’ bass higher in the mix was inspired, as there would be a great deal of excellence lost in the sauce without this level of emphasis on it. As a feat of death metal engineering alone, Moon Healer soars. 

In case it wasn’t made crystal clear by the previous paragraphs, I’m in love with Moon Healer. 2024 has been a blessed year thus far for death metal aficionados, and Moon Healer certainly sits at or near the top of the heap for releases in the genre over this and the last few years. I have no doubt that this thing will continue receiving extensive playing time throughout the remainder of the year and that you’ll hear a lot more about it come November. It’s a truly special release from a band that fully deserves the hype they’ve received and the respect they’re due. I hope they’re here to stay, because we may have a true all-timer of a late-career renaissance on our hands. 

-Jonathan Adams

Theophonos - Ashes in the Huron River  (progressive black metal)

Theophonos is the latest project from acclaimed American multi-instrumentalist James Hazley. Born confusingly out of the ashes of their previous project Serpent Column, Theophonos is a continuation of the avant-mathcore approach to black metal of which that project delivered across three full-lengths and three EPs between 2017 and 2021, arguably peaking with the standout Mirror In Darkness in 2019, which this album is quoted as being analogous to. Ashes in the Huron River is the second under the Theophonos moniker, a quick follow-up from 2023’s Nightmare Visions. Equally impressive to just the quantity of output from James, rivaling their Chinese contemporary in hoplites, is the consistency in quality. Ashes in the Huron River is their best work since that 2019 album, and possibly the best black metal release of 2024 to date. 

First I need to just quote the artist’s primary music influences as listed on bandcamp here, as it provides great context for both the sound of the album itself, and an interesting insight into the mind of the artist. “Death Grips’ “Jenny Death” (which the record homages in its gradient-like structure)…, the downtuned hyperaggressions of Morbid Angel’s “Gateways to Annihilation”, and the cinematic, raw intimacies of Pelican’s “The Fire in Our Throats Will Beckon the Thaw.” While Ashes doesn’t “sound” one-to-one all that similarly to any of those records, you can certainly hear what they mean by those specific elements referenced. 

Ashes contains all the cacophonous discordance you can expect from a project combining elements of mathcore, disso-death, and avant-garde black metal, yet there’s an undeniably focused flow to it which grows hypnotic. A big reason for that is beyond the vast complexities of the riffs, song-structures, and tempo changes, lies a lot of feeling and emotional weight. Moments are given to let certain riffs breathe and even reflect back on themselves, allowing the listener to do the same, often in a melancholic and oppressive tone meant to reflect “a life spent in the rotten heartlands of neoliberal capitalism.” The care put to this augments everything beyond just a bombastic technically impressive feat. The more melodic riffs such as on “An Elegy” are another example of this, harkening back to Serpent Column’s Mirror in Darkness. The mathcore influence works in this favor as well, as in Car Bomb-like fashion you’re drawn in by the deconstructing chaos in the way the riffs build and collapse onto themselves. 

The production is relatively crisp and clean for an esoteric black metal release, but feels adequate so that the complexity of it isn’t muddied, and the frequent syncopated grooves still deliver a bit of oomph. Hell, djent fans might even find something to latch onto there. Add in the nightmarish vocal performance where the pained anguish comes through like a circling Nazgul amidst the disorienting instrumentation, and you’ve got all the makings of what makes modern experimental black metal special. 

-Trent Bos

ZOMBIESHARK! - Die Laughing. (Cybergrind) 

In a post-Agoraphobic Nosebleed and Genghis Tron world, the new wave of listenable cybergrind is perhaps more divorced from grind than it’s ever been, yet far more creatively exciting and emotionally daring. There are fortunately a few acts out there transcending the ill-fated and ill-advised bedroom projects haphazardly slapping programmed blasts, bad riffs, and incomprehensible gutterals and keeping the flame of cybergrind alive for a new wave that greatly differs from the gonzo excess of hard drugs and misogyny (ironic or otherwise) of the early wave in favor of a vibrant pool of influences from electronic genres such as breakcore and drum and bass, and is creatively driven by, more often than not, queer zoomers, and the genre is better off for it. Acts like Blind Creation, Fire-Toolz, Sissy XO, and thotcrime, among others come to mind, and there’s a real scene here if you know where to look.

ZOMBIESHARK!, helmed by what is perhaps the new wave of cybergrind’s most singular new voice Cory Swope, may be at the front of the pack. Not only is Swope’s behind-the-scenes work with design, promotion, and collaboration fanning these flames, but the ZOMBIESHARK! project is consistently the most well-known and praised. At the time of this writing, ZOMBIESHARK!’s fifth (?!) full length album Die Laughing. is the second highest rated album under cybergrind on Rate Your Music, just beating out Genghis Tron’s seminal Board Up The House. For those that know, that’s a mighty high hurdle to leap. Believe it or not, Swope surely approaches that high level of artistic merit with Die Laughing.

Die Laughing is a post-industrial delight, casting a wide net and pulling from a rich well of influences for an album that feels avant garde, consistently engaging, and thrilling to listen to. The album’s earliest moments channel mathcore, beatdown hardcore, and deathcore filtered through aberrant electronics. It all feels so disorienting and exciting, and genuinely heavy. As the album unfolds, so do the layers of emotional vulnerability and depth of sound that truly deepen Die Laughing, with Swope utilizing the facade of an increasingly synthetic and inorganic atmosphere – through noisy sound design, shimmering synths, and vocodor – to express the most sincere and humane side of the record. And above all, Die Laughing. is so immediately rewarding, with its exciting experimentations in sound and songwriting as well as Swope’s ability to craft an emotionally resonant hook making this an easy repeat listen.

I don’t mean to kneecap the praise of this record with some lofty comparisons, but I can’t help but regard this album in the lineage of Nine Inch Nails’ The Downward Spiral. Sure, it could be argued that the timing of Die Laughing. being in rotation during The Downward Spiral’s 30th anniversary may just be incidental, but apocalyptic tracks such as “Counting Star Silo for Miles” and its follow up with the comparatively doomy “Blue Mountain” make it clear the ZOMBIESHARK! lies comfortably along the evolutionary branch of metal which Nine Inch Nails helped to foster growth. All’s I’m saying, is that if you’re spinning records like The Downward Spiral and Board Up The House, you need to add Die Laughing. to the queue expeditiously. 

-Jimmy Rowe

Owl - Ghosts of Summer (dissodeath-doom)

Owl, for those unfamiliar, is a long-running side project from vocalist and guitarist Christian Kolf (Valborg, Labyrinth of Stars).  Since Owl’s introduction to the world in 2011 with its self-titled debut, Kolf has created a signature sound that envelopes everything from shoegaze to avante-garde and experimental metal in a suffocating cloak of dissonance. Each release sounds distinctly unique and somehow completely at-home among Owl’s expansive discography.

Despite the project’s longevity and productivity, explaining Owl’s sonic signature is challenging at best. Kolf fearlessly embraces a wide range of influences and sounds, resulting in releases like recent singles Inversion Wave and Cryptic Deities. Both of which sound like if Meshuggah went shoegaze, while 2020 EP Crystal Delirium puts forth an angry, pummeling aggression supercharged by fierce dissonance. The angular textures and punishing delivery on Crystal Delirium are reminiscent of Slugdge on a nuclear warpath, completely juxtaposing the Owl of 2020 against the 2023/2024 shift into gauzier atmospheres. But the eardrum-shredding dissonance at the heart of Owl’s sound rings clear. 

Ghosts of Summer continues Owl’s descent into atmospheric, doomy depths, then floods the caverns with blistering black metal ferocity that echoes Kolf’s Labyrinth of Stars, which had an excellent album released in late 2022. Building on the foundation of Inversion Wave, Cryptic Deities, and Crystal Delirium, Ghosts of Summer proves that extremity doesn’t have to purely rely on louder, faster, and angrier stylings to prove a point. On the contrary, Kolf has created his most intense and crushing work to date by experimenting with softer sounds and atmospheric moments pitted against cavernous, suffocating dissonance. 

On “Cryptid,” caustic guitars and seemingly desperate roars wage a full-bore assault on the ear, soundtracking our descent into a nightmare realm where reality is broken and our fate is at the mercy of unseen tormentors. The attack fades, for the moment, into a spellbinding moment of minimalism. The reprieve is just enough that the ensuing onslaught is even more abrasive. A satisfying riff breaks free from the crushing void, offering a glint of hope and guidance amidst the confusion, only to collapse into lush ambiance. In any other context, the beautifully gauzy moment would feel light, even uplifting, but on Ghosts of Summer, it feels more like surveying the carnage after the bloody nightmare has ended. 

-Bridget Hughes 

Chelsea Wolfe - She Reaches Out To She Reaches Out To She (darkwave, triphop)

Chelsea Wolfe can do it all, from folk to industrial to sludge and beyond. Her latest outing is perhaps her most exciting to date, weaving a dark tapestry of dark wave, industrial, and trip-hop. It’s a sound that suits her quite well, and is sure to land her on numerous year-end lists in 2024. 


meth. - SHAME (sludge, noise rock)

Chicago’s meth. have shapeshifted over the years through emoviolence and mathcore, and have landed in this space of noisy sludge and often exist in the realm of dissodeath on their sophomore full-length SHAME. Fans of Chat Pile and Gorguts alike will find lots to love about this intensely dark and treacherous LP. And yes, for what it’s worth, Colin Marston is involved. 


GonemageSpell Piercings (Brutal Nu Metal)

I’m not going to go over Garryt Brent’s pedigree again. Instead, I am going to say “god bless you Garry for allowing me to write “Brutal nu metal” on the blog”. It’s really that simple (but, of course, not simple at all). What if Limp Bizkit went to a Playstation 2 marketing exec meeting but those marketing execs were also really into lo-fi black metal? Spell Piercings is what if.


Persefone - Lingua Ignota: Part 1 (progressive metal)

Persefone, to me, has always been great. There are just a few of their records that feel more great than others. Lingua Ignota: Part 1 is one of those. Front to back, this compact sequence of tracks packs a beautiful punch, showcasing the best of the band in a focused and virtuosic effort that’s as accessible and potent as Persefone have ever been. If you’ve liked anything this group has released, I have a hard time imagining you’ll dislike this. Highly recommended. 


Eternal Storm - A Giant Bound to Fall (progressive/melodic death metal)

Spanish/Scottish melodic death metal band Eternal Storm channel their progressive tendencies into a dazzling sophomore album that infuses death metal with ambient, dreamlike ambiance, darkly engaging grooves, and electric riffs. A Giant Bound to Fall incorporates influences from folk metal to post-metal for a sonic journey through frozen lands and adrenaline-pumping adventures. 


Further listening


Eden Kupermintz

Published a month ago