Dust Bolt – Mass Confusion

The industrious thrash metallers Dust Bolt return with Mass Confusion, their third album in four years. Dust Bolt have always been inclined towards straight up old-school thrash metal in the vein of Sodom, rather than the thrash insanity that bands like Vektor have been dishing out recently. As such, Mass Confusion does not represent a musical step forward for Dust Bolt; but this is no tragedy, because Dust Bolt are very good at what they do. Just as in their previous two albums, Dust Bolt engineers the foundation of a solid album in the simplest possible way: through great riffs.

Post Rock Post – Dream the Electric Sleep

This post on Dream the Electric Sleep’s Heretics is conveniently timed with the release of their third album, Beneath the Dark Wide Sky, set to release later this month. But back to the business at hand - Heretics. The strength of Dream the Electric Sleep lies in the contrast between the layered, soaring vocals, the muddy hypnotism of the repetitive rhythm section, and in the jarring moments when that carefully constructed hypnotism is suddenly broken. With this pattern operating as the base of Heretics, the band is able to successfully experiment because they can always return to the refuge of that soporific rhythm.

Stepping Stone: Wintersun’s Wintersun

Wintersun’s eponymous debut was a watershed album for me. Before Wintersun, I listened exclusively to power metal. If I found the courage to tell someone I liked metal, I assured them I didn’t listen to “the heavy stuff with the screaming”. But the basis of my hasty qualifications began to crumble away as I became bored by the pomp and feather-light punch of supposed “power” metal, and I found myself enjoying the odd song with harsh vocals. Wintersun was the album where extreme metal finally began to “click”, and struck through the stubborn levee that I’d built. As such, it was the bridge for the heavier parts of the metal, an album which made me more confident in listening to the music I liked rather than the music I already knew. That is the very essence of a "stepping stone", opening up a whole new field of music for us if not whole new methods of listening.

Hey! Listen to Shylmagoghnar!

Shylmagoghnar are a conundrum. The Metal Archives lists their genre as progressive/melodic death metal, but that is a misnomer. Those looking for prog will be disappointed; the only song that could reasonably masquerade as such is the opener, “I Am the Abyss”. The other genre tag is even more misleading - Emergence has almost none of the raw aggression or speed characteristic of any form of death metal. The production is clear as day, and keyboards provide soft atmospheric textures that swaddle the album in a decidedly not death metal glaze. Elements of black metal, such as the rasped vocals and wicked tremolo riffs in “Edin in Ashes” also permeate the album, but not enough to be considered defining characteristics. What is left, then, is an album that defies genre boundaries, not out of pretension or defiance but simply because two Dutch guys got together and wrote some metal on the instruments they knew how to play. And fortunately for us, they’ve written some remarkably tight songs.

Stepping Stone: Nightwish’s Oceanborn

I did not listen to music as a child. Before I turned thirteen, I had enjoyed perhaps thirty individual songs in my lifetime. I had never had a favorite band or album. When asked what my favorite genre of music was, I would reply "Rock and roll!" with fake enthusiasm because that was the music boys liked. But this musical apathy diametrically changed with my sudden and unexpected discovery of Nightwish. Unlike most metal fanatics, I have the special luxury of knowing exactly when my metal journey started. 'Twas a dark and stormy night on August 26th, 2009, and thirteen year old Andrew was trawling YouTube for funny videos in a dark basement because I've always been pretty cool. I came across a "misheard lyrics" video of Nightwish's song "Wishmaster", and I exalted in joy because I had finally found the funniest video on YouTube. I shared the video with my equally cool and hip friends, and we all made fun of the strange sounding soprano vocals and the dramatic keyboard. But as I returned to the video countless times over a couple of weeks, I realized that I had begun to watch the video in order to listen to the music instead of laugh at the misheard lyrics. I was forced to admit to myself that the same vocals and keyboards I had derided actually sounded pretty cool. And thus began my journey.

Hey! Listen to Skogmark!

Like all metalheads, I listen to a handful of artists who are conspicuously unknown. One such band is Skogmark, an atmospheric black metal band hailing from the frozen grandiosity of St. Petersburg, Russia. Their full-length debut Sworn to Paganism is a particular favorite of mine that I would like to see get more recognition. Although Skogmark is primarily an atmoblack outfit, don’t mistake their music for the pleasant, wafting melodies of Saor. They more closely related to a meaner, more clinically depressed Windir.