At this point, it must seem like we're long past beating a dead horse when it comes to using this space atop our Editors' Picks column to reiterate the mantra of "there's just too much music!" But as we're sure many of you have noticed, the amount of new music we face on a weekly basis far outpaces the time needed to digest it all, something we were reminded of yet again when it came to facing the onslaught that was September. Not only did the month have five Friday release days instead of the usual four, each of those official marker points for new music seemed to attract an enormous quantity and quality of releases from all corners of the music landscape. When we (The Editors) finally pared down our playlists and picked our personal recommendations for the month, we found ourselves with perhaps the longest list of album suggestions we've ever presented to our fine readers. Among these are albums from artists both old and new that hail from nearly every genre we all listen to on regular basis. This being the case, let's not waste any more time and instead get to digging through the gold pile that was September.
Welcome to the latest installment of Kvlt Kolvmn! Another amazing month, another installment attempting to capture it all. Our apologies for most assuredly failing in this regard. Nevertheless, a fairly large amount of black metal blasted through our ear holes since our last installment, and we are here to share our favorites with you. Believe you me, there were some good ones.
Each month, we always seem to come to the same conclusion when it comes to our Editors’ Picks column: Friday release days open the floodgates and unleash a seemingly endless stream of quality new music. But while some of our Editors and Contributors sit down gleefully each week to dive into this newly stocked treasure trove, others find themselves drawing a blank at the end of the month due to the breakneck pace needed to keep up to date with what’s been released. Which brings us to this Heavy Blog PSA: a weekly roundup of new albums which pares down the the week’s releases to only our highest recommendations. Here you’ll find full album/single streams, pre-order links and, most importantly, a collection of albums that could very well earn a spot on your year end list. Enjoy!
Black metal has arguably the most eclectic genre palette in the metal pantheon. Though simple at its core, the genre's aesthetics have been applied to countless concepts and shaped to include a multitude of other genres and accompanying instrumentation. Yet, the guitar still remains the one constant element in nearly all iterations of the genre, whether as a lo-fi wall of distortion or thundering gallop over equally blistering blast beats. It's a rare occurrence when a band decides to forgo this six string staple; the only example this reviewer is aware of is Botanist, who instead opt for hammered dulcimers and harmonium. But when a guitar-less black metal album does surface, fans of the genre typically take notice to see if the experiment pays off. As such, the union of piano and drums in unholy matrimony on Wreche's self-titled debut makes for an intriguing experience that's deserving of at least an exploratory listen.
If you're like me, you probably forgot Arbor Day existed until just now (or, in my case, while staring blankly at your work calendar during a slow afternoon). It's a shame Nebraska is the only state that's dubbed international-plant-a-tree-day a civic holiday, especially when you compare trees' importance to our general disinterest in their conservation. Not to mention they helped name one of our favorite post-rock bands. Besides inspiring this eco-warrior rant, my mid-afternoon attempts to avoid working also led to an unexpected epiphany—I've yet to write a proper post about Bartholomäus Traubeck's exceptional album Years, a piece of art that takes more influence from trees than any other album in existence. Nature is a central influence for some of my favorite artists, especially black metal projects like Botanist and Grima. But Traubeck takes this a step further by literally making trees part of the lineup.
Just this past week we saw how important the ACLU still is. One of the first to confront the so called "Muslim ban" enacted by the indifferent pen of Donald Trump, it began the long and arduous legal battle against this administration. With not only the presidency but also Congress and Senate painted in the most extreme and reckless red imaginable, their work will grow seven-fold; now they must take on the legislative branch instead. Thus, and despite of the already remarkable success their fundraising has seen in the past week, Bandcamp's contribution to the ACLU is admirable. We're here to do our share; below you'll find a list of artists that are worthy of your support on this Friday.
There aren't many labels that balance consistency and quality quite like The Flenser. Since launching in 2009, the San Francisco-based curator of "dark experimental" music has presented some of the best bands fitting of this classification. And though it was probably due to my own personal taste evolving more than anything else, 2014 seemed to be a particularly phenomenal year for The Flenser's roster, complete with incredible releases from Botanist, Have a Nice Life, Kayo Dot, White Suns and Wreck and Reference. But of all these gems, perhaps the most lasting release from the bunch has been Planning for Burial's Desideratum, Thom Wasluck's captivating blend of shoegaze and ambient drone that feels like an organic, non-GMO version of Jesu's poppy doom metal.
Shamefully, it's still all too easy to allow a new record from Netherland-based black metal enigmas An Autumn For Crippled Children slip by unnoticed. Last year's stellar The Long Goodbye garnered praise on this website, and the radio silence from other outlets sparked a brief think-piece bemoaning how, in a post-Sunbather world, An Autumn For Crippled Children still garner little fanfare despite doing things within the post-black metal genre that are incredibly fascinating, if not groundbreaking in the band's oeuvre of going to such extremes in fusing black metal with bright New Wave and shoegaze melodies. A year later, and we're back at square one: a brand new record, Eternal, unceremoniously dropped into Bandcamp with almost no one talking about it. Never underestimate the power of PR, kids.
What exactly defines something as "metal" these days? An off-the-cuff answer would simply be “heavy-sounding music,” or some sort of rock music that scoops the hell out of the guitars' distortion. But if that’s the case, how do you explain the likes of Botanist, who doesn’t even use guitar (but is nonetheless pretty heavy), or Deftones or even Edguy, who use the metal sound in different ways that aren’t always “heavy?” I believe that what defines a piece of music as metal is an inherent darkness in its sound. It doesn’t necessarily need to be “satanic” darkness, or something religiously evil, but metal admits that there is a malevolence to the world at large, whether it's through death, black, power, or what have you. Sweden’s Forndom is not a traditionally “evil” band. L. Swärd, the man responsible for the project, doesn’t bow down to the typical metal ideas—Faustian dealings, virgin sacrifice, readings from the Necronomicon, etc.—instead, he takes inspiration from the Norse culture and the culture of Scandinavia in general, and this becomes the full brunt of his music.