Thoren – Gwarth II

I listen to a lot of music every year. Which is as it should be. I do write about this shit regularly, so some semblance of a finger on the pulse of various scenes is, in my mind, essential to writing meaningf... Read More...

Altarage – Endinghent

Portal, Mitochondrion, Antediluvian, Grave Miasma, Adversarial, The Ominous Circle, and Impetuous Ritual. The mere mention of these bands automatically conjures thoughts of a particular sound, a sonic aesthetic, within the death metal community. Jagged riffs, overwhelmingly heavy and murky production values, vocals that leap slowly and maniacally from the deepest pits of hell itself. Though this strain of death metal isn’t without its detractors and controversial elements, these above bands and a host of others have constructed successful careers upon the foundation laid by Finnish gods Demilich, and in my mind death metal is all the better for it. Spain’s Altarage also belongs in this group, cementing their reputation among the most punishing of death dealers with their monumental debut release Nihl. It was as relentless, pounding, and utterly suffocating as anything yet released in the band’s chosen subgenre, and ended up being one of my favorite releases of last year. With Endinghent, the band’s much-anticipated sophomore record, Altarage continue to expand upon the sound that brought them such positive attention, but with a twist: Endinghent is without question an evolutionary leap for the band in both song-craft and sound that serves as a sonic departure from their previous work. Whether these changes are good or bad depends on your view of what makes Altarage special, and in my book the band have begun a gallant voyage into a more refined and sharp sound that not only serves to highlight their songwriting ability, but also flesh out elements of their sound that were somewhat drowned out in their last album. It’s a bold move that pays dividends with repeated listening.

Ulcerate – Shrines of Paralysis

The genre of death metal has defied all odds, aging gracefully as acts continue to push the boundaries of extremity, technicality, and the genre's sonic palette into many different subsets. Starting with the almighty Death, you could trace the evolutionary branches into any of the myriad of styles that exist today in any direction. For instance, one of the more interesting fringe developments is atmospheric death metal; in direct lineage of Death's technical and progressive style, Gorguts incorporated a nuanced intensity with avant garde musicianship and a muddy Lovecraftian atmosphere that paved the way for the likes of Mitochondrion, Portal, and New Zealand's rising stars Ulcerate.