At The Gates at the Phoenix Concert in Toronto 8/9/2013

At the beginning of August, I drove eight or so hours — solo — from my home in Brooklyn to Toronto, Ontario to see At The Gates: a Swedish death metal band whose most recent LP, the all-time classic (and one of my favorite records ever) Slaughter Of The Soul, will turn 20 next year. At The Gates initially split up in 1996, reunited in 2007 for a few festival appearances, and have toured very sporadically since then. I wasn’t in attendance when they played two dates in NYC in 2008: an error in judgment that had been eating at me for the last five years. Generally speaking, it seems, when At The Gates do play, it is on another continent, so when I saw they were going to be as close as Toronto for three shows in Canada (and none in the States, presumably due to visa issues), I considered it an essential and unmissable opportunity. Crazy, I know, but hell, it beats spending five years kicking yourself.

And man, you know what? It was totally, totally worth it. When you live in New York City, you sort of come to expect that any band you could possibly want to see will be playing in town at some point over the next six months — and while that’s precisely the No. 1 reason to live in New York City, it can have a desensitizing effect. Not complaining! It’s a zillion times better than the alternative! I’m just saying, for me, driving eight hours each way to finally catch a white whale made the experience that much richer, made me appreciate each detail that much more distinctly and profoundly. It helps that Toronto is just a great city, with really great metal fans, and it especially helps that At The Gates absolutely tore shit up, basically playing a perfect set and coming off as just about the coolest guys you could hope for any band to be. (Only downside: No merch. WTF?) There’s a segment of the metal/critical community that has written off At The Gates for inspiring one of metal’s most dubious and despicable bastard-son genres (metalcore), but that’s like blaming Pearl Jam for Nickelback. Except Pearl Jam never wrote anything as good as “Slaughter Of The Soul.” In Toronto, that song inspired one of the wildest pits I’ve seen at any metal show. And two decades later, eight hours from home, it sounded fucking perfect.

For me, that show was just a small part of what I think has been the best month of the year so far for metal. (And it had already been been a really damn good year up to this point.) When Doug, Wyatt, Aaron, and I compiled the list of August’s best new metal tracks, we found ourselves cutting some personal favorites — stuff that might have cracked the top 10 in a regular month — to make room for shit that was even better. As such, I’ve asked those guys to share some Honorable Mentions in the comments, and I hope they will. Up here, I’ll ride for a few of my own faves that fell on the cutting room floor: the gorgeous new single from Godflesh frontman Justin Broadrick’s Jesu, “Homesick“; the new demo from awesome NYC melodic black metallers Anicon; and the filthy new cut from Cobalt vocalist Philip McSorley’s blacker-than-pitch project Recluse. And that doesn’t even take into account the great new tracks released this month that were simply ineligible for this list because we covered new songs from those bands last month: Vattnet Viskar, Pinkish Black, Carcass

All the aforementioned songs rule. But the hardest-ruling thing I’ve heard all month, maybe all year (yeah, potentially — potentially! — contradicting what I wrote in reference to our No. 1 track below), is Obscure Verses For The Multiverse, the new album from Seattle-via-Colombia black metal duo Inquisition, due out on October 29 via Season Of Mist. I’m not gonna go on about it here and now except to say this: It has done nothing but kick my head in since first hearing it, and if you love the sound of guitars, it is going to kick your head in, too. And I really think it’s going to kick a lot of heads in. There’s nothing dumber than album trailers, but this album actually deserves a trailer. So press play; start salivating:

Finally, another thing that happened in August? Maryland Death Fest announced its first confirmed acts for MDF 2014. Among them: Gorguts, Unleashed, and … At The Gates. Hell yeah I’m gonna be there. You should come, too. The month’s best metal tracks as curated, compiled, and written up by yr dudes are below. Let us know what’s good in the comments.

Michael Nelson

15. Red Fang – “Blood Like Cream”

Location: Portland, OR
Subgenre: Stoner Metal

Red Fang are gonna get a lot of comparisons to labelmates Baroness, and those comparisons are warranted, but the Portland, OR band have even more in common with Florida’s Torche: Both bands play high-gloss, high-impact, catchy-as-all-fuck stoner-sludge that actually probably pairs better with beer than herb (assuming it’s an either/or scenario). “Blood Like Cream” is the first single to be released from Red Fang’s forthcoming third LP, Whales And Leeches (which is out on 10/15 via Relapse); the thing just stomps from the first drum hit, but when it shifts into the brain-frying bridge two-thirds of the way through, it takes flight and soars. [Relapse] –MN

14. Russian Circles – “Deficit”

Location: Chicago
Subgenre: Instrumental Post-metal

Strange though it may seem now, “instrumental post-metal” was an exceedingly common style just half a decade ago. The post-metal crescendo has since drained away (as they all do), leaving a reduced assortment of veteran practitioners clinging to the rocks. Russian Circles are the strongest among the surviving set, but judging by the cover of their forthcoming album, Memorial, even they’ve taken stock of the leaner times. It’s an aerial photograph of a snow-crusted mountain chain, and the sere blue-whites match the music well. “Deficit” is a stern march whose dry tones and sea-shanty opening rhythm gesture vaguely toward black metal. Ultimately, though, Russian Circles’ proclivity for bigger and lusher sounds wins out, and the tune opens up into a busier, beefier romp in its second half. Dave Turncrantz remains one of the best drummers to ever play in this style. Dynamics are the name of the game, and he drives them masterfully. [Sargent House] –Doug Moore

13. Necrophobic – “Splendour Nigri Solis”

Location: Sweden
Subgenre: Black Metal

I am loath to throw around new genre tags, because we in the metal world are already in danger of drowning in them. Nonetheless, I’m starting to think that “arena black metal” might be a thing. Hear me out: Black metal as we understand it today got its start as a totally niche style, performed by weird misanthropes for small groups of other weird misanthropes. (Or not performed at all, in many cases.) But as the decades have ticked by, a growing cadre of polished, professional black metal bands has developed whose music and stage show are geared to work best in big, glitzy venues. Thus, arena black metal. Watain are probably the most conspicuous example at the moment, but their countrymen Necrophobic fit the bill too. The two bands have a lot in common, especially now — like Watain’s The Wild Hunt, Necrophobic’s forthcoming The Womb Of Lilitu expands ’90s black metal tropes into giant, vocal-centric blowouts, complete with tricked-out production and epic shred solos. For my money, Necrophobic’s effort is the better of the two, though it likely won’t get as much attention due to their less flamboyant presentation. Listen and root for the underdog. [Season Of Mist] –DM

12. Cleric – “Left Hand Wrath”

Location: Dallas, TX
Subgenre: Death Metal

I get lost sometimes as I listen to these things. Something triggers a memory and I’m gone, floating backwards through time … Ages ago my dad used to take me through the back country of Massachusetts, not far from where I grew up, to a State Reservation called Purgatory Chasm. It was this gaping tectonic rift smack dab in the middle of the woods, a giant hole cut from massive blocks of granite, full of trees, cliffs, and caves. I loved it there, partially because there was something unsettling about the place, probably mostly implied from the name alone, but it cast a certain pallor over the entire experience: from the weight of all that surrounding stone to the idea that time immemorial had ripped the earth to pieces and left this hole as a marker. This is all a longwinded way of saying that listening to Cleric, and their blend of musty death and extra-dimensional drift, gets me thinking of the spaces between those stone cracks, and the accompanying dread that brushes the back of your spine as you peer into the unknown. Thick riffs abound, reminiscent of Dismember and Entombed (“Left Hand Wrath” is an obvious signpost), but like another band on this list, the equally incredible Grave Miasma, it’s the atmosphere between the notes that makes all the difference. [Tofu Carnage] –Aaron Lariviere

11. Seidr – “The Pillars Of Creation”

Location: Louisville, KY
Subgenre: Doom/Sludge/Post-Metal/Neofolk

Seidr’s expansive and ominous 2011 debut For Winter Fire had all the portent and grandeur of a viking funeral; it’s an album made for wilderness exploration and solitary meditation. It was one of that year’s best metal records, and now, the band is set to release its follow-up: the forthcoming Ginnungagap (recorded by Krallice’s Colin Marston), which does much to evolve and advance Seidr’s mighty sound. Seidr comes from the same Louisville scene that produced another of 2013′s finest metal releases, Anagnorisis’s Beyond All Light (frontman Austin Lunn was a founding member of Anagnorisis before departing the band in 2008). And while Beyond All Light’s crusty blackened rage has little in common with Ginnungagap’s empyrean might, both records share a welcoming earthiness and strong melodic underpinnings that invite the listener to explore further and subsequently transport him somewhere else altogether. “The Pillars Of Creation” is Ginnungagap’s second song; it opens in an empty, echoing field of post-rock guitars, and travels wordlessly to a kingdom of climactic doom riffs and low-croaked vocals; when the two sounds converge, the song rockets upward and entirely away from its earthbound origins. [Bindrune Recordings/The Flenser] –MN

10. The Howling Wind – “Alignment Of Celestial Bodies”

Location: Brooklyn
Subgenre: Black Metal

There’s change afoot in the Howling Wind camp. For one, they’ve struck out on their own after three releases with Profound Lore Records, opting instead to self-release their fourth album (available here for $4). Meanwhile there’s a stripped-down approach to the whole affair: Both the production and songwriting feel intentionally coarse, with more muscle and less sheen, not that the Howling Wind were ever especially shiny to begin with. Their last album saw them cover Hellhammer, and that influence feels especially present here, in the best way. “Alignment Of Celestial Bodies” rages throughout, with blown-out vocals and primitive kill riffs strung one after another — and it isn’t till the last minute that guitarist (and, uh, bassist, noisemaker, and vocalist) Ryan Lipynsky’s shred pedigree finally bursts through. We’ve heard what he can do before in countless bands across countless genres — Serpentine Path, Pollution, Villains, Thralldom, and the sorely missed Unearthly Trance, amongst others — and still, those searing leads never fail to stun. [self-released] –AL

09. Ninkharsag – “The Essential Salts Of Human Dust”

Location: England
Subgenre: Black Metal

For a band that plays straightforward black metal so clearly reverent of genre standard bearers like Bathory and Emperor, Ninkharsag sure sounds fresh. “The Essential Salts Of Human Dust” comes barreling straight out the gate, pummeling bolt-gun drums and flange-y guitars leading a charge through three-and-a-half all-too-short minutes. A lot of black metal bands attempt this tried-and-true formula, and a lot of them sound derivative. Ninkharsag doesn’t, which is particularly impressive given that before the soon-to-be-released two-song 7″ that contains “The Essential Salts Of Human Dust” (the first single off a forthcoming full-length), the band only had a three-song demo under its belt. You’ll notice a strong sense of melody throughout that interacts particularly well with the great vocal delivery — the singer’s got just the right amount of rasp and, shit, you can almost understand what he’s saying. Look for their LP, because if it’s anything like this, it’ll rank well come year-end. [Ultha] –Wyatt Marshall

08. Grave – “Venial Sin”

Location: Sweden
Subgenre: Swedish Death Metal

Grave may as well be eternal at this point. 29 years into a career playing Swedish fucking death metal, they’re either undead or just unkillable, showing no signs of diminishing in terms of power or perseverance. One of the originals of the Swedish metal scene alongside Entombed, Dismember, and Unleashed, what makes Grave remarkable in 2013 is that they still release vital, vitriolic shit with unnatural frequency. Last year’s full-length Endless Procession Of Souls was more than a return to form — it’s actually one of my favorite death metal albums ever, right alongside the band’s debut, Into The Grave, released some 20 years earlier. Bands this old should not be this good — it’s a wondrous thing when they are. “Venial Sin,” the first track off Grave’s latest EP, Morbid Ascent, gives us Grave at their best: primitive, pounding death charges headfirst into doom territory, slowing to a crawl while the riffs keep on ripping. Meanwhile singer/guitarist/testament-to-unclean-living Ola Lindgren proves he can out-bellow just about everyone as he spits out some especially scathing (and discomfiting) lines about priests and their less-than-holy proclivities. [Century Media] –AL

07. Fyrnask – “Siaidha”

Location: Germany
Subgenre: Black Metal

One-man black metal acts are, generally speaking, not the most outgoing folks, and as such, covering (or even discovering) those projects can be unusually difficult. Take, for example, Fyrnask: the musical identity of a German guy named Fyrnd — just Fyrnd — who’s set to release his second album as Fyrnask, Eldir Nótt, which follows a 2011 LP, Bluostar. Forget anything like touring; he’ll probably never even show his face in photographs (this is as much as you’ll get). And with almost no earthly or virtual presence to speak of, it can become awfully easy to lose a band like Fyrnask in a consonant-heavy swirl of other one-man black metal bands: Fyrdsman, Frykt, and so forth (fyrth?) ad infinitum. And that would be a fucking sin because Eldir Nótt is an absolute revelation, one of the year’s best pure black metal releases. It’s got a rich, full, powerful sound, similar to other obsessive one-man auteurs such as Blut Aus Nord or later Leviathan. Like Wolves In The Throne Room or Altar Of Plagues circa Mammal, the album feels like a thing of nature itself: like Big Sky country in pre-dawn hours, like a flash flood in the desert, like walking headlong into a blizzard. It is, at points, quiet and placid, but even in its fury it feels not like a flurry of blows by which to be beaten down or charged up, but a spectacle to behold. [Temple Of Torturous] –MN

06. Lustre – “Green Worlds”

Location: Sweden
Subgenre: Epic Atmospheric Metal

In a month when technical flash-bang, speaker-rattling fuzz and death metal are sure to steal the show, my vote for one of the best of the month is Lustre’s “Green Worlds,” a meandering track from a one-man band out of Sweden that plays what is essentially ambient music — hell, the forthcoming album’s cover is pale green and features a bevy of swans in flight. In a similar vein to Summoning, the epic Casio/Tolkien legends (shout out to Caladan Brood, too), Lustre revels in simple but grandiose compositions. This is deep-space stargazing music, mountain range-crossing shit; it’s not headbanging metal. An elementary and watery keyboard melody guides throughout, a dissonant 16-bit flute will try to throw you off early on, and when those muted guitars kick in, you know you’re listening to something special. Lustre offers a different take on metal, one that lurks in the dark corners of the internet and aspires to something different. Listen at night on a good pair of headphones. [Nordvis] –WM

05. Ulcerate – “Clutching Revulsion”

Location: New Zealand
Subgenre: Technical Death Metal

Whether you like them or not, you have to credit Ulcerate for distinctiveness. Try as I might, I’ve never found another band that sounds quite like them. Even the bands to which they’re most frequently plopped next to — Gorguts, Deathspell Omega, and Neurosis — only occasionally make for sensible comparisons. Ulcerate pushed their twisting-drones-plus-blastbeats abstraction to the limit on their last album, 2011′s The Destroyers Of All. By comparison, their Relapse debut, Vermis constitutes something of a retrenchment; it’s earthier and harks more strongly to the band’s roots in American death metal. And that’s a good thing! Ulcerate have always been a cold, impersonal band, and Destroyers verged on sterile in its rigor. “Weight Of Emptiness” is a great example of the way that death metal fire has partially thawed the band’s clinical ice. That opening stomp is a total grimace-inducer, and drummer/artist/band leader Jamie St. Merat’s percussive fireworks are as jaw-dropping as they’ve ever been. [Relapse] –DM

04. Skeletonwitch – “Burned From Bone”

Location: Athens, OH
Subgenre: Blackened Thrash

Finally! THIS is what we’ve been waiting for from Skeletonwitch — a song that rips right through the speakers and does to your neck what Skeletonwitch does to you every time they take the stage. (Uh, forced contortion?) It’s so easy to root for this band: Every record comes sweat-soaked from the backbreaking work that goes into churning out one after another between impossible tour schedules. But more than that, the music just drips with endless potential, all the while reaching for the ring and coming so close it hurts. With an able production assist from the omnipresent Kurt Ballou (Kvelertak, Black Breath, Trap Them, etc.), Skeletonwitch’s forthcoming Serpents Unleashed finally, seriously, amazingly delivers on the promise of everything they’ve shown up to this point. On lead single “Burned From Bone,” Chance Garnette’s raspy bellow finds the perfect home under a bed of ripping melodic guitars and some of the best Rickenbacker bass tone I’ve heard in ages, while the song itself soars higher and further than ever before. Imagine where they’ll go from here. [Prosthetic] –AL

03. Castevet – “As Fathomed By Beggars And Victims”

Location: Brooklyn
Subgenre: Progressive Metal

It’s hard to write complex music. Duh. It’s exponentially harder, though, to write complex music that flows smoothly, or at least that doesn’t beat you over the head with its complexity. New York City’s Castevet (now featuring Nick McMaster of Krallice on bass) attained this elusive characteristic on their debut, 2010′s excellent Mounds Of Ash, and they use it to incredible effect on “As Fathomed By Beggars And Victims,” from their second LP, the forthcoming Obsian. This tune is a rhythmic and harmonic marvel. The instruments stack contradictory grooves against each other until they form a curious meta-rhythm; quarter notes, eighth notes, and triplets battle each other for dominance as the chord progressions pick their way from one root to the next. But the song never elicits typical complicated-metal descriptors like “angular” or “jarring.” The overall effect is instead moonlit and gauzy, thanks in part to frontman Andrew Hock’s spidery acoustic layering. Obsian will undoubtedly shoot to the top of many a year-end list when it drops on October 15; listen now for a preview. [Profound Lore] –DM

02. Grave Miasma – “Ovation To A Thousand Lost Reveries”

Location: England
Subgenre: Old-school Death Metal

I was hoping a track from Grave Miasma’s forthcoming debut LP, Odori Sepulcrorum, would premiere in time to be included in last month’s Black Market, but it missed by a day. Yeah, it’s great to have it here this month, of course, but it would have been appropriate to contrast in that space the moaning, raw analog production found on the Grave Miasma record with the crystalline sound of the new Carcass LP — because those two English bands could not sound less alike, yet they might be responsible, respectively, for the two best death metal albums of 2013. Odori Sepulcrorum is a nightmarish expedition into a bizarre netherworld; it’s dank and cavernous and lightless. Recorded at London’s Orgone Studios (Ghost’s Opus Eponymous; Primordial’s Redemption At The Puritan’s Hand) using vintage equipment, it’s an album of sound more than song — and the skin-crawling sensations produced by that sound — but the performances are roundly outstanding, especially the guitar leads, which channel Morbid Angel’s Trey Azagthoth at his most hallucinatory. Grave Miasma play a form of primitive death metal that feels genuinely dark and threatening; like the 1980 Italian horror film Cannibal Holocaust, it seems somehow terrifying, timeless, and real. [Profound Lore] –MN

01. Windhand – “Woodbine”

Location: Richmond, VA
Subgenre: Doom/Sludge/Psychedelic

I was listening to Sunbather again recently, and doing so confirmed what I’ve said since first hearing the thing: It’s gonna be my No. 1 album of 2013, no contest. The race for No. 2, though, is pretty tight — but if the year were to end today, Windhand’s incredible forthcoming sophomore album Soma would take home those honors. “Woodbine” was the first track to be released from Soma (followed by the equally incredible “Orchard“), and it’s a hell of a way to get acquainted: Within one second, “Woodbine” has leveled everything in its immediate vicinity, and it spends the next nine minutes crushing everything else. The fuzzed-the-fuck-out guitars have the mass of mountains, and from those heights, riffs descend with the inescapable force of an avalanche. Frontwoman Dorthia Cottrell delivers resin-sticky melodies in spacey, spectral gusts, while the rhythm section just blasts forward, not slowly, but inexorably, in long, powerful strides. [Relapse] –MN

Comments (34)
  1. I clicked on hoping. And there it was.
    Time to rock…

  2. I’d definitely add A Pregnant Light’s “Stars Will Fall” to this list–it didn’t make it, mostly because there’s been so much APL on The Black Market! (Being put out on cassette batches of 2 or 3 songs, APL gets to the plate a lot more often than bands on a more traditional release schedule.) Listen to it here:

    I’d also recommend Pantheon of Blood’s “Thunder Alchemy”–killer.

  3. The evolution of Windhand from an atmospheric doom metal band to THIS is overwhelming.
    In a really good way. Can’t wait for 9/17

  4. Honorable mentions from the nerd corner:

    Execration – “Ancient Tongue”: These guys are probably the most interesting ‘new’ band playing death metal that can be accurately described as old-school, and their next album is gonna blow up heads. Listen:

    New Gigan and Orbweaver: Orbweaver formed when Gigan’s original vocalist/rhythm guitarist split. They have a fair amount in common (lots of clangity-clang chords and weird effects laid over a death metal rhythmic foundation), but they’re different enough to make both worthwhile. Gigan here: ; Orbweaver here:

    Earthless – “Uluru Rock”: the best stoned guitar workout you will hear this year, hands down.

  5. That Red Fang track is so SO freaking good. Can’t wait for the full-release.

  6. No cuts from the new Rosetta record? Must have been a pretty damn good month then.

  7. That Lustre track is catchy

  8. Cleric first shattered and then reconstructed my ear drums. Wicked.

  9. The only Black Metal band that I can think of that’s played an actual arena is Dimmu Borgir. Maybe Hi-Fi Black Metal would be a better term.

    • I think he means arena in the “arena-ready” aspirational sense. These days the Rolling Stones can’t even fill an arena.

      • I do get the idea. I just think that title gives a false notion when something else could be associated.

        As for Necrophobic, can’t say I have any kind words about that band. Always struck me as part of the horde in the 90′s riding the tails of Dissection in that melodic Death/Black mix. Also they were boring as hell at MDF 2010. Just look up the youtube videos.

  10. I just want to say thanks to you guys for doing this every month. I’m a 43 year old dude, married, 2 kids, full time job, etc. I still love the metal though. You guys have turned me on to SO many cool new bands. I am always excited to check this out every month cause it without fail gives me at least 2-3 things to geek out on! This month, Windhand, mother of god, wow! Great column keep up the good work and know that there are those of out there counting on you guys!!

  11. Does anyone else think that Grave Miasma may give some of this year’s contenders (Gorguts, Inter Arma, etc) a run for their money? I may be hyping it up too much, but I can’t wait until that one comes out.

    • Definitely. It’s an incredible record. If it means anything, I’d rank it higher than either Gorguts or Inter Arma (and those are pretty incredible too).

      • Inter Arma just played here (Minneapolis) but it was the night before Run The Jewels played here. They don’t have a date here on that tour with Woe, sucks. Lol.

      • New Grave Miasma album rules, but Colored Sands destroys everything this year. If you don’t get it, you need to listen again.

        • I’ve listened to Colored Sands a bunch of times front to back but Grave Miasma isn’t out yet…

          I get it. I’m one of the good guys.


        • Totally agree. All of these records are stellar, but the new Gorguts is probably my favorite thing this year, too.

        • I love you, breakfast sandwiches, and man do you love Gorguts. I feel like every one of your comments somehow goes back to Gorguts! It’s definitely justified: great record, crazy talented band, not 100 percent my thing, but yeah I think Aaron and Doug have it at No. 1 on their lists right now. Grave Miasma are doing something totally different, really (as are Inter Arma). But in terms of Edward’s question, I do think Grave Miasma will sneak up on some lists this year. It reminds me a lot of that Disma record in 2011, which ended up being a pretty massive critical favorite, except the Grave Miasma record is WAAAAY better (IMO, and I like the Disma record!), plus if the live experience means anything, Grave Miasma DESTROYS ALL, while Disma are … not super exciting to see play. Edward, go see Woe. They rule and Chris Grigg is an awesome dude; definitely introduce yourself to him. And do see Inter Arma too. I saw them twice this year and they killed both times. Finally, I’m super bullish on this Inquisition record, I think it might end up being the best PURE METAL album of 2013, maybe best album period.

          • Ya I’m pretty nutso about Gorguts, but I do have good reason to be. The album is a monster and pound for pound is better than the new Ulcerate. Their vocalist is too monotonous and metalcore sounding. The riffs are good but all those clean airy bits become tiresome – they make for a nice break but they never go anywhere and just seem more pretentious than anything. Grave Miasma sound more like old Gorguts and are awesome as well. Colored Sands is a flawless album, the other two are great but I can’t say the same about their latest efforts. I’ll stop ranting about Gorguts and telling everyone they’re wrong.

          • Please don’t stop ranting because of anything I said! It’s awesome to hear from someone truly passionate about such things.

  12. This month was total overload. For once in my life I may have heard TOO MUCH good metal; my brain is still trying to catch up. The Inquisition record is gonna be a crusher, along with way too many others to even touch on here. Instead, here are some tracks that will likely slip under the radar, which is a shame. We live in a glorious time for metal, friends!


    WAR MASTER – Pure, unadulterated Bolt Thrower worship. It sounds an awful lot like earlier “grindcore” period Bolt Thrower (meaning uptempo old school death metal, before they dropped the blastbeats), which is all there is to say and all we need to know.

    AXESLASHER – Really fun, raging, horror-themed thrash. These dudes are definitely on their way up.

    NEKROFILTH – Filthy punk getting all up on some death and grind, with oddly (and horrifyingly) intelligible vocals. Choice lyrics: “I’m a degenerate… I want to cum on your brains.” Classic Hells Headbangers band right here.

    SCYTHE – Ripping black speed metal from Chicago, brought to us by the main dude from Usurper, who also ruled hard. This will undoubtedly fly under the radar, but it’s pretty fucking badass.

    ALTARS – If we didn’t have insanely good tunes from Grave Miasma and Cleric already clogging up our earspace Altars would be the best forward-thinking death metal of the month. As it is, it’s very much in the Grave Miasma vein and not far off in terms of quality. Weird, angular, occasionally jarring, but entirely enjoyable.

    TWILIGHT OF THE GODS – Here’s a new supergroup featuring Alan Averill of Primordial on vocals. I think it’s meant to sound like Viking-era Bathory but it comes out closer to Bathory played like power metal. Still fun for driving around and fist-pumping mightily.

  13. Red Fang – The chorus is killer and I dig the solo, but the vocals on the verses are pretty bro-y – like in a *insert modern generic rock band here* way. I mean – it’s not THAT bad, but I can’t get that out of my head when I listen to this.
    Russian Circles – I know “post-metal” has come and gone and I guess I’m comfortable with that, but I’m so grateful we still have these guys. Outside of Isis, theses guys were the best at that atmospheric metal thing and this is holding up to the old shit (when they hit that palm muted gallop, I feel all warm inside). This is metal that even my wife can roll with.
    Noecrophobic – On. Board. As much as I like really dense, impenetrable black metal, I will always be a lover of hooks. For a black metal band to be throwing the gauntlet down for big hooks, blistering solos and that scraping, slashing guitar tone that I love…well, they have a new fan.
    Cleric – The title alone had me thinking Entombed and that big, chunky guitar riff that erupted lived up to the name. The vocals are ehhhh (what were you expecting, Carson?), but you’re bang on that this song hits on something special in its atmospheric sounds. This shit’s intense, but it’s some of those extra noises on the margins that make it really interesting.
    Seidr – “empyrean might”? Nice. This is some pretty solid doom. I really liked that intro a lot. I’m not losing my mind over this, but I can tell it’s solid.

    OK, more later.

    • Carson, the Seidr album probably functions best as an album (I say this a lot, I know). That’s not a bite-sized band; everything is … honestly empyrean is the word. Take that shit out on a cool autumn day and put it on the iPod while walking through some nature-y setting (Prospect Park or the Adirondacks or the Jersey Shore or whatever is convenient to you). It kinda demands a setting as big as the music I think.

    • Sorry I’ve take forever to get back to this. Life doesn’t always provide the opportunities to sit down and listen to metal (nothing crazy, I was building a deck). Anyway, some more thoughts:

      The Howling Wind – Those guitars are friggin’ perfect. That slight wah effect gives it this seasick quality. Those breakdowns are even pretty groove-oriented, which I like. I wasn’t head-banging to this, I was doing that douchy R&B face groove thing. I like when a metal song makes me do that. (ooh, it jumps straight to the next song. Maybe I’ll stay here another minute longer…)
      Ninkharsag – Yeah, this sounds like some classic shit. Always got time for this. Looking forward to hearing more.
      Grave – I’m pretty novice when it comes to death metal. I’ve been fucking with Entombed for a while now, but hadn’t got around to Grave yet. Heavy shit, dude. Lyric videos for metal songs are pretty hilarious, but this one was pretty good. I bet I could of listened without the video and still picked out 80% of the words, that seems like some kind of feat.
      Fyrnask – Cons: I zoned out for a bit. That happens a lot with metal, but I have to be honest. Pros: this sounds SO good. You’re right, it doesn’t feel like another claustrophobic punishment (which is not a bad thing), but more expansive and grand. Digging it big time.
      Lustre – Pretty. Good chill out music. There’s something about the melody and the production that I find super cheesy, but not at all in a negative way. It’s like how I find that last (sadly) Woods Of Ypres album kind of cheesy but also amazing. Hard to really put it into words.
      Ulcerate – Intense. In my heart, I know I like this stuff. I’m a fan of all the bands mentioned there, but I think too much exposure to this kind stuff ends up with these kinds of bands turning into an indistinct mush. I dig the strangulated atonality and I recognize that these guys are really good at what they do, I think I’m just in the mood for something different.
      Skeletonwitch – That’s more like it. can’t wait for this album. Nuff said.
      Castevet – So here was my first reaction: “Holy fucking chaos! No idea what’s going on here. Love it.” Then I realized that for some weird all the different players started going at the exact same time and I was hearing, like, six different songs at once. Still, in its more simplified version, this is pretty sweet, although not the uber-complexity I originally thought. Love the stops and starts of the drums.
      Grave Miasma – Love the guitar whinny at the top. I’m such a mark for that. I like how the vocals sound so cavernous, like buddy’s the singing from the same location as the cover of Bathory’s Under the Sign of the Black Mark. Scary shit.
      Windhand – Holy Fuzz! I was thinking “avalanche” and then I saw you wrote exactly that. What’s most amazing is that strong sense of melody. This was the change of pace I needed. Will definitely be picking this up.

      • Damn, thanks for chiming in, Carson! Well said across the board. Totally agree re: Windhand’s use of melody. It reminds me very much of Pallbearer in that respect. I think I’m gonna go see them at St. Vitus tonight (I think Wyatt and Doug are going too actually). I’ll report back to let ya know if they bring it. They’re doing the first leg of a FUCKING INSANE tour later this year with Kvelertak and High On Fire, two of the best live bands in existence. (Unfortunately the first leg doesn’t include NYC.)

        • That tour is coming through my neck of the woods (Edmonton) and wouldn’t you know it…Windhand will be there for that leg of the tour!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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    • They have two songs total and both kick ass! Great riffs, compelling structures, good writing, performances, and production all around, plus they just have an undefinable “thing.” Maybe the album will be a disaster or a bore but right now I think it’s pretty easy to like ‘em!

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