The Black Market: The Month In Metal – May 2014

Nocturno Culto With Sarke @ Maryland Death Fest 2014

The Black Market: The Month In Metal – May 2014

Nocturno Culto With Sarke @ Maryland Death Fest 2014

The No. 1 question of Maryland Deathfest 2014 was whether you were going to see the young Swiss duo Bölzer. The Baltimore-based festival spanned four days, four venues, and more than 80 bands, but the only soul-crushing conflict came on Saturday night at about quarter to 10, when Bölzer were doing a set at Ram’s Head Live at the same exact time seminal Los Angeles thrash-metal legends Dark Angel were playing across town at the Edison Lot. It would be Bölzer’s first time ever playing the States (and their only scheduled appearance on this continent for the foreseeable future) versus one of a “limited number of appearances in the U.S.” for Dark Angel — a situation that might be described as either “no-lose” or “no-win,” depending on your worldview.

I tweeted about this with NPR metal guy Lars Gotrich prior to the festival, and his response was, “Like the rest of the world, they will fight for my love.” I talked about it on the drive down to Baltimore with my friends Kim and Al, who were breathlessly excited about both bands, but ultimately decided to see Dark Angel, because they were Al’s favorite band growing up. I talked about it in Baltimore with Black Market bro Doug Moore, and told him I was torn, but ultimately decided I would see the Swiss band. “Of course you will,” said Doug, who, like Al, had loved Dark Angel since childhood. “Poseur.” (Or did he say “pölzer”?) For some, this dilemma was mitigated slightly by the fact that MDF added a second Bölzer set, this one on Friday night, where they would fill in for the Norwegian band Aeturnus, who were unable to acquire the necessary visas to play the festival. But this, too, presented a conflict: Bölzer were slotted to perform Ram’s Head Live at 10:35PM on Friday, at which point Swedish death metal gods At The Gates would be approximately halfway through their set at Edison Lot.

No metal fan should be asked to choose between At The Gates, Dark Angel, and Bölzer, but few other events in the world — and certainly no other events in this country — are in a position to force such choices. MDF, though, offers a ridiculously vast menu full of such delicacies. This year’s lineup included impossibly rare sets from classic acts like Candlemass, My Dying Bride, Asphyx, and Unleashed, balanced by first-and-only-US appearances from cult obscurities like Taake (Norway), Necros Christos (Greece), Mgla (Poland), and God Macabre (Sweden) … plus spots from in-their-prime touring acts like Agalloch, Gorguts, Inquisition, and Crowbar … plus dozens more in each of those categories. And that’s after nominal headliners Triptykon and Ulver were forced to drop out due to various personal issues.

For me, the absolute highest-ranking “holy fuck I can’t believe this is happening” moment came on Saturday night, when the Norwegian band Sarke performed. I wrote about Sarke here, where I called their 2013 LP, Aruagint, one of 2013’s best overlooked metal albums. I would have been excited to catch their first-ever appearance on American soil regardless of broader implications, but this one happened to arrive with an absolutely remarkable footnote: Sarke’s vocalist is Ted Skjellum, better known as Nocturno Culto, the singing/guitar-playing half of Darkthrone, arguably the most important band in the history of black metal. Darkthrone still release albums fairly regularly, of course (their last, The Underground Resistance, came in at No. 21 on our list of 2013’s Best Metal Albums), but don’t play live as a general rule, and haven’t done so since 1996, and neither member of the band has ever played this continent in any incarnation. Just seeing Nocturno Culto in the flesh would have made the trip to Baltimore worth it for me — so I was ecstatic when I got him to sign my denim vest, far beyond ecstatic when I got to watch him singing live for Sarke, and through the goddamn roof when that band closed their set with a pair of covers: Celtic Frost’s “Dethroned Emperor” and motherfucking Darkthrone’s “Too Old Too Cold.” There are few things in life that can accurately be defined as “exclusive,” but there’s about a 100-percent chance you will never see that again.

Mind-blowing as that was, though, it wasn’t actually my favorite musical moment of MDF 2014 — that honor belonged to Bölzer, who arrived on these shores having released a total of six songs, but played the two most exciting sets at MDF, managing to fill Ram’s Head on both Friday and Saturday despite the otherwise-unmissable alternatives over at Edison Lot. I went to At The Gates on Friday, and as their set came to a close, I saw this tweet from Lars, who had been at Ram’s Head:

I hurried over there, and managed to arrive just after the conclusion of Bölzer’s set. There, I ran into another Black Market bro, Wyatt Marshall, who had made it in time to see the band play their closing number, “Entranced By The Wolfshook,” which we wrote about first here, and which ended 2013 as maybe the year’s best metal track. Wyatt, too, was gushing. The enthusiasm and energy coming out of Ram’s Head at that moment was more than enough to convince me my decision to forego Dark Angel was the right one, and on Saturday night, I arrived early at Ram’s Head, so that I could get a spot near the stage and catch every note of the band’s set. As I waited, I talked to some other metal writers, guys I normally interact with only online: Jonathan Dick, who authors the blog Steel For Brains, Joseph Schafer, who writes for No Clean Singing and Invisible Oranges (both of those guys also contribute to Stereogum occasionally) and Andy O’Connor, who writes for Pitchfork and Noisey. Jonathan lives in Birmingham, Alabama, Joseph lives in Toledo, Ohio, and Andy lives in Austin, Texas, which means interacting with them in real life is unusual enough, and finding them all in the same room at the same time is damn near impossible. Heck, Aaron Lariviere writes this column with me, Doug, and Wyatt, and we never get to see him because he lives in Los Angeles while we live in Brooklyn. But Aaron was there at Ram’s Head on Saturday night, too, watching Bölzer level the world around them, and build a new one from the wreckage.

And that’s really what makes MDF such a magical experience: The festival’s organizers bring to Baltimore bands from around the world, bands you cannot miss for any amount of money, and those bands are followed to Baltimore by fans from around the world, and friends you’d never get to see otherwise. In some ways it’s a reunion, but the re- prefix isn’t essential — you don’t have to know anyone at MDF to experience the sense of unity. It’s four days during which entire blocks of Baltimore are flooded with nothing but men and women in black T-shirts with white logos, leather jackets, denim vests covered with patches. At first, it’s a delightful shock to the system; by Day 3, you think nothing of walking into Starbucks with a T-shirt whose back print reads “PURE UNHOLY BLACK METAL”; when you get home, you’re struck by just how few metalheads you see on the street in daily life. You miss them. You’re looking forward to next year. Already.

Before we get to this month’s best metal tracks, I want to re-clarify how this column is curated, prompted by this comment from last month’s column:

Way late to the game on this, but I’m hoping the new Floor album will at least get a nod in the May edition of BM. Since it dropped the day before this edition went up, perhaps it was just a case of timing? Or perhaps they’re just not considered “metal enough” for this column? Regardless, it absolutely crushes.

In fact, we included Floor’s “War Party,” the first single from their new album, Oblation, in the February edition of the Black Market. Once the album had been covered there, it was ineligible to be featured again in this space. That’s the only way for us to cover even a fraction of the spectrum of metal we actually consume. It’s an imperfect system — sometimes we’ll cover the first single to be released from an album, and sometimes that single will precede the album’s actual release by months — but otherwise we’d be even more of a disorganized, argumentative mess than we already are. This month’s column is absent new songs from bands like Godflesh, Goatwhore, Alraune, Mutilation Rites, and Auroch, among others — all of which were eligible for inclusion, but all of which will be eligible again next month, too. So maybe you’ll see them there. What follows, though, is a summation of the month-that-was, covering subgenres and sounds spanning the vast universe of metal — in its way a microcosm of the celebration we all just experienced in Baltimore, or maybe just a continuation of the party. Join us.

(Photo of Nocturno Culto with Sarke courtesy of Return To The Pit. Check out an insane fuckton more great MDF 2014 shots here.)

15. Black Anvil – “Until The End”

Location: New York City
Subgenre: Heavy Metal

For the last few years, Black Anvil have sort of served as NYC metal’s house band: I’ve seen them share stages with international legends including Urfaust, Watain, Aura Noir, and Marduk, which is basically one step removed from playing Valhalla with Quorthon, Euronymous, Jon Nödtveidt, and Jeff Hanneman. But Black Anvil’s roots are largely in hardcore — the band’s founding members Paul Delaney, Raeph Glicken, and Gary Bennett came up as part of the LI/NYHC group Kill Your Idols. Black Anvil frequently seem torn by their complicated pedigree: Where most black metal is almost formlessly blurry, Black Anvil’s songs have the crisp, sharp edges and muscular thrust of hardcore. For their new third (and best) album, Hail Death, the core trio added a second guitarist, Jeremy Sosville, a “Randy Rhoads shredder” (per Delaney), yet they enlisted DC post-hardcore giant J. Robbins to produce. It’s an unusual formula, but with it, Black Anvil have created something that feels utterly unique and vital. Hail Death has throwback elements, but it doesn’t feel self-consciously “old school.” Where most contemporary bands who crib from late-’80s proto-metal (think: Noisem, Vampire) seem almost reverently referential, Black Anvil are absolutely owning these sounds. Hail Death is a pure metal album that relishes in the genre’s conventions without feeling conventional: It’s simply anthemic, aggressive, bombastic, thrilling, and fucking heavy. [From Hail Death, out now via Relapse]Michael

14. Skáphe – “Every Soul Entombed”

Location: ???, USA
Subgenre: Atmospheric Black Metal

Longwinded, esoteric black metal is increasingly a thing, and while the style’s ranks fill out, consider letting Skáphe cut to the front of the pack — the band’s one released track off a forthcoming demo is a murky, twisted, often shapeless nightmare. Like Skáphe’s sound, info about the band is hard to put a finger on. That “???” in the location field above isn’t meant to be cute — I know next to nothing about Skáphe, and the band’s not even on Metal Archives yet, the Google of heavy metal. Their label’s lips are sealed, too, but it’s not a surprise that Fallen Empire is putting out the tape — that label regularly unearths underground, filthy blackened gems. Skáphe’s got a particularly subterranean sound, lo-fi and utterly disorienting one moment and a full-on, menacing dose of black-metal fury the next. Vocals are reminiscent of the excellent Brooklyn-based band Epistasis, and pay attention to that particularly active, wonky bass, a curious accent to an otherwise grim affair. [From Skáphe, out in early June via Fallen Empire]Wyatt

13. Godstopper – “Andy Boy”

Location: Toronto, Canada
Subgenre: Noise Rock

For a genre that’s predicated on musical wackiness, noise rock is often kinda predictable. As with all metal-related subgenres, most contemporary bands lean so heavily on the work of certain innovators from the ’80s and ’90s that they basically write covers. Which makes a band like Godstopper both exciting and frustrating — their take on the genre is immediately distinctive and badass to boot, but despite keeping a busy release schedule for the past few years, they’ve gained little traction so far. If there’s any justice in music (signs are pointing to no), their upcoming Children Are Our Future EP will attract considerably wider attention. The thing that strikes me most about Godstopper is that despite their thorough weirdness, they evince a quirky ’90s-rock accessibility in even their most intense songs. The band can thank frontman Mike Simpson for much of this effect; though he’s in more of a screeching mood on “Andy Boy,” he’s equally capable of belting out a superb pop hook, and does so frequently throughout their catalog. I’m reminded of the late, great Brooklyn band Made Out of Babies — though the two acts don’t sound all that much alike, they both employ taut rock chops and a charismatic vocalist to craft a sound that’s magnetic in spite of its unsettling tone. Check out Godstopper’s other material on their Bandcamp if this jam rubs you the right way. [From the Children Are Our Future EP, out in June via Godstopper]Doug

12. Barghest – “Spent Brass”

Location: Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Subgenre: Black Metal

Metal bands from Louisiana — thanks to the massive and perhaps inescapable influence of legends like Down, Crowbar, and Eyehategod — often fall into the NOLA sludge vein. Take a younger up-and-comer like Thou: incredible, critically acclaimed band that’s pushing the limits of their genre, largely nourished on swamp-rooted sludge. Barghest, a killer black metal band with two EPs and an LP behind them (and a member of Thou among them), are a fresh blast of putrid bayou air. “Spent Brass” is filthy, thick with the venom and muck that will appeal to fans of NOLA metal — but applied to black metal, it’s an altogether different animal. Black metal is typically cold, the stuff of ice and frozen-hearted hate; Barghest’s “Spent Brass” shows sun-roasted decay is just as menacing, and often more brutal. [From The Virtuous Purge out 6/17 via Gilead Media]Wyatt

11. Enabler – “Close My Eyes”

Location: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Subgenre: Hardcore/Thrash

The first time I saw Enabler was in July 2012 at the Brooklyn metal club the Acheron. The Milwaukee band were the opening act on a (ridiculous) bill that also included Burning Love, the Secret, Martyrdod, and Black Breath, and the tour on which all five bands had embarked served as sort of a traveling showcase for their collective label at the time, Southern Lord Records, the indie run by Sunn O)))’s Greg Anderson. Over the last five or so years, Southern Lord have specialized in a pretty specific sound: buzzy, violent, metallic, blackened crust-punk, and in 2012, Enabler were a very good if somewhat generic Southern Lord band. But after the release of their 2012 debut LP, All Hail The Void, Enabler cut ties with Southern Lord — around the same time they parted ways with drummer Andy Hurley (who had to quit because his old band, um, Fall Out Boy, were reuniting) — and they’ve spent the last two years touring hard and honing their sound. Their new sophomore LP, La Fin Absolue Du Monde (translated from French: “the absolute end of the world”), is their most textured, assured, and satisfying release to date. Its songs have the fury and leanness of tough-guy hardcore and the stomp of d-beat, but the dextrous guitars and anthemic hooks of ’80s thrash. It’s jolting, physical music, but there’s a compelling emotional core that reveals itself in the melodies and especially in the vocals: an impressive statement from a band that has found its voice, and with that voice, announced its arrival. [From La Fin Absolue Du Monde, out now via The Compound]Michael

10. The Cutthroats 9 – “Dissension”

Location: California
Subgenre: Noise Rock

“The Cutthroats 9″ probably won’t mean much to you unless you’re a fan of bleak ’70s Westerns or of the brutish NYC noise rock institution Unsane, so here’s a quick primer: When Unsane frontman Chris Spencer took a hiatus from his main band in 2000 after suffering a severe beating at a show, he moved to California and formed Cutthroats 9. CT9 were active for only a few years before Spencer returned to Unsane, and the newer band folded before it recorded much material. But with Unsane again sidelined by drummer Vinnie Signorelli’s health issues, Spencer has put together a new CT9 lineup that includes 16 bassist Tony Baumeister alongside original skinsman Will Carrol. Just like that, CT9 has picked up where it left off in 2003 — an alternate-universe version of Unsane, in which the band’s East Coast rhythm tics recede in favor of Spencer’s interest in big slugs of boozy blues and classic rock. Unsane’s last album, 2012’s Wreck, was more melancholy than any preceding effort of theirs, and CT9’s June-slated Dissent constitutes a fitting follow-up. Spencer’s two signature sounds — his powerhouse slide-guitar playing and his weirdly glum howl — lead the charge on “Dissent”; the vibe is more Muddy Waters than Big Black. Ya gotta suffer to sing the blues. [From Dissent, out 6/3 via Lamb Unlimited/Reptilian]Doug

09. Darkest Era – “Boundless Realm Of Sorrow”

Location: Northern Ireland
Genre: Celtic Heavy Metal

This one benefits from a blind listen more than most. Ignore the silly genre tag; I can’t think of a better one, but it doesn’t really hint at the entirety of what Darkest Era conjure here. Imagine traditional heavy metal unshackled by tradition, if that makes any sense. The core is melodic Maiden-esque metal — harmonized guitars and clean-sung choruses full of bluster and power — but Darkest Era incorporate anything and everything, from black metal tremolo riffs to folkish doom, all bent to the will of classic songwriting. “Sorrow’s Boundless Realm” opens their second album, Severance, and it’s a stunner — from the soaring, searing chorus to the stripped-down pentatonic bridge and back. Their first record, The Last Caress Of Light, was released by Metal Blade and went largely unheard. They’ve since moved to a smaller label of unquestionable taste, Cruz Del Sur Music, home to other non-traditional “trad” bands like Argus and the Atlantean Kodex. A close listen calls to mind those bands and plenty of others — I hear the power of Primordial in the vocals and the medieval harmonies of Obsequiae in the guitars — but Darkest Era reach even loftier heights. [From Severance, out 6/3 via Cruz Del Sur]Aaron

08. Funeral Sutra – “Emptiness Sutra”

Location: Tokyo, Japan
Subgenre: Black Metal/Post-hardcore

Whoever said PMA was the only way? Funeral Sutra’s outlook is pretty bleak, but rarely is nihilism so invigorating. Funeral Sutra appeared on my radar unheard-of from Tokyo a couple weeks ago and immediately won me over with their earnest, heavy-hitting, guitar-forward mix of black metal and post-hardcore. “Emptiness Sutra” opens up the band’s four-track debut, which is worth checking out in full — choosing this track was a tough call. The unusual croaked-mantra intro gives way to a guitar build that settles into a big riff march; not that you’ll need a heads-up, but there’s some guitar-chops wizardry on this track, with massive chords and leads that dance around the barely treading-water tortured vocals. Impressive songwriting is on display, and the track goes through peaks and valleys that exhibit a natural gravitational pull to that opening riff. If, as the lyrics imply, everything is a “monument to shit,” “Emptiness Sutra” is one hell of a monument to some seriously epic shit. [From Meditations, out now via Funeral Sutra]Wyatt

07. Wolvhammer – “Death Division”

Location: Chicago/Minneapolis
Subgenre: Black Metal/Crust/Blackened Sludge

Chicago/Minneapolis now-trio Wolvhammer have released two albums of riff-heavy blackened sludge (2010’s Black Marketeers Of World War III and 2011’s The Obsidian Plains, both of which are pretty excellent) but the band’s forthcoming third LP, Clawing Into Black Sun, has a much more expansive feel than anything that precedes it. You can hear that plainly in “Death Division,” the first track to be premiered off Black Sun. Even in the track’s crusty war-chant sections — but especially everywhere else — “Death Division” is spacious, somber, ringing with guitar tones that feel influenced by post-metal, Chicago-style USBM (Nachtmystium, Avichi), funeral doom … heck, goth, even. It’s a welcome and impressive evolution from a band who frankly always transcended the hybrid subgenre in which they worked. [From Clawing Into Black Sun, out 7/8 via Profound Lore]Michael

06. Incantation – “Debauchery”

Location: Johnstown, Pennsylvania
Subgenre: Untouchable Death Metal

I love Incantation. Many don’t. They’ve never been the easiest band to listen to, and they’ve never tried to be. But what appeals to me is the sense of endless depth: the labyrinthine riffs and whirling soundscapes “hint at the mysteries” (we’ve talked about this before) better than anyone, even when they’re not buried under murky production. Death metal is capable of several different effects, from straightforward headbanging riffs to jawbreaking technicality. Incantation, not unlike (pre-Illud) Morbid Angel, falls somewhere in between: The technicality is very much present, but it works toward building a world for the listener, painting a cosmic soundscape by smearing unnatural colors. I always thought the name “Incantation” was a spot-on descriptor for what they do: There’s a ritualistic maleficence in the slower riffs that makes me think of spooky black magic and sacrificial offerings. Then all hell breaks loose — the summoning worked, and the summoned proceeds to kill all life by way of chaotic and incomprehensible violence, i.e., mind-blowing fast riffs. Incantation never really went away, but their last album, Vanquish In Vengeance, was a monster on par with their earliest classics. I like their upcoming release, Dirges Of Elysium, even more. This is the North American premiere of “Debauchery,” one of the fastest blasts of mayhem on the album. Keep an ear out for the string of excellent kill riffs starting at 3:05. [From Dirges Of Elysium out 6/24 via Listenable]Aaron

05. Mayhem – “Throne Of Time”

Location: Oslo, Norway
Subgenre: True Norwegian Black Metal

The Norwegian band called Mayhem that effectively (and to some extent literally) defined black metal died when mastermind/guitarist Øystein “Euronymous” Aarseth was killed by bassist Varg “Count Grishnackh” Vikernes in 1993, nine months prior to the release of the band’s debut album, De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas. But in 1995, Mayhem was reincarnated by founding bassist Jørn “Necrobutcher” Stubberud and early-era drummer Jan Axel “Hellhammer” Blomberg, who recruited Aura Noir’s Rune “Blasphemer” Eriksen to serve in the guitarist/songwriter role previously occupied by Euronymous. In 2004, the band reunited with De Mysteriis vocalist Attila Csihar, but in 2008, Eriksen left Mayhem after 13 years due to creative and personal frustrations. In 2011, Mayhem recruited Nindingr’s Morten “Teloch” Iversen to play guitar and write songs, and this year brings the first Teloch-penned Mayhem album (and the band’s fifth official LP overall), Esoteric Warfare. Teloch is a gifted guitarist with an ear for disquieting, nontraditional, progressive black metal, and his skills are put to good use in the Mayhem, whose music had always been disquieting, and had grown increasingly nontraditional and progressive behind Blasphemer. At this point, the band’s identifying component (beyond their name and logo) is Attila’s voice, one of the most unique and iconic in the history of the genre: It’s a croaky, mumbly, gurgly, deeply unsettling death rattle that feels like both high art and B-movie schlock; it’s totally inimitable yet frequently imitated, never to any great effect. Coming from the chest and throat of Attila, though, it’s a powerful thing. And while Esoteric Warfare might not be Euronymous’ Mayhem — indeed, Euronymous almost certainly would not have approved of any of this — it absolutely captures the chilling, blackhearted spirit of the historic band at their brief, impossibly influential peak. [From Esoteric Warfare, out 6/10 via Season Of Mist]Michael

04. Bongripper – “Endless”

Location: Chicago
Subgenre: Instrumental Stoner/Sludge/Doom

Riff purity: Embrace it. Remove extraneous bullshit like melodies, lead guitars, and vocals. Let the music live in a vacuum where it can feed off itself and smother the horizon without interruption, slowly shifting form as it goes. Bongripper understand these simple maxims and return to them continually. Here, on their self-released sixth LP and first album in four years, we get the first of three massively long tracks, titled “Endless.” It kills, as always. I caught these guys at MDF this past weekend, slotted into the unenviable position of following Windhand on Sunday. We were all worn thin after four days of nonstop metal, but an afternoon overflowing with doom seemed both cathartic and somehow relaxing. Windhand delivered another stunning set, as they have every time I’ve seen them. Bongripper, cult veterans that they are, destroyed everything that came before without a single word. It’s a different effect to be sure, but Bongripper were significantly heavier and no less interesting, presenting a seamless ebb and flow of weight and release. Live and on record, Bongripper reward patience with explosive heaviness. Sit back and breathe it in. [From Miserable, out in “2-3 months,” via Bongripper]Aaron

03. Dead Congregation – “Serpentskin”

Location: Athens, Greece
Subgenre: Death Metal

Death metal is inherently unfriendly to fashion, but to the extent that any subset of this stubbornly unhip music can build cultural momentum, the branch that Dead Congregation hangs from has done so. The sludgy, ominous approach that this Greek unit employs is predicated on the early work of long-running American acts like Immolation, Morbid Angel, and especially Incantation — which probably sounds familiar if you’ve been following this column, as such bands have proliferated like cluster flies over the past several years. Dead Congregation set themselves apart from this frowny, cavernous pack not by innovation, but through attention to detail. They craft their music at a deliberate pace; their new sophomore effort, Promulgation Of The Fall, required a full six years of gestation to complete. And it shows — every component, from the production to the running sequence to the consistently exquisite riffs, locks into place with iron certitude. Listen to the monstrous slouching grooves in “Serpentskin.” I don’t normally enjoy such derivative death metal, but those riffs? That’s some grim glory. [From Promulgation Of The Fall, out now via Profound Lore]Doug

02. Blut Aus Nord – “De Librio Arbitrio”

Location: Lower Normandy, France
Subgenre: Avant-garde Black Metal

Some metal kicks your ass with fist-pounding righteousness; some metal gives you the heebie-jeebies. Blut Aus Nord is decidedly of the latter variety. Even in France, a country with a history of twisting black metal in weird ways, Blut Aus Nord can seem like the Hieronymus Bosh of the genre, capable of creeping you the hell out while simultaneously being endlessly intriguing. The riffs on “De Librio Arbitrio” warp in and out of santity, creating an overwhelming sense of unease that’s only offset by the dark majesty of subsequent leads. Later on, double-kicks and wobbly buzzing riffs start off a sinister, downward-spiraling hell march. [From the Triunity split with P.H.O.B.O.S., out 6/20 via Debemur Morti Productions]Wyatt

01. Origin – “Manifest Desolate”

Location: Topeka, Kansas
Subgenre: Technical Death Metal

When you hear Origin for the first time, your first thought will probably be something to the effect of: “Holy shit, this is fast!” And indeed, Origin are one of the fastest bands in a genre obsessed with speed, and have held that estimable position for nearly 20 years. (They formed in 1997; their longtime drummer John Longstreth may be familiar to readers of this column for his work on Gorguts’ stellar reunion album last year.) Origin have become something of a yardstick in that respect, actually — if you’re playing faster than Origin, you’re probably playing too fast. Ironically, their best-known feature isn’t actually their most desirable one. That would be their songwriting chops, which started strong and have only improved over the course of their career. Omnipresent, their upcoming sixth album, sees a change at the vocal slot, with journeyman bellower Jason Keyser (formerly of Skinless) taking up the mic. Otherwise, it’s business as usual for them — they throw up a wall of shred insanity that conceals carefully constructed songs and scores of melodic hooks. “Manifest Desolate” will translate as an eye-popping speed fest at first. Give it another listen, though, and the subtle earworms that populate its second half will infest your brain. [From Omnipresent, out 7/8 via Nuclear Blast]Doug

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