The Black Market: The Month In Metal – August 2014

The Black Market: The Month In Metal - August 2014

The Black Market: The Month In Metal – August 2014

The Black Market: The Month In Metal - August 2014

Guys, I usually kick off the Black Market with a lengthy introductory essay, an aggregation of my thoughts on the month in metal. But August … August kinda ate me alive. That is not to say that I don’t have thoughts, or that August didn’t generate enough thoughts to inspire an essay. I do! It did! And then some! Truth is, this past month delivered a lot more than I could possibly sum up in this space, and you’re gonna read about/hear a whole lot of it below anyway. So this month, I’m gonna cut short the preamble and get right to the music.

BUT BEFORE I GET TO THE MUSIC let me say this: Prior to August, this had already been a great year for metal. It had! Yeah, haters and trolls might say otherwise, but even they can’t deny the albums we got from Agalloch, Thou, Nux Vomica, Triptykon, Behemoth, Morbus Chron, Woods Of Desolation, Eyehategod, Indian, Thantifaxath, Tombs, Dead Congregation, etc., etc., etc. But starting in August, shit got real. Over the last month, new records were released by Pallbearer and Panopticon and Bölzer and Bastard Sapling and Martyrdöd and Midnight and more. And compared to the next two months? That’s nothing. Between September 1 and October 31 we’re gonna get about half a decade’s worth of outstanding metal: albums from Yob, Godflesh, Electric Wizard, Earth, Nightbringer, Dawnbringer, Witch Mountain, Winterfylleth, Cannibal Corpse, Krieg, Old Man Gloom, Ides Of Gemini, Falls Of Rauros, Blut Aus Nord, Horrendous, Sivyj Yar, and At The Gates, among others. I have heard all but one of the aforementioned albums (still waiting on a copy of that Blut Aus Nord LP…) and I can say without hesitation that they are all worth your time — they are all very, very good, and some of them are genuinely great. Some of them we covered last month, some of them are covered below — words courtesy of Aaron Larivieire, Wyatt Marshall, Doug Moore, and yours truly — and some of them will be featured in September’s Black Market. And all of them, I think, will be back in December. By then we’ll be looking back and there will be no question: “2014 was a great year for metal,” we will say. “But from August through October, it was just gluttonous.” Dig in.


15. Godflesh – “New Dark Ages”

Location: Birmingham, England
Subgenre: Industrial Metal

There’s a reason why so many metal musicians end up dabbling in more approachable styles: It’s difficult to maintain intensity over time. Godflesh — arguably the trope-making industrial metal band — certainly brought the intensity on their bleak, pummeling early releases. So too did they dabble during their original lifespan. Their songwriting grew far more melodic by the end of their 15-ish-year run, and frontman Justin Broadrick has gone on to a successful career exploring gentler, prettier realms via his projects Jesu and JK Flesh, along with a host of other collaborations. So when Godflesh began releasing new music again earlier this year, it would’ve been reasonable to expect a more reserved version of the band’s signature grind. Nope. Following a throat-clearing EP earlier this year, Godflesh have teed up the awesomely titled A World Lit Only By Fire, their first longplayer since 2001. Judging by “New Dark Ages,” the album’s leadoff track and first single, Broadrick and collaborator G.C. Green nurtured some serious loathing in their hearts during their temporary retirement. This tune is as gritty and abusive as anything in the Godflesh oeuvre — perhaps more so, thanks to its hefty modern production. There are no concessions to melody or catchiness here; the song just shoves your face into the muck and holds you there until you stop twitching. Hopefully the rest of Godflesh’s new age is just as dark. [From A World Lit Only By Fire, out 10/7 via Avalanche]Doug

14. Occultation – “Laughter In The Halls Of Madness”

Location: NYC
Subgenre: Psychedelic Occult Doom

Occult psych metal in a number of flavors, from classic to doom to death, has been on the rise over the last few years. Between Blood Ceremony, Windhand, Jex Thoth, and the return of Witch Mountain, there will soon be a rush on Ouija boards. One of the best of the bunch is Occultation, a band that includes among its members guitarist/organist/vocalist Ed Miller, who also serves as frontman for the untouchable NYC black metal band Negative Plane (in Negative Plane, Miller goes by Nameless Void; in Occultation he’s credited as EMM). “Laughter In The Halls of Madness” plays like a Goblin-approved horror soundtrack — it’s like first-album Ghost, back before they took a deep dive, and without the BS. It’s a vibe you gotta commit to, but if you’re into catchy psych leads, distant but powerful wails, candelabras, and galloping grooves, you’re already committed. Step into the analog time machine to Dracula’s castle. [From Silence In The Ancestral House, out 10/14 via Profound Lore]Wyatt

13. Swallowed – “Arterial Mists Of Doom”

Location: Finland
Subgenre: Death/Doom

Dark Descent Records exists to make people like me horribly happy. They release music most often described as “metal of death.” That phrase covers all kinds of death metal, from death/doom to war metal (aka black/death) to melodic black metal and beyond, but the awkward phrasing serves as a symbolic beacon, indicating the high likelihood of Death Metal English lyrics contained within, as well as a certain level of filth and self-seriousness. By my standards, that means cool death metal (as opposed to the alternative.) This month we get two new records from Dark Descent: a melodic ripper from Horrendous (see below), and this little hunk of chitinous vitriol from Finnish death/doom duo Swallowed. “Arterial Mists Of Doom” isn’t the easiest listen, spending most of its short runtime alternating between spastic and spaced before disintegrating altogether. I find myself thinking of alternate dimensions, incomprehensible horrors, things too large for human understanding, and, for some stupid reason, the movie Event Horizon and its “dimension of pure chaos, of pure evil” (lifted wholesale from Hellraiser), and the cosmic repercussions of opening doors better left shut. Evocative tunes lead to strange visions, what can I say. Meanwhile, chromatic doom chords oscillate and decay like the pulse of a dying star; clattering drums telegraph back a response before the whole thing explodes into the aether, and we’re left dreaming of sweet death metal. It’s a good month when I get more than one record from Dark Descent Records. As labels go, they’ve got as distinct a voice as any: cavernous death metal of unspeakable origin, left in the dark to decay, fester, and multiply exponentially [From Lunarterial, out 10/14 via Dark Descent/Me Saco Un Ojo]Aaron

12. Godhunter – “Pursuit/Predator”

Location: Tucson, AZ
Subgenre: Sludge

“Pursuit/Predator” starts off with a fucked-up sample from the Zodiac Killer about the joy of killing people — the most dangerous game — something that shouldn’t be all that surprising from a group of guys who are willing to put “Godhunter” on their résumés. It does set the tone, though: “Pursuit/Predator” is a bluesy dose of sick, twisted, menacing sludge. The low-end on the track is massive, the bass drum feels as if it’s aiming straight for the eardrums and keen to do damage. The vocals are a deep, tough-guy shout, a gruff yell that is incredibly catchy on the chorus. If the big-riff assault is expected, what isn’t is the acoustic, militant call-and-response outro capped by another sample. It’s both quirky and, if you’re immersed in the music, immensely fucked-up. They’re consistent on that point. [From the GH/0ST:S split LP with Secrets Of The Sky, out 9/9 via Battleground/The Compound]Wyatt

11. Decapitated – “The Blasphemous Psalm To The Dummy God Creation”

Location: Krosno, Poland
Subgenre: Technical Death Metal

Decapitated have taken as circuitous a route to death metal stardom (or whatever passes for it) as any band. Once a group of teenage wunderkinds who made their name playing a sped-up variant of American death metal, Decapitated spent most of the aughts pursuing a series of increasingly progressive stylistic shifts that lost them much of their original fanbase but earned them a new, younger one. In 2007, the band was decimated by a horrible van crash that killed virtuoso drummer Vitek outright and left vocalist Covan crippled and unable to perform. A few years later, band-leading guitarist Vogg excited Decapitated fans by reforming the group with a whole new lineup … and proceeded to release 2011’s coolly received Carnival Is Forever, which sported a very silly album cover and a little too much rhythmic noodling for its own good. Which brings us to today and “The Blasphemous Psalm To The Dummy God Creation,” the first single from Decapitated’s upcoming sixth album. Decap’s time on the touring circuit for the past few years seems to have settled them down; “The Blasphemous Psalm” dispenses with some of the Meshuggah-isms that cluttered Carnival and opts instead for clipped, high-octane modern death metal. Vogg is one of DM’s most indelible players, and it’s still a thrill to hear him ripping through huge, keening tremolo riffs and tossing off liquid-steel leads. Though “The Blasphemous Psalm” clocks in under 3 minutes, it provides plenty of reason to believe Decapitated are gaining strength in their third act. [From Blood Mantra, out 9/26 via Nuclear Blast]Doug

10. Misþyrming – “Ég byggði dyr í eyðimörkinni”

Location: Iceland
Subgenre: Black Metal

Black metal is the stuff of the frigid north, all ice and tundra and forests, but Iceland’s Misþyrming draw more from the palette of subterranean hellfire. I’m talking lava. That’s what the cover art looks like to me, and Iceland is currently under a volcano-eruption watch, so in that respect, Misþyrming’s debut is well-timed. And “Ég byggði dyr í eyðimörkinni” is awesome, even if we’ll never be able to pronounce it (“Eyjafjallajokul”?). The song is a tour-de-force of muscular, dark, massively evil-sounding black metal. It creeps, broods and rages, and the tension built throughout eventually gives way to a righteous, head-bangable outro. For those who prefer death metal to black metal because of the former’s propensity for low-end heaviness, there’s enough depth here to keep you happy. That doesn’t detract from the song’s intensely melodic bent — in its own way, “Ég byggði dyr í eyðimörkinni” is gorgeous. [From Söngvar Elds Og Óreiðu, out fall/winter 2014 via Fallen Empire/Terratur Possessions]Wyatt

09. Uncle Acid – “Runaway Girls”

Location: England
Subgenre: Psychedelic Proto-Doom

Uncle Acid (née Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats) are the groovy gods of proto-metal that never were. Every time I write about these guys — and I’ve done it for this site a number of times over the years now — I harp on the same few points: this sense of unquestionable authenticity despite being a retro act, the unimpeachable quality of the songwriting, and the masterful hand at stitching image and essence into a perfect whole. Nothing has changed, and that’s a good thing. Uncle Acid are back with a new single, hot on the heels of their first North American appearance at Maryland Deathfest in May, and ostensibly to coincide with their upcoming return to the States for a full-fledged tour beginning September 24. I saw them at MDF; it was an easy highlight of the fest, with these four Cambridge stoners tossing hypnotic hooks back and forth while the sun slowly burnt out behind us. Wafting clouds of pot smoke burst into bloom all around, and we were theirs in body and spirit, like a heavy metal Jonestown massacre just waiting to happen. [From the “Runaway Girls” 7″, out now via Rise Above]Aaron

08. Deafheaven – “From The Kettle Onto The Coil”

Location: Los Angeles
Subgenre: Post-Black Metal

Deafheaven achieved a legitimate real-world breakthrough last year with their second album, Sunbather. What they will do for their third act, though, is a mystery. So the next stage of Deafheaven’s career will be worth watching, if for no other reason than its sheer unpredictability — the band really have no clearly blazed path to follow. They could make another album that sounds exactly like Sunbather; they could make an album that veers as far from Sunbather as that album did from the band’s 2011 debut, Roads To Judah. Or they could veer further still. The Adult Swim single “From The Kettle Onto The Coil” is the first new song released by Deafheaven since Sunbather, and while it’s superficially similar to that album’s biggest and best songs — namely “Dream House” and “The Pecan Tree” — it employs all the band’s defining elements with greater clarity, almost compartmentalizing them: The black metal side is sharper, the shoegaze side is prettier, the post-rock side is more scenic, the pop side is catchier. The song would have sequenced into Sunbather pretty seamlessly, but as a standalone object, it’s a promising sign of things to come, whether it ultimately represents a detour, a stop along the way, or a destination. [From the Adult Swim singles series, out now]Michael

07. Krieg – “Walk With Them Unnoticed”

Location: New Jersey
Subgenre: USBM

It’s been a weird year for Neill Jameson, aka Imperial, the man behind the seminal American black metal project Krieg. If you follow the guy on Facebook, you know he’s constantly dealing with bullshit, and that has increased exponentially over the last few weeks. He works in this record store in New Jersey, whose customers are a source of endless frustration. His occasional (current) musical collaborator Thurston Moore has been in the news for saying “Black Metal is music made by pussies of the lowest order.” His occasional (former) musical collaborator Blake Judd (of Nachtmystium) has been in the news for allegedly ripping off a bunch of fans and distributors, after pulling similar scams last year. And every time more news is made, Jameson — an outpost of acerbic, sarcastic pragmatism in a world of hyperbole and panic — finds himself inundated with requests for comments and clarifications. But here’s the thing: As a musician, Jameson is having the best year of his life. The record he made with Moore, Twilight’s III: Beneath Trident’s Tomb, was far and away the best album ever released by the black-metal supergroup, due in no small part to Moore’s contributions, not to mention Jameson’s improved vocal attack. Now, Jameson’s primary band, Krieg, are set to release their seventh full-length (and first in four years), Transient — one of the finest USBM offerings of 2014, and a breakthrough for Krieg. Transient is an album of shifting textures; it opens with the walloping “Order Of The Solitary Road,” a track that climaxes with one of the gnarliest black ‘n’ roll riffs you’ll hear this year, buttressed by sections that are hypnotic, ambient, almost ethereal. That balance is examined throughout the album, as violent blasts of sheer crust (“Return Fire”) lead into stretches of doomy melodicism (“To Speak With Ghosts”), and noise-rock skronks (“Winter”) precede moments of expansive post-rock (“Walk With Them Unnoticed”). True to its title, Transient rarely stays in one place too long, but it feels like a coherent statement, largely due to the man at its center. Jameson is a complex guy, and Transient is a complex album. It’s also a great album. [From Transient, out 9/2 via Candlelight]Michael

06. Ides Of Gemini – “The Adversary” & “The Chalice & The Blade”

Location: Los Angeles
Subgenre: Diaphanous Doom/Gossamer Gloom

Two songs tell two different tales. Pinning a single identifiable essence to either one proves impossible, so here’s a chance to check out both and decide for yourself. Don’t worry: This is in keeping with the grand theme, touching on the notion of the titular twins of Gemini, as well as each of the two sides of Ides Of Gemini’s vinyl-structured second album, Old World New Wave. According to the band’s guitarist (and Decibel scribe extraordinaire) J. Bennett, each side of the new album has its own character: the first being “old world” and the second “new wave,” naturally. The thing is, it isn’t bullshit — both sides are distinct and both succeed on their own terms. “The Adversary” comes from the “new wave” side, and you hear that particular inflection in the way Sera Timms’ huge Siouxsie Sioux-inspired vocal punctuates Bennett’s simple post-punk chords. Simplicity serves the song well, and Ides make the most of it — the chorus is one of the best you’ll hear all year. Meanwhile, “The Chalice & The Blade” is all old-world atmosphere, guitars and vocals swirling like fog and smoke over a burning field, or something equally distressing and depressing. It’s a marvel of miasmal mood music, and every bit as good as “The Adversary.” Taken alone you get two very different bands operating at full capacity; taken together you get a far richer experience — transcendence laced with different textures. [From Old World New Wave, out 9/16 via Neurot]Aaron

05. Dhwesha – “Kapala Haara”

Location: Bangalore, Karmataka, India
Subgenre: Death Metal

For such a populous country, India produces comparatively few metal bands. For example: the indispensable metal-band wiki Metal Archives counts just under 150 Indian metal bands. Compare with Sweden, which has spawned about 3,800 bands despite a population just 1/140th the size of India’s. This relative scarcity makes it tempting to regard Indian bands as exotic curios, especially when they feature Indian musical and ethnic motifs in their music. Dhwesha do both, but they’re no disposable novelty — this young death metal act is off to an impressive start on their debut LP, Sthoopa. Aside from a lot of ‘Eastern’-sounding modal melodies, their music is as straight-ahead as death metal gets; imagine a mid-paced European DM band like Bolt Thrower worshipping at the altar of an altogether different war god and you’ve pretty much got the picture. In the absence of flash, Dhwesha get the job done with a naturalistic production and riffs for days. “Kapala Haara” alone has more fist-pumpers than a lot of death metal bands can summon over the course of a whole album, starting with the banger at 1:42 and only improving from there. This stuff is readymade to inspire 100-man circle pits at festivals. Paging MDF! [From Sthoopa, out 9/1 via Dunkelheit]Doug

04. Falls Of Rauros – “Waxen Voices”

Location: Portland, Maine
Subgenre: Atmospheric Black Metal

Some of the heavy hitters in the world of woodsy atmospheric black metal (Agalloch, Wolves In The Throne Room) are going to have to make room for a new oak in their forest. Falls Of Rauros, from the other Portland, were always really good, but with their upcoming LP, Believe In No Coming Shore, they’re officially great. “Waxen Voices,” one of many highlights on the record, is a monument. The huge-in-scope song is built on a black metal floor, but it’s loaded with contemplative acoustics, memorable leads, groove-rich riffs, and distant howls. True to theme, it sounds organic, and it seems to be weighted with the melancholic transience of nature. You’d be hard-pressed to find a nearly 11-minute song that’s as captivating from start to finish as “Waxen Voices.” Believe In No Coming Shore will be released soon, and will rear its head again, high, come year’s end. [From Believe In No Coming Shore, out “sometime soon” via Bindrune]Wyatt

03. Horrendous – “Nepenthe”

Location: Philadelphia
Genre: New Wave Of Progressive Old-School Swedish Death Metal

Someone should probably slap me over that genre tag, but I strive for accuracy above all else here in the Black Market, and it gets messy when old-school revivalists change things up and get weird. Horrendous first came to our attention as a crew of youngsters playing an especially melodic variant of Swedish death on their untouchable debut album The Chills. This time around, the arrangements swerve from A-grade Swedish riffs (a la Dismember) straight into dueling melodic thrash bridges (reminiscent of obscure ’80s thrash gods Vio-lence) and then even further afield, dabbling with the classic death-trap of clean vocals. In the past Horrendous have professed serious fandom for another clean-singing death metal band, Edge Of Sanity, so the point of origin jives with the end result, and fortunately for all involved, it works well. While the touchstones are obviously old, this newfound experimental sense of progression aligns Horrendous with a few otherwise unrelated bands like Tribulation and Morbus Chron, both of whom rule and are doing similar things with older forms of death metal. The existence of three likeminded bands seems sufficient to constitute a new subgenre, or a noteworthy trend at least, so I’m sticking with my NWOPOSSDM genre tag. “Nepenthe” is the most straightforward death metal track on Horrendous’ upcoming Ecdysis, which makes it an obvious single, but not the most representative of the album as a whole. It still rips, but it’s worth your time to dig deeper when this thing drops in October. [From Ecdysis, out 10/14 via Dark Descent]Aaron

02. Winterfylleth – “Whisper Of The Elements”

Location: England
Subgenre: Atmospheric Black Metal

Back in 2012, in a short review of the song “The Swart Raven,” I wrote, “I’ve never understood why Winterfylleth aren’t one of the biggest (or bigger, anyway) black metal bands in the world.” That sound bite turned up in the press materials for the band’s forthcoming LP, The Divination Of Antiquity, and while such sentiments have a tendency to curdle with time, in this case, I find it to be even more applicable than it was two years ago. Where once Winterfylleth operated in the (admittedly long) shadows of bands like Agalloch and Wolves In The Throne Room, they’re now functioning on the highest possible level. The Divination Of Antiquity may be the best black metal album of 2014. “Whisper Of The Elements” is its first single, and it’s nothing short of triumphant. Winterfylleth have scaled back the folk elements that defined the band’s previous work, not eliminating them, but integrating them in subtler ways, leading to an altogether more enthralling result. You can still hear them in the band’s clear and abundant use of melody, especially in the choral section that comes at the song’s incredible climax. In a statement about the song, Winterfylleth frontman Chris Naughton said, “This is the first time we’ve ever sung choral vocals over a blast beat section and done extreme vocals at the same time. I think it makes for a spine-tingling experience if you listen closely.” I sincerely could not agree more. It’s an amazing moment, and it may not even be the best song on the band’s new album. [From The Divination Of Antiquity, out 10/7 via Candlelight]Michael

01. Yob – “Marrow”

Location: Portland, Oregon
Subgenre: Doom

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about the new album from Oregon doom trio Yob, Clearing The Path To Ascend, and rather than repost my entire review here, I’ll leave you with the two sentences that matter:

“Yob are the best doom band in the world today, and Clearing The Path To Ascend is the best doom album you’ll hear this year. It is, quite possibly, the best metal album you’ll hear this year, maybe the best album of the year, period.”

There are a couple qualifiers in there, which I offered for the benefit of the reader. I won’t hedge here, though: Right now, Clearing The Path To Ascend is my favorite album of 2014. For me, its only real competition is At The Gates’ At War With Reality, and that’s at least partly because the mere existence of At War With Reality feels somewhat miraculous. Clearing The Path To Ascend arrives with no such Homeric backstory, though; it is simply a gigantic fucking masterpiece that has spent more time on my headphones this year than anything else, maybe more than everything else combined (again, leaving aside At The Gates). We could have chosen any of Clearing The Path To Ascend’s tracks for inclusion in this column, and any of them would have topped this list. I decided, finally, to go with the album’s closer, “Marrow.” It’s doom by way of post-rock by way of power ballad. It starts with a hard undertow, and when you’re dragged out far enough, it drowns you in chiming guitars and naked emotions, which build and amplify and start to sound like something else altogether: Neil Young fronting Jesu backed by a gospel choir; Spiritualized jamming with Tony Iommi on some 4AD-era Red House Painters songs. It’s possibly the single best song released this year, the apex of what right now appears to be (IMO, anyway) the single best album released this year. [From Clearing The Path To Ascend, out 9/2 via Neurot]Michael

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