The Black Market

The Black Market: The Month In Metal – January 2015

Coming into the new year, the five guys who curate the Black Market — Ian Chainey, Aaron Lariviere, Wyatt Marshall, Doug Moore, and me — had a few long discussions on what we might do to improve this feature in 2015 (and beyond). We considered expanding its scope, increasing its frequency, changing its format and/or structure, and pretty much any other possible remodeling options that might make the Black Market better. I feel comfortable speaking for the team when I say this: We all love talking about metal — and we all talk about metal pretty much all the time — and we wanted to make sure that enthusiasm came across here. We wanted to make sure this space reflected not only our tastes, but our conversations: to accurately reflect us, but more importantly, to accurately reflect metal in the moment. This is not a genre that can be comprehensively covered by five people on a once-a-month basis, but we take that as a given. Truthfully, this is not a genre at all: It’s a galaxy of subgenres, and sub-subgenres, and microgenres. And to be comprehensive, you’d need a dozen people working 24-7. So our goal was merely to make the Black Market the best it could be given our constraints.

I won’t bore you with the details; I’ll just say that after a good amount of debate, we decided to more or less leave the column as-is. (For now, anyway.) Like democracy, it might not be perfect, but it’s the best system we’ve got at the moment. I’m telling you all this by way of addressing a few ways our inherent flaws (or, more generously, our quirks) specifically affect this month’s Black Market. As you might (or might not) realize, we haven’t done a “Month In Metal” roundup since November 2014; December’s Black Market was our list of the 50 Best Metal Albums Of 2014. As such, there was a lot of metal released in December 2014 that we never covered here. Rather than leave that music uncovered though, we decided to make December 2014 tracks eligible for inclusion in this month’s column. So, strictly speaking, this month’s list actually covers the past two months, as we made room for some outstanding December 2014 songs that simply couldn’t go unmentioned in this space.

As you also might (or might not) realize, our rules for eligibility are as follows: Once any song from an album is covered here, no more songs from that album will be considered for inclusion in future columns. In practice, that works like this: “Cesspits,” the first single from Napalm Death’s new Apex Predator – Easy Meat, was featured in November 2014’s Black Market. So even though Apex Predator came out yesterday — and even though it’s obviously one of the year’s best albums — it’s not in this month’s column. Also, because we did devote so much space to December 2014 songs here, we were forced to exclude some outstanding (and deserving) January 2015 songs — songs from Torche and Pyramids, for example — because we know those bands will release new music in February, too, and we’ll be able to feature them next month.

Like I said, it’s not perfect, but it’s the best way for us to do this right now.

One notable song not featured here is Liturgy’s “Quetzalcoatl.” That song is absent not because we wanted to hold off on Liturgy till February (necessarily), but because none of us really likes the song all that much. (As Aaron noted, it wasn’t even the best black metal song named “Quetzalcoatl” to be considered for inclusion in this month’s Black Market — that would be Volahn’s “Quetzalcoatl,” which also didn’t make the cut.) I hope this doesn’t need to be said, but I’ll say it anyway: We’re not ignoring Liturgy because they offend our supposedly touchy sensibilities — the idea that anyone here might imagine himself to be a “purist” would be considered pretty laughable by any real “purist” — but because none of the five of us voted for the song. It’s still worth listening to (which you can do here) and worth talking about (which you can do in the comments below). And who knows? Maybe by February, one or more of us will have changed our mind(s), and you’ll see Liturgy featured here after all.

But not this month. No, I’m afraid you won’t find a whole bunch of notable bands represented among the songs below — the aforementioned Napalm Death, Torche, Liturgy, etc. — but you will find an insane wealth of great, great metal. It’s probably the most stacked lineup of songs I’ve ever seen in this column. I want us to make the Black Market better and I believe it can be better, but I do not believe we could have compiled a better selection of music than this. But don’t take my word for it. Read/listen/tell us what you think.


15. IZAH – “Indefinite Instinct”

Location: Tilburg, Holland
Subgenre: Atmospheric Sludge

Sludge, by definition, is ugly music. Even at its most beautiful (e.g., Thou’s Heathen), it’s still bleak, tortured, gnarly stuff. Maybe, then, it’s best not to consider Dutch sextet IZAH a sludge band — even though they self-identify as a sludge band, and even though, in many respects, their music resembles traditional sludge: It grinds slowly, all rhythm and riff, building from crater to peak, with drums that sound like bombs detonating and vocals that sound like a fire-breathing giant threatening the residents of a woodland-adjacent Scandinavian village. But IZAH’s upcoming debut LP, Sistere, is far from ugly: It’s bright, soaring, anthemic. It’s really dextrous and really propulsive and really catchy. The album’s lead single, “Indefinite Instinct,” comes in at 13 and a half minutes long, but it doesn’t feel like a portentous quarter-hour; this thing moves — it goes to a few different places, and it encourages you to follow. And you will follow. So maybe it’s not sludge after all — but whatever it is instead? It’s really fucking good. [From Sistere, out 2/23 via Nordvis]Michael

14. Fulgora – “Meridian”

Location: St. Louis/Baltimore
Subgenre: Death/Grind

On a recent episode of NPR’s Invisibilia, reporter Lulu Miller spoke with a mechanical engineer studying a snake’s slither. Thanks to high-speed cameras and complex computations, he cracked the physics behind what many see as supernatural. Well, almost: ten percent of a snake’s propulsion remained unexplained. Which, guilty as charged, is a circuitous way of describing Fulgora’s power. You can transcribe these riffs, plot their influences, and even learn to play them yourself, but that will never convey their full impact. And cousins Adam Jarvis (drums) and John Jarvis (bass) — of, collectively, Pig Destroyer, Misery Index, and Agoraphobic Nosebleed — and B.L. LaMew (guitars, vocals) leave a heck of a mark. Doug likes to call this St. Louis/Baltimore trio the modern Righteous Pigs, and that accurately defines their fusion of death metal, grind, and metallic hardcore — a synthesis breeding out the common slam-a-thon for a hardier strain of vicious speed. If you imagine a Burnt By the Sun raised on old Earache or the band everyone wanted Ion Dissonance to be, you get the picture. But that’s not the whole picture because… jeeze, these riffs. Fulgora’s creations seem to undergo spontaneous mutations, changing depending how and when you hear them; an impossible cube rendered in musical form. The Jarvises toss their weight one way, LaMew another, and the total effect is indescribably electric. Trying to figure out the total amperage just hurts your brain, so you give over to eradicating curious cells with well-earned headbangs. After two previous singles, Fulgora is now five for five on released songs. Stratagem is set to add another six. May the formula remain a mystery. [From Stratagem, out 2/3 via Housecore Records]Ian

13. Nasty – “Shokka”

Location: La Calamine, Belgium
Subgenre: Metalcore

This song is a first: a Black Market entry that we chose based in large part on the accompanying music video. Not that Nasty’s music doesn’t deserve the nod. Every song on Shokka is a clinic in piledriving, mean-spirited metallic hardcore, unabashed in its reliance on breakdown after thundering breakdown. It’s direct music that bears no pretense and pulls no punches. The video, though, is like something out of a Hype Williams fever dream, or a club that Stefon would hang out at. After opening with some of the standard gangster tropes that hardcore bands are fond of these days, it whirls off into a mind-boggling visual vortex that includes:

— Dancers wearing exit bags

— A woman crammed in the trunk of a sports car

— A dorky-looking kid, waving guns and mouthing the lyrics

— Black lights

— Chartreuse and purple flashing lights

— Stock footage of geopolitical violence

— Belgian guys looking tuff

— A living statue of Justice giving Nasty’s vocalist a blowjob

— Money burning

— Money flying out of everything: the barrel of a gun; the vocalist’s dick; the plates of a scale; a body bag

— Glamour shots of fancy watches and jewelry

— Blood, often without any apparent source

— That little kid getting SHOT IN THE HEAD

— Neck tattoos

— An array of loose-fitting hats

What purpose could this tornado of absurd imagery be intended to serve? Is it an ironic critique of glorified violence? A send-up of hardcore bands that appropriate hip-hop iconography? A serious but garbled meditation on the penetrative power of capital? A sarcastic menagerie of red herrings? I doubt we’ll ever know for sure, but fortunately, such complex exegesis isn’t necessary for enjoying Nasty’s music. You only need to know one thing: THIS IS WHERE THE TERROR STARTS! [From Shokka, out 2/24 via Good Fight]Doug

12. Wounds – “One Womb”

Location: Ontario, Canada
Subgenre: Blackened Death Metal

It’s got to be tough to write a song that can keep a listener engaged for upwards of ten minutes, and it’s even tougher for a band coming out of nowhere, with no history of wins, to convince someone browsing Bandcamp to stick around to see what might be around the corner. Wounds stand out from the crowd on their debut album with compelling song structures that build, brood, and blast, and their EP opener, “One Womb,” serves notice right out the gate. This behemoth comes from Canada, and rather than navigating the often tedious and nebulous world of longwinded experimental black/doom/death, “One Womb” is built on a spine of rock-solid riffs. What starts off as mournful and despondent quickly becomes a banger and then heads off again into more contemplative territory. An artful touch makes all the difference as Wounds moves in and out of styles without shoving any of it down your throat. [From The Valley Of Death, out now via Wounds]Wyatt

11. Sarpanitum – “Glorification Upon The Powdered Bones Of The Sundered Dead”

Location: Birmingham, England
Subgenre: Death Metal

I don’t want to over-intellectualize what Sarpanitum is doing. A metal critic’s initial inclination is to dissect death metal to, uh, death to explain its awesomeness — to pry open the closed minds of strawmen — when the music is capable of doing that on its own. That’s not to say this Birmingham trio isn’t smart. In fact, they’re really smart, especially when it comes to this kind of Morbid Angel In Space! technical excellence. It’s just that your reaction to one of those divebomb riffs is less “Oh, that’s clever” and more “What the hell just happened?” And, as groups like Artificial Brain have shown, death metal always needs more “What the hell just happened?” The big WTHJH? moment in “Glorification Upon The Powdered Bones Of The Sundered Dead” pops in at 1:30. However, what came before sure isn’t lacking. Up to that point, Tom Hyde’s tone and playing, which must make synesthetes see two chrome bowling balls colliding together, paints raised-brows and grimaces across your mug. Drummer Leon Macey, also of the comparable and eternally underrated Mithras, shapes and shifts the music with his organic blasts and rolls that are somehow precise without the robotic tendencies of the replaced. And Tom Innocenti’s guttural sits smack in the middle, providing a rhythmic in-roads; an eye of the storm coaxing you to growl along. Then, 1:30: the Stargate opens. Ridiculous leads pour out, rendering Septic Flesh’s entire discography null in fifteen seconds. My god, it’s full of guitars. But don’t think Blessed Be My Brothers is a theory-nerd/audio-dork aural treatise on whether tech death can be crossed with Boston ear-candy. After the crescendo, Sarpanitum delivers satisfying lunchpail runs before retraining their gaze on the infinite possibilities above. Or, to hoover up that puddle of poetic vomit, just death effin’ metal. [From Blessed Be My Brothers, out 2/17 via Willowtip]Ian

10. Mastery – “V.A.L.I.S.V.E.S.S.E.L.”

Location: San Francisco
Subgenre: Progressive Black Metal

For a while during the ’00s, there was a lot of talk about a death metal “arms race”: a running extremity competition to see which band in the style could play fastest, gurgle lowest, use the most offensive cover art, and so forth. That competition has mercifully wrapped up, to the extent that it ever existed. But those who care to think of music in competitive terms could point to a new analog in the world of black metal. Some of its practitioners have shifted increasingly “outside,” in the jazz sense — from stalwarts like Mayhem and Abigor to comparative neophytes like Jute Gyte and Thantifaxath, black metal musicians are delving ever deeper into the musical language of the bafflement and wrongness. Despite the generic name and self-presentation, Mastery’s first full-length, VALIS, makes a powerful claim to its status as King Weird of Black Metal Mountain. Arriving after a long sequence of demos and splits, VALIS has the feel of an obsessed-over dissertation — 18-minute opener “V.A.L.I.S.V.E.S.S.E.L.” piles on a shitstorm of antagonistic anti-harmonies, whiplash transitions, and impenetrable structures that most shreddy death metal bands couldn’t manage even with years of preparation. The fact that Mastery is just one dude renders this insane technical feat that much less comprehensible to mere mortals. Mastery’s species of mindfuck gibberish is definitely my thing, but even I’m not really sure that this whirling mess of set-pieces and riffs (“over 100 per song!” says the presser) coheres in any meaningful sense. Still, the monumental ambition on display here — from the titular reference to Philip Dick’s incomplete opus on down — demands respect and attention. [From Valis out 2/17 via The Flenser]Doug

09. Crypt Sermon – “Out Of The Garden”

Location: Philadelphia, PA
Subgenre: Traditional Metal/Doom

Crypt Sermon, a Philadelphian outfit with links to Trenchrot, Hivelords, and Ashencult, proves there’s plenty of fresh juice left in the old school if a band is willing to do the squeezing. “Out Of The Garden,” the title track from Crypt Sermon’s debut LP, takes Epicus Doomicus Metallicus strides, shakes hands with TYR-era Black Sabbath, and even slides in Denner/Shermann-esque shredding. Needless to say, the band lands combinations metallers have shadowboxed for decades. But Crypt Sermon use trad and epic doom’s known quantities to their advantage. As a listener, you tend to lean in expecting “classic” resolutions, only to catch haymakers. For instance, though they’ll be tagged with the “slow and low,” the quintet, like their first-generation ancestors, is dynamic, offering more than one mood and mode. Guitarists Steven Jansson and James Lipezynski and bassist Will Mellor can swaddle you in feel-good distortion like a clear-eyed Pale Divine, though they’re more often found engaging in a busier, more agile interplay. Drummer Enrique Sagarnaga imprints the opening meter with a heavy Clydesdale stomp, only to swing and gallop throughout the rest of the song. And singer Brooks Wilson unleashes the kind of soaring singing you pray comes out of your throat before hitting the karaoke stage. OK, so that element isn’t different from the above-mentioned titans. Instead, it’s refreshingly convincing. And that’s no small thing considering the long history doom can draw upon. With every new band, doom undergoes an even more rigorous codification, calcifying acceptable interpretations. A lot of newer acts fail because they think there’s nothing left to do but imitate. Crypt Sermon? They’re pleasingly familiar, but not one to idle in the presence of idols. [From Out Of The Garden, out 2/24 via Dark Descent]Ian

08. Drowning The Light – “Below The Horizon He Stalks”

Location: Kiama, Australia
Subgenre: Black Metal

Drowning The Light fit in comfortably amongst the grimmest of the grim in black metal, but the reclusive yet prolific band is one of, if not the founder of the mournful, anthemic and gorgeous black metal sound that comes out of Australia (think Woods Of Desolation). A lot of older Drowning The Light material — and there is a ton of it, given all the splits and demos Azgorh and a rotating cast of characters have put out over the years — is buried behind a wall of lo-fi hiss and fuzz, giving it a murky and mysterious from-the-depths quality. “Below The Horizon He Stalks” steps out from behind that wall to shine a little light on rich harmonies in all their glory while revealing little more of the force behind the mystery. It’s a master class in this kind of metal, and the Summoning flourishes at the end wade confidently into memorable territory that a lesser band wouldn’t attempt, let alone pull off. [From From The Abyss, out February 2015 via Drowning The Light]Wyatt

07. Myrkur – “Skaði” (Demo)

Location: Denmark?
Subgenre: Atmospheric Black Metal

I’ve been told that Myrkur initially chose to conceal her identity because she hoped to keep focus on the music. That backfired badly: People were so consumed with the gambit that they couldn’t even hear the music. Eventually, wisely, she outed herself: Myrkur was (and is) Amalie Bruun, who also operates as half of the pretty-good indie-pop duo Ex Cops. Now that she’s out, she’s all the fucking way out — no more obfuscation, no more tepidness. The Myrkur EP was fairly ambitious for a self-recorded one-woman project, but Mykur’s upcoming debut LP openly, brazenly aspires to be a world-beater. And I’m not betting against it. Bruun is recording the first Myrkur album with producer Kristoffer “Garm” Rygg, aka the guy behind Ulver, and guitarist Morten “Teloch” Iversen, aka the guy behind Nindingr as well as the awesome last Mayhem record. Those are huge developments, especially the first one: The Myrkur EP borrowed heavily from the atmospheric black metal sound introduced to the world on Ulver’s 1994 stone-classic debut LP, Bergtatt (one of my favorite albums of all time) — a sound from which Garm has distanced himself substantially over the years, as he’s drifted increasingly toward avant-garde, prog, modern classical, and ambient. Will Myrkur bring Garm back to black metal? Will Garm bring Myrkur away from black metal and toward something more unusual? Impossible to say. Both possibilities sound interesting to me. I couldn’t be more excited to hear the results in any case. I’m hugely encouraged by “Skaði,” a demo of a song that will reportedly appear on the LP. As far as I can tell, Garm isn’t involved in this recording, which means (A) the pressure is on, dude, because this demo fucking slays and it’s up to you to make the final version better than this, and (B) when the record does arrive — and if it is as great as it hopes to be — no one on the outside can skeptically credit its success to Garm or Teloch, or try to undercut Bruun’s artistic voice, skill, or style. The evidence is right here, and it is undeniable. Even in its demo form, “Skaði” is Myrkur’s best song by a mile — it’s 10 times better than anything on her EP (and I liked her EP a lot) — and if her album were this good front to back, it would already be a world-beater. [“Skaði” (Demo) available now via Myrkur]Michael

06. Force & Fire – “Ordeals”

Location: Brooklyn, NY
Subgenre: Doom/Sludge

For a while there in the ’00s, Unearthly Trance were my favorite band out of New York. A grimy three-piece doom/sludge unit, UT occasionally tested the boundaries of their style, but mostly played within them — their forays into black metal and psychedelia always served the song. And what songs they were. UT’s technical feats were significant, but I’ll always remember them for their passionate, bizarrely hooky tunes. We’re talking High On Fire levels of rock ‘n’ roll catchiness, albeit evinced with a considerably broader set of musical tactics. Though the band broke up in 2012, all three members are still active. They still play together in the doom/death supergroup Serpentine Path (whom we’ve covered here before; guitarist and vocalist Ryan Lipynsky works in a host of projects, including upstart doom unit Humanless alongside fellow UT alum Jay Newman, along with black metallers the Howling Wind (also covered here). But the songwriting voice that animated Unearthly Trance’s best material laid dormant until Force & Fire emerged in late 2013. It’s all here: the blend of plodding sludge and up-tempo urgency; the tough but plaintive chord progressions; and, most happily for me, Lipynsky’s lyrical soloing, sans rhythm guitar track. Check out the rollicking power chord riff that crashes into place at 4:12 and the gloriously messy lead that follows. Here, in all its stridency and naked emotion, is Unearthly Trance’s spirit reborn. [From Disintegration Process, out now via Force & Fire]Doug

05. Blind Guardian – “Twilight Of The Gods”

Location: Germany
Subgenre: Power Metal

This is momentous. We rarely talk about power metal here at the Black Market, and we’ve never had the chance to talk about Blind Guardian before, which seems criminal. For the uninitiated, Blind Guardian are the reigning gods of power metal, conquering worlds and nerd-hearts across 30 years and 10 albums. Despite my usual predilections for much uglier music, I’m a massive fan — and so are a lot of people, apparently, as Blind Guardian regularly headline European festivals, and even hosted their own multi-day “Blind Guardian Fest” (immortalized on DVD forevermore). I’ve called them “the Beatles of Power Metal” repeatedly in conversation, but I’m usually met with blank stares, so I’m taking this opportunity to expound upon their overstuffed majesty. I could spend a month recounting classic Blind Guardian moments, but here are a handful of highlights — consider this a layman’s guide to greatness, in chronological order: Start with the pitch-perfect speed metal anthem, “Valhalla,” from their classic second album, Follow The Blind, featuring Helloween’s Kai Hansen on guest vocals; then my personal favorite of their epics, “Somewhere Far Beyond,” which ushered in the ridiculous thrill of fake choirs (and bagpipe solos); “Bright Eyes” remains one of the best songs power metal has ever produced, from 1995’s Imaginations From The Other Side; which contrasts nicely with the medieval madness of “Time Stands Still At The Iron Hill,” from a concept album drawn from (and, at times, literally reenacting J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth creation myth, The Silmarillion; then leap forward in time to the full symphonic overload of their last album, 2010’s At the Edge Of Time, with a 90-piece orchestra showcased to bombastic effect on “Sacred Worlds.” Which brings us to now. “Twilight Of The Gods” harks back to the proggish theatre of A Night At The Opera (their 2002 album intentionally named after the Queen album of the same name, because why not) — the guitars shred hard and fast, the production is ridiculous, and singer Hansi Kursch sounds like he’s singing with an army of 1000 — which is to say, this is classic Blind Guardian. [From Beyond The Red Mirror, out 2/9 via Nuclear Blast]Aaron

04. Mortuary Drape – “Immutable Witness”

Location: Italy
Subgenre: Occult/Horror/Traditional Black Metal

When people talk about cult (also: cvlt; also: kvlt) black metal, they are talking about Mortuary Drape. Maybe not directly, but the Italian band are the Platonic ideal. They make Darkthrone look like Iron Maiden by comparison. And Darkthrone would admit as much! Fenriz must be a HUGE Mortuary Drape fan! Mortuary Drape have been around since 1986 — the year Metallica released Master Of Puppets, Megadeth released Peace Sells…, Kreator released Pleasure To Kill (seriously, it was a GREAT year for metal) — and they’ve been making legit underground black metal since then … although in almost 30 years, they’ve only delivered five actual albums, with recording quality ranging from “This sounds like a demo — are you sure this isn’t a demo?” to “This doesn’t sound as bad as the other one.” The band members go by aliases like Diabolic Obsession and Maniac Of Sacrifice and Without Name … although so many people have played in Mortuary Drape by this point that it’s hard to figure out who played on what, or how a band with only five LPs to its name could have gone through seven drummers. Technically eight drummers, I guess: Mortuary Drape’s only consistent member — leader Wilderness Perversion (birth name: Walter Maini) — is the drummer on two of their five albums (further confusing the need for the other seven drummers). Mortuary Drape are as much a ghost story as a band, and by all accounts, they come to this place without any pretense or conceit: They’re not self-consciously evasive or oblique, they’re just inconsistent and remote and genuinely weird. They make grand, theatrical black metal, built around organs and tinny guitars and distant howls and ritualistic Satanism. (You can hear their influence prominently in the music made by NYC black metal band Negative Plane.) Mortuary Drape’s most recent album — their fifth album, Spiritual Independence — was released at the end of December 2014. This was TEN FULL YEARS after the band’s fourth album, 2004’s Buried In Time. And in typical Mortuary Drape fashion, it came from out of nowhere; it just … arrived, with absolutely no warning or celebration or reception. I’m not gonna say that’s a grievous error, because it’s not like the world fucked up by not recognizing this supposedly momentous occasion. It’s more like: Here’s a secret. You don’t have to care about this secret, you don’t even have to understand it. The world won’t end. But if you do care, if you do understand, then you know: Music isn’t always like this. Life isn’t always like this. We don’t have secrets anymore. There aren’t many ancient mysteries left, there aren’t many old gods. Here’s one. [From Spiritual Independence, out now via Iron Tyrant]Michael

03. Death Karma – “Slovakia – Journey Of The Soul”

Location: Prague, Czech Republic
Subgenre: Blackened Prog

There are artists who treat their concepts like hedge mazes. That doesn’t apply to the Cult of Fire-related Death Karma. You don’t need GPS to figure out the theme of The History Of Death & Burial Rituals Part I; the band have graciously spelled it out in the album and song titles. The duo’s debut LP, following a 2013 EP, rips away the euphemisms modern society has applied like band-aids to the process of dying. “Slovakia – Journey of the Soul” is even kinda literal, taking listeners, as promised, on a soul’s journey. Point A is a funeral dirge, Point B is a transcendent, new-age Iasos-ism. In between, the song floats through different planes. It rots as raw-throated, necrotic blackened death encased in Deep Purple organs. When we leave the corporeal, it’s ensorcelled by the same spell cast on early Emperor. It then crosses over into the thawing melodies of Edge Of Sanity’s Crimson before finally speeding toward the light. But, if you strip the concept away, it’s still a great song. Multi-instrumentalist Infernal Vlad’s compositional ambitiousness harkens back to black metal’s second-wave, when infinite possibilities ensured even the frostiest and most naive still smoldered. And drummer Tom Coroner reprises the role he filled on Lykathea Aflame’s Elvenefris, that of the sure-handed supplier of propulsion; though he plays here with a greater economy. Playing aside, the album’s fearlessness — musically and conceptually — is what makes it bracing. Some elements are less successful than others, but nothing is delivered timidly. These are feelings needing to be captured, right now, because tomorrow isn’t guaranteed. This is a mindset the West is trying to forget. After all, realizing there’s an end is scary, something that’s easier to plaster over with appointments and deadlines and sporting events and jokes and other things you just do that are of little consequence; the 21st century trump cards saving our eternal bid of blissful ignorance. Death Karma, though, strips away the artifice until the end is all there is. Then, as their cultural subjects have done for generations, they deal with it. [From The History Of Death & Burial Rituals Part 1, out 2/13 via Iron Bonehead]Ian

02. Ghost Bath – “Golden Number”

Location: Chongqing City, China
Subgenre: Atmospheric Black Metal

In our insular world of metal, Ghost Bath seems to be the breakout band of the year so far, thanks to “Golden Number.” It’s an anthemic, stupidly awesome, downright righteous track that serves as a clinic in crescendo building and delivers a series of successive “Yes!” moments that keep coming long after you think the song couldn’t possibly dig up any more. The big soaring glory of the whole thing is enough to propel the song up into the clouds, but the Megaman guitar solo that kicks in just before the 2-minute mark is when this song takes a turn for the truly legendary. It’s incredible, pulling together the best of bands like Woods Of Desolation (“Torn Beyond Reason,” with its unusual clarity, comes to mind) and, yes, Deafheaven, along with many others into a package stamped with its own brand. “Golden Number” rightfully lit up the metal-blog world when it landed — to the extent that within a few days the guy behind Ghost Bath had sold out of his personal copies of his previous album. An awesome rollout for any band, but Ghost Bath’s meteoric rise is all the more implausible given the project is a one-man black metal band from China. Not that there aren’t loads of killer Chinese metal bands (there are), but it’s pretty far out for our general purposes, and it’s no surprise the band was unearthed by the esteemed Pest Productions and was subsequently picked up by the stellar German label Northern Silence. It’s all well deserved, and the momentum behind “Golden Number” will keep Ghost Bath in the front of our minds until the album drops in a couple of months. Stay tuned — Ghost Bath have a lot more to give. [From Moonlover, out 3/17 via Northern Silence]Wyatt

01. Leviathan – “All Tongues Toward”

Location: Portland, OR
Subgenre: Progressive Black Metal

Listening to Leviathan in 2015, it’s strange to think that the American black metal scene was once regarded as something of a joke. This continent certainly lagged behind Europe and South America during the genre’s nascence in the ’80s and early ’90s; not until the very end of the 20th century did the US scene begin to produce significant innovations. Leviathan — which consists solely of Jef “Wrest” Whitehead — was among that creative awakening’s prime movers. Today, almost 20 years after Leviathan’s birth in 1998, US black metal has become one of the busiest and most productive biomes in the North American heavy music ecosystem, and Whitehead himself has become its foremost luminary. The road to the top has been both winding and rocky, and I recommend reading Michael’s extensive writeup of this song or this month’s Decibel cover story for a more complete picture of the history behind Scar Sighted’s release. But here we find ourselves in 2015: American black metal is in the midst of a multi-year explosion, and Wrest is releasing his sixth Leviathan full-length to the widespread acclaim his music has always deserved. If you’ve never heard any of Wrest’s work before, “All Tongues Toward” is as good a place to start as any. Threads from across the arc of his unique career converge here, weaving a complex veil of surreal textures, shapeshifting vocals, and achingly dissonant riffage. Wrest renders each of this song’s elaborate details with a mastery befitting of his long experience, and producer Billy Anderson — not known for his work with black metal bands — bestows those performances with the richest production Leviathan has enjoyed to date. It’s good to be the king. [From Scar Sighted, out 3/3 via Profound Lore]Doug