The Black Market: The Month In Metal – January 2017

Arno Frericks

The Black Market: The Month In Metal – January 2017

Arno Frericks

Welcome to the first installment of the Black Market’s fifth year in operation. It has been a privilege to work on this column for these past years, and we’re very excited to cover an outstanding year for underground and extreme metal of all sorts.

That said, writing about blastbeats and growling frankly feels like a misuse of energy at this particular moment. History may come to view January of 2017 as a major turning point in history, a crucial period in a vast geopolitical rupture; even if not, the global community is essentially holding its breath and hitting “refresh” on its newsfeed as it awaits new rounds of disruptions to a world order that most regarded as historically inevitable at this time last year. This state of affairs is rightly taking up all of our attention — we all have higher matters than riffs to attend to, regardless of where we live.

But for the time being, everyday life goes on, even as the stormclouds gather overhead. We gotta keep the lights on here, so riffs are indeed the order of business for us right now. Before we get to this month’s crop — which is extra stacked, since we considered music released in December as well as in January — it’s worth taking a second to consider what role, if any, heavy metal will play in the coming imbroglio. Given the circumstances, I’ll keep it brief.

The answer to this question is unclear, in large part because metal is so deeply heterodox. On one hand, it has a long history as explicitly antiestablishment protest music, but on the other, it is frequently apolitical, and sometimes outright reactionary. (There is a metal subgenre that consists of literal Nazis. There’s also Slayer frontman and noted Catholic advocate for Satanism Tom Araya, gleefully telling the internet how funny he thinks the prospect of Mike Pence “turning fruits into vegetables” is.) Debates about the specific sociopolitical valence of metal writ large are basically irresolvable, because the genre’s breadth and depth make it a Rorschach blot. It is exactly as partisan, exactly as socially engaged, exactly as interested in the real world as you want it to be. Virtually any assertion about this aspect of metal culture can be supported with a rich array of examples, because it’s just gone in virtually every possible direction on the sociopolitical map over the past 45 years.

But in my experience, there is a unifying emotional drive that undergirds virtually all metal. The mood: contrarianism.

There’s a reason that metal has been a premiere genre among society’s most recalcitrant demographics for so long, alongside punk rock and hip-hop. (First and foremost among these demographics: teenagers.) From the most id-trawling sex’n’violence riff sleaze to the most aspirational and highfalutin avant-garde fare, metal constantly defines itself by rejection, opposition, and antagonistic up-yours-ing. Even when metal celebrates the good times, it’s usually pissing someone off in the process, as Tipper Gore can attest. You could plausibly argue that metal wouldn’t exist if there were no status quo to push back against. Whatever their pace, there’s a common feature to all its rhythms: a voice chanting, “No. No. No. We’re not like you. We don’t want what you want. We won’t do things the way you do them.” In the absence of other clear-cut universal features, this gut-level disdain for the way things are ranks among metal’s defining traits.

We are facing dark times. Enduring them will require a great deal of resilience, energy, and perseverance. It is my hope that the fiery spirit of dissent and individualism enshrined in the best metal will serve to lift people’s hearts as they grapple with the calamities ahead. It has certainly served that function for me, so perhaps I’m projecting right now. If that’s the case, I can live with it. We all rely on useful fictions to stay sane sometimes. And maybe this notion — that this music, which has so enriched my life over the years and has given me resolve during many difficult personal moments, might do the same for others during the unique trials the world now faces — is one such fiction.

But that’s the nice thing about Rorschach blots; they can be whatever you want them to be, even as they’re other things to other people. I don’t mean that in a “post-factual” way — it’s a genuine feature of complex cultural spaces. I want metal to be a pulse of gut-level hostility towards bastards in power. If you wanna see something else in it, then that’s your prerogative, and by the same token, you can go screw if you don’t like my version. But if you’re still reading at this point, chances are good that these songs will help to light a fire in your belly, as they have for us.

On that note, one more programming update before we get to the good stuff: Stereogum Managing Editor Michael Nelson will no longer be contributing to the Black Market, something he discussed in the essay at the top of our last installment. The other members of the classic TBM crew are all here and accounted for, though: Wyatt Marshall, Ian Chainey, Aaron Lariviere, and myself. Our sincere thanks to you guys for reading and making this column possible for so long. And with that, let’s shred. –Doug Moore

15. Crurifragium – “Stigmata Excruciation”

Location: Seattle, WA
Subgenre: black/death metal

We’ve covered some left-field shit over the years, no question, but few so mindless and undeserving of your time as Crurifragium, which is precisely why I need this record so much right now — its lack of purpose and general unpleasantness fit these horrible times like a bloody glove. When reason fails, embrace the absurd. Go ahead: Try and pronounce the band’s name. CRURIFRAGIUM. I say it “crew-ruh-fray-jee-um,” but I’m probably wrong and it doesn’t matter. Nothing matters anymore. God is dead and gone, rotting in an imaginary grave, because he’s a fucking fairy tale to begin with. America will join him soon as the country turns on itself, the animating spirit that’s held this nation together for centuries becoming less and less real until it winks out of existence and memory. Our time here will be as meaningless as this idiotic record, with its Satanic Thundercats album art and total lack of riffs and musicality. But back to the nihilism: Once America fully self-immolates, the rest of the world will squabble over our ashes, ideally killing itself in the process, putting an end to religion, sports, music, and Reddit, and that’ll be the end of that. Good riddance. You’re still here? Then join me and listen to this thing — clearly none of us have anything better to do as we wait for sweet release. Is this black metal? Death metal? Does it matter? Crurifragium are the antithesis of real music — no real riffs, just noisy slop formed into something resembling war metal, the way the burgers at McDonald’s were once animals capable of thought and feeling, now reduced to gray disks of dead flesh. I find myself thinking of similar non-bands like Abruptum, but this is at least vaguely held together by clattering drums and gibberish vocals ranting about flayed angels, all aswirl in a chaotic miasma of incompetent playing, then mixed terribly for maximum headaches. Listening brings me peace. [From Beasts Of The Temple Of Satan, out now on Invictus Productions.]Aaron Lariviere

14. Pissed On – “Enter The Void”

Location: Kentucky
Subgenre: death/grind

Ah, what a difference a couple years make. Pissed On — not to be confused with the Australian punk band or the 10,000 kompromat jokes that streamed through your mind — are a Kentuckian duo that was doing straight-ahead powerviolence back on a 2015 demo. Fast-forward to the forthcoming The Hanged Man and they’re blasting out weighty miniatures reminiscent of the fusion of grind, death metal, core, and violence that was all up in Willowtip’s early roster. Change is good. So, now that Pissed On are interested in dissonance, moshers like “Enter The Void” bruise in a variety of ways, packing a ton of punches into minute-long run times. The vocals alternate between screeching and guttural, the riffs pinging between thumping sledgehammers and garbage disposals eating tinfoil. The variety is key. The hefty production by Weekend Nachos’ Andy Nelson sure doesn’t hurt, either. And there’s something of a concept here, too, showing that Pissed On have a deep enough well of creativity to continue evolving into something weirder and wonderful. [From The Hanged Man, out 3/17 via Advocate Records.]Ian Chainey

13. Turia – “Waterzucht”

Subgenre: atmospheric black metal
Location: Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Turia’s “Waterzucht is a thing of beauty — a stylish, mournful, and gray song built for isolation in desolate vistas. The first half of the track centers on a relaxed groove that nods to the American west and bleeds resignation; the latter, after a disorienting interlude that somehow both dispels and builds tension, explodes in anguished glory. The approach here is a straightforward one, devoid of over-embellishment, and in its simplicity it achieves a cool, powerful elegance. The three-piece, from the Netherlands, is taking black metal in a refreshing direction, one that neither betrays its origins nor falls back on de rigeur techniques. The result is awesome. [From Dede Kondre, out now via Altare Productions and Haeresis Noviomagi.]Wyatt Marshall

12. The Ominous Circle – “Poison Fumes”

Location: Porto, Portugal
Subgenre: death metal

Metal makes for a strongly visual experience, by music standards — all that lurid cover art! — and listening to it certainly fires up the inner eye. In the case of the Ominous Circle: Envision sticky, reeking black tar being blasted with great force through a system of intricate sewer pipes. Listed as Portuguese, the Ominous Circle do the Midnight/Mgla-style faceless biker guy costume thing, and could theoretically be from anywhere. (Remember noted “Chinese” black metal act Ghost Bath?) They’re certainly students of death metal’s American school, especially Morbid Angel and Incantation, though their closest contemporary peer is probably Greece’s Dead Congregation. Their music advances with a liquid lurch that has become exceedingly popular in recent years, but it’s usually rendered in sloptastic lo-fi fashion. By contrast, the Ominous Circle deliver it with stern precision and a pressurized modern recording that capitalizes on the band’s tightness and syrupy instrumental tones. Those features wouldn’t make them especially interesting on their own, but the Ominous Circle also have some of those pesky intangibles at their disposal. First, an understanding of their style’s strengths: This kind of shit really goes off when it’s slooooow, and Appalling Ascension delivers lurch after satisfying lurch. Second, a keen sense of melody. “Poison Fumes” culminates with a grandiose, shredding solo section that sets off all the chromatic stomping perfectly. This is one veteran-sounding debut album, which makes me wonder whether there are any familiar faces behind the masks. [From Appalling Ascension, out now via 20 Buck Spin.]Doug Moore

11. Apostate Viaticum – “In The Shadow Of The Monolith”

Location: Ireland
Subgenre: black/death metal

If Invictus Productions has a thing, it’s brutish blackened death metal. No surprise then that Ireland’s Apostate Viaticum are a good fit. The quartet’s full-length debut, Before The Gates Of Gomorrah, is made up of the stuff that would ring your washer if you soaked death metal, black metal, and death/doom overnight. The secretions of bass buzzes, vomitus guitar squelches, all kinds of begrimed tones: that kind of filth. The label namechecks Diocletian, which is accurate, but imagine an escaped Immolation song joining a pack of caveman riffs and then regressing back to its primal state while out in the wild. It’s a by-the-throat sort of simplicity and immediacy. Just listen to “In The Shadow Of The Monolith”‘s pounding, blocky rhythms. That eff-it, just-wanna-hit-something performance gives the track a feeling of instability, like the entire thing could go Tacoma Narrows at any second. This held-together-only-by-exuberance construction just sort of works, a joie de mort that resonates because hearing people excited by the power of metal is second-hand exciting. Viaticum’s greatest decision, though, is choosing a big-ass production. The bass hums, guitars roar, growls rip through the mix. Unlike similar albums that sound like someone welding in a hangar, your neighbors will definitely hear all of Gomorrah. [From Before The Gates Of Gomorrah, out 2/13 via Invictus Productions.]Ian Chainey

10. Gratzug – “Meyster Der Ewigkeit”

Subgenre: atmospheric black metal
Location: Bavaria, Germany

The one-man band Gratzug’s “Meyster Der Ewigkeit” strikes a delicate, unusual, and awesome balance, and the result is understated and effortlessly moving. Though the song slides between mid and slower tempos, and is often decidedly melancholy, it predominantly rocks, driven by constantly trilling hooky guitars blasting forth somewhat simplistic earworm melodies. Front-and-center energetic and ethereal eliding rasps somehow deliver a level of passion few practitioners of the style achieve, and for good portions of “Meyster,” at the end of each bar an organ sings a high note like some sort of victory siren. The end result is something both low-key and epic, the kind of song that arrives as if from the past, classic in its approach and execution, and reliant on deeper truths than sonic fireworks to achieve memorable excellence. [From V: Meyster, out now on Hammerbund.]Wyatt Marshall

9. Hymn – “Spectre”

Location: Oslo, Norway
Subgenre: sludge/doom metal

Together, sludge and doom metal make up one of the underground metal scene’s most popular niches, but also one of its most frequently derided. It’s easy to see why — it’s a fashionable field and the technical barriers to playing it are pretty low as long as you can afford to buy a big honkin’ amp, so it produces a lot of incredibly uninspired bands. (Having done some touring, I can personally confirm that there is at least one bad sludge band in every fucking town in America.) But there’s also a reason it’s so popular, and that’s because proper execution can make it one of the most intensely satisfying aural experiences to be had in rock music. Enter Hymn, who exemplify just how gobsmackingly awesome this stuff can be even without deviating very far from the style’s basics. In this case, the closest soundalike touchstone is Yob, but Hymn do away with much of that band’s fuzzy psychedelia and wistful vocal melody in favor of a merciless riff drubbing that gets quite brutal at times. As with most good stuff in this vein, the production is key — guitarist Ole Rokseth, whose name sounds like a brand of moonshine, lays about with an absolutely epic-scale tone that still retains tightness and clarity when his picking gets more insistent. It’s a sound that you can get lost inside of, and with 45 minutes of titanic swinging grooves on deck, Hymn’s LP debut Perish offers plenty of opportunity to do so. [From Perish, out 2/17 via Svart Records.]Doug Moore

8. Lunar Shadow – “Hadrian Carrying Stones”

Location: Germany
Subgenre: epic heavy metal

This is metal of old, reborn for a new age — songs of half-forgotten battles and glories long past, retold in the dying light of a dwindling fire. Lunar Shadow are a young band — I have no idea how young, but their promo pic makes them look like teenagers — but they’ve long since mastered the secrets of making near-perfect traditional metal: strong songs outweigh all else, sharp hooks matter more than wankery, and dueling guitars and killer vocals definitely don’t hurt. It also doesn’t hurt to sound a lot like early Iron Maiden. Singer Alex Vornam has a bit of that punkish rogue quality that makes the classic Paul Di’Anno records hold up so well, but his songwriting counterpart, guitarist Max “Savage” Birnbaum, also gives him incredibly strong material to work with, aiming for “timeless” and “anthemic” and coming up roses more often than not. The songs are generally long and winding, reminiscent of fellow epic traditionalists Atlantean Kodex and Dark Forest, but the arrangements themselves are a bit more complex, interwoven with folk-inflected acoustic passages deliberately meant to recall Jester Race-era In Flames, which is Birnbaum’s favorite record ever. (A worthy choice). For traditional metal in a modern age, it doesn’t get much better. [From Far From Light, out 3/10 via Cruz Del Sur.]Aaron Lariviere

7. Krallice – “Transformation Chronicles”

Location: Queens, NY
Subgenre: black metal

Is Krallice’s Prelapsarian the first great metal album of the Trump presidency? Although released a month before DJT’s inauguration, with songs such as “Hate Power” brewing years earlier, the NYC quartet’s sixth full-length seems to fit the times better at the end of each passing day. But recognize that this is more of a “feel” thing, something that won’t necessarily land for a lot of listeners who get a different sort of succor from music. To a few, tracks like “Conflagration,” stacked with progressions that hang unresolved with Wagner-ian menace, will be a window to the times, matching the modern era of Surkov-ian dissonance. Where other new albums galvanize with their message of resistance, their music can still sound pat; complacent to be consonant. Not a knock: Those records can be a kick in the ass, but they don’t have that underlying motion sickness and discord that is caught in the throat and ears of the world’s people, no matter which side’s ideology they wrap themselves in like a marathoner’s thermal blanket. Prelapsarian, though, just feels of this moment, even if Krallice continue to sound like little else. And that latter part needs to be emphasized. Like K. Austin Collins said about Moonlight, maybe we should focus on the art of Prelapsarian for a little bit longer, giving it “a chance to be,” before putting it behind the protective glass of importance. The art, after all, is as great and engaging as ever. Crown jewel “Transformation Chronicles” leads things off, mixing Ygg huur’s punky angularity with the horizon-painting scope of older Krallice epics. But, it’s different, too. Where Ygg made some think of death metal, “Chronicles” is more, say, trad-based, as if bits of Maiden glint from time to time like sun hitting shards of glass in the street. However, true to Krallice’s idiosyncratic vision, that’s just one element of many sitting inside the same song. It’s songs all the way down, really. The great production (check out how that one note during the section kicking off at 1:46 seems to bounce around your headphones) and great composition (the way the vocals eventually orbit that note) give Krallice the power and depth to entertain a multitude of ideas at once. But these ideas don’t necessarily all spill out at once. Different days and listening environments — half listening at work, playing it in a space with added reverb, etc. — expose new things, the mark of a record that can grow with you. In a sense, that means if can also soak up a lot of the things you want to project upon it. So maybe it’s too early to say what Prelapsarian really is, but, as other releases inevitably date themselves, it’s one you’ll want to keep checking in on. [From Prelapsarian, out now via the band.]Ian Chainey

6. Tchornobog – “II Hallucinatory Black Breath Of Possession (Mountain-Eye Amalgamation)”

Subgenre: death/black metal
Location: Ukraine/America

The first thing Markov Soroka told me about his new one-man project Tchornobog was that the forthcoming debut LP was seven years in the making. Now, he may take all aspects of his work seriously, but damn, that’s a long time. One aspect of his musical projects where he may focus a bit more energy than others is in conceptualization — Tchornobog, Soroka says, “is a result of heavy meditation in a desert landscape from the perspective of a vessel mountain which harbors a nest for the Mind’s Eye to be imprisoned….The purpose of the project was for myself to assume the body as an empathetic creature to understand both the Self and the attempts to find meaning in the world.”* Weird things can happen in the desert, and Tchornobog is one awesome sonic incarnation of whatever the hell Soroka saw out there. “II Hallucinatory Black Breath Of Possession (Mountain-Eye Amalgamation)” is a muscular death/black metal maelstrom that whips with frenetic energy to the point of bewilderment — I was going to describe it as “sensory overload” until I realized that Soroka’s description of the Tchonorbog project utilizes the words. The song finds traction around its mid-point, seizing on an intimidating militant beat. Later, hypnotizing plucked guitars take the wheel for a time, until Sorkoa lays on the gas, speeding and spiraling downward into some subterranean world until we arrive at the center. [From Tchornobog, out February 2017 on Fallen Empire Records, Invictus Productions, and Dark Descent Records.]Wyatt Marshall

*(Also see Soroka’s other fantastic project, Aureole, which focuses in almost unusual detail on the tale of a haunted uninhabited citadel floating through space.)

5. Unearthly Trance – “Dream State Arsenal”

Location: New York, NY
Subgenre: sludge/doom metal

During the mid-to-late ’00s, Unearthly Trance became one of the best members of a class of phenomenal New York City heavy bands that also included the likes of Krallice, Tombs, Made Out Of Babies, and Castevet. A sludge-leaning doom band, they evinced all of the low-end firepower and dragging tempos common to the style, but their defining trait was their remarkable songwriting — frontman Ryan Lipynsky has the melancholy melodic instincts of a singer-songwriter to go with his Matt Pike-esque solo chops, and capitalized on them with some of the most memorable doom songwriting of the past decade-plus. But for whatever reason, Unearthly Trance never caught on quite the way many of their peers did, and the band called it quits after five LPs in 2012. Fortunately, they thought better of the move last year and reformed — which makes sense, as all three members continued playing together with outside help in Serpentine Path, and Lipynsky more or less continued pursuing the signature UT sound after the band’s demise in Force & Fire. But these guys are best in power-trio configuration, and Stalking The Ghost marks an excellent return to their fighting form. “Dream State Arsenal” makes a succinct case for their charms, featuring a characteristically galumphing main riff, a soul-searing chorus, and a haunting coda that ties the whole thing together perfectly. [From Stalking The Ghost, out 2/24 via Relapse Records.]Doug Moore

4. Kairon; IRSE! – “Sinister Waters II”

Subgenre: psych / progressive metal

Finland’s Kairon; IRSE! play a sort of psych/prog fusion that would make Bob Harrishappy. That’s not Black Market material, you say? Well, the second track on Ruination, “Sinister Waters II,” sweeps up the stardust after a synth-y interstellar overture by a revealing a riff that’s pretty darn crunchy. Think the feel of Gentle Giant’s “Wreck” or, perhaps more accurately, the heavier parts of King Crimson’s Red. (You could even say Kawabata Makoto if you were daring enough to shoot for those heavy bona fides, but your nose would grow.) For the rest of the running time, “Waters II”‘s structure should be somewhat familiar, with the quartet alternating between counterpoint-y, autumnal verse sections and exhilarating red-line feedback and fuzz. To close, a space rock crescendo pays everything off while earning some extra miles. So, throwback psych/prog, eh? We done here? Nope, not even close. Let’s open another can of worms. If you liked this, here are a couple questions: Why does this work better than whatever Opeth is currently doing? Why does K;I! sound alive when other retro-minded, present-day proto metallers are totally DOA? Second question first: It’s because K;I! is sneaky. They’re not really ’70s retro. Yeah, you may have already picked up on it. That “it” is a binding dark matter that doesn’t come out of hiding until Ruination’s third track. The gorgeous “Llullaillaco” is like a blown-dry My Bloody Valentine b-side, complete with an outro knitted together by tens of layered synths lines. It’s then that all of this clicks together. The quiet/loud structures, the fuzzy blur of guitars, the underlying propulsiveness: this is as much shoegaze as prog, each style working cohesively to compliment the other. Ruination is Swervedriver and Caravan, Whipped Cream and Wigwam. It’s a record that could only be made now, because the late 2010s are a perfect vantage point to see what ’70s and ’90s innovations are still intriguing. K;I! let time do the sifting for them, in other words. This type of voice-finding is more in line with how bands like Anketdoten and Änglagård were able to define themselves: taking what they liked from the old guard, an act of self-identification through sorting in itself, and then letting their modern impulses point them towards new places. Those who are slaves to a sound or try to retcon their old, established style can’t really pull that off; in the case of the latter, because attempting to get your known voice to play nice with something else requires compromise and sacrificing what made you “you” in the first place. In the end, both of those strawman examples sound clumsy, old, tired. K;I!, though? Vital. By finding itself, the heavy weight of hyperbolic comparison doesn’t slip off its shoulders because Ruination isn’t imitation. That’s Black Market material. [From Ruination, out 2/3 via Svart Records.]Ian Chainey

3. Ecferus – “Unveiled With Spears”

Location: Indiana
Subgenre: black metal

First things first: Palace Of Worms and Ecferus, two of the best one-man black metal bands going, have joined forces for a split LP, and you should buy it. Because of the track-focused format of this column, and because I unfairly neglected to write about Ecferus’ excellent 2016 LP, Pangaea, (not to mention the rest of his 2016 output: two additional EPs and a split with Jute Gyte), I’m choosing to highlight Ecferus in the header rather than Palace Of Worms. Rest assured, both bands fucking slay across these 27 minutes. Palace Of Worms dispense with the fragility of last year’s beautifully schizophrenic The Ladder LP in favor of a bludgeoning death metal approach owing more to Asphyx and Dismember than the usual black metal suspects, and it’s weirdly awesome. Ecferus takes a darker turn as well, focusing less on the cosmic atmospherics of Pangaea and leaning into more abrasive riffing, with a stronger emphasis on percussion and syncopated guitar interplay. For the unfamiliar, Ecferus generally fall into the same camp of cosmic one-man wunderkinds as Mare Cognitum and Spectral Lore (or even older, pre-industrial Blut Aus Nord), but the instrumentation (and the drumming in particular) is almost mechanistic in its precision, at times melodic and other times cold and atonal. “Unveiled With Spears” starts as a blasting exercise in that colder mode before it lurches into a minefield of percussive tom rolls and the melodies start to unfurl like tattered flags. It’s densely constructed and tensely wrought, and it’s one of the best black metal tracks I’ve heard this year. [From Ecferus / Palace Of Worms, out now via Crown & Throne Ltd.]Aaron Lariviere

2. Pillorian – “A Stygian Pyre”

Subgenre: black metal
Location: Portland, OR

“A Stygian Pyre” is, fittingly, the first song to rise from Agalloch’s ashes, and while aspects of the song will certainly feel familiar to Agalloch fans, Pillorian are a different animal. The song pulses with dark energy, and from the gate it assumes a muscular posture. Runaway blasting is punctuated by sinister and brooding verses in which Haughm’s signature rasp features front and center, backed by delightfully articulate drumming or a behemoth low-end that lurches in lock-step. Those vocals seem a bit heftier, now, and bear a more aggressive, ravenous bite as part of what’s at times a thrashy assault. There’s violence here, but the evolution of the song is striking — from dour beginnings, a middle bridge opens up to pensive riffing and shifting tempos, as well as a poignant solo featuring a familiar singing guitar tone. Dark folk elements are never far off. Toward the end of the song, as it moves to an up-tempo outro, Haughm unleashes promising, and exciting context. [From Obsidian Arc out 3/10 via Eisenwald.]Wyatt Marshall

1. Dodecahedron – “Hexahedron – Tilling The Human Soil”

Location: Tilburg, The Netherlands
Subgenre: progressive black metal

Proggy, forward-thinking black metal is a pretty trendy field these days, which is much to the benefit of us all as listeners. Its basic weirdness can make it hard to parse for critics, though. Witness, for instance, the popular notion that Dodecahedron is a Deathspell Omega sound-alike. It’s an easy comparison to reach for. DSO is probably the highest-profile champion of black metal’s weird wing, and Dodecahedron shares some superficial similarities with them — oodles of dissonance, unconventional song structures, and a very high degree of technical proficiency. But that’s about where the similarities end. Dodecahedron’s vision has more in common with dystopian science fiction than with DSO’s gnostic Satanism. Their music bears a cold, mechanical sheen, communicating tonally by a crystalline high-gain production and structurally by an almost Meshuggah-like penchant for disorienting rhythmic loops and spacious, resonant grooves. Even more pronounced is Dodecahedron’s penchant for overt, borderline-bright melody — the substantial rhythmic convulsions that drive “Hexahedron – Tilling The Human Soil” can’t conceal its periodically hooky guitar work. On Kwintessens, their second LP, the band pulls off the sizable feat of incorporating both the seething complexity and the trippy melodicism into an extremely ambitious suite-style album structure that repeats key motifs throughout its 41-minute runtime. Given how many novel ideas the band packs into this tiny space, it’s easy to understand why it took Dodecahedron half a decade to put it together. Nightmarish, expansive, instantly memorable, and endlessly intricate, Kwintessens is an early lock for the 2017 class of elite metal records. It’s hard to communicate this band’s ability to mix the unsettling with the inviting on paper, so just listen. [From Kwintessens, out 3/17 via Season Of Mist.]Doug Moore

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