מזמור [Mizmor] – Yodh

This album is like porn in musical form to me. It’s got the perfect combination of aggressive, somber, evil, and reflective content that I crave in every album I listen to but never get. They combine their influences near perfectly (although I can’t really agree that i hear drone metal in this), and the only reason this doesn’t get a higher score is that they didn’t do anything “extra” to really wow me. This is still an absolutely amazing album, if anything because they managed to make an hour long album not feel long in the slightest. Track 3 is a masterpiece. If you like blackened doom at all, this is a MUST listen.


9.25/10

https://mizmor.bandcamp.com/

Plasmodium – Entheognosis

God, where the fuck do I even begin with this thing? Yeah, a thing, I wouldn’t really call this an album. This is more like 60 minutes of a complete deconstruction and reconstruction of extreme metal into pure textural form. This is 60 minutes of me loving the absolute fuck out of guitar feedback wank for the first time in my life. This is just 60 minutes of pure fuck. That’s it, it’s just fuck, I can’t really think of how else to describe it. This psychedelic, noisy, bewildering, oppressive, evil, crushing, zooming, absolutely mind boggling 60 minute fuck-a-thon 3000. This thing, Plasmodium’s Entheognosis, is something I can safely say I have never heard the likes of in my entire reviewing career.

Sure, I’ve heard noise mixed with black metal before. Not much of it, but it’s there. When people think of noise and black metal, they instantly run to Gnaw Their Tongues. They think of edgy, disgusting, ear numbing and raw black metal that sounds like it came straight for the scariest horror film one could think of. Fuck I would say it SOUNDS like a horror film itself. If that’s what you’re expecting here, throw that out the window. This is something much worse than that. Not worse in that it’s got more edgy cover art, or that it’s louder, or that it has more spooky industrial black ambient parts to it. It’s scarier in a different way. There’s something much more terrifying about music that is horrifying without trying to be horrifying. That the band in question isn’t trying to make their music as scary as possible, it’s just that terrifying in it’s natural state. That’s what we have here.

The most complete way in which I could possibly describe Entheognosis is a 60 minute, 4 track album consisting of psychedelic, noisy avant-garde black metal, that often obscures riffs all together for the sake of just shrieking textures on the guitar. That absolutely does not do this music justice, but it’ll have to do for now. It sounds as if Plasmodium took the aspect of raw aggression in extreme metal and broke that down, than reanimated it without paying head to any sort of musical conceptions of what extreme metal is supposed to sound like. So like post-metal, except actually creative. This is post-extreme metal in the most extreme way possible. Sure you’ll hear vague influences from black, death, and doom metal (black metal like vocals, death/thrash drumming, slow, doomy bass guitars), but if you’re focusing on that, you’re missing the point of the music. Instead you get these, fuck not even journeys, just explorations in texture and what it means to have aggression and evil in music. If that sounds massively pretentious, trust me, it isn’t. I would put this on full blast if it was. The album sounds so genuine, which is all the more impressive considering how grand and far out the concept is.

This is an extremely difficult review because I genuinely have no background to go by. I simply haven’t heard anything remotely close to this before, and I’m 99.999% sure whoever is reading this hasn’t either. If this band had a wider audience, this could be a revolutionary work. But you could say that about a lot of bandcamp bands. Albums like this are the best part of being a reviewer. It’s finding spectacular records that nobody else gave a chance. It’s finding that one speck of gold in the entire Colorado River. This has been a shit year for black metal, with none of the popular records blowing me away, and the obscure finds not doing much for me either. I can definitely say that this record is my black metal AOTY so far, which is a major relief to someone who loves the genre so much. Though calling this black metal is like calling a Schoenberg prelude a song. You’re technically right, but completely fucking missing the point. For as weary as the concept of this album can get (the length is a bit much and the ideas don’t always support it anyway), I kept having the thought that maybe the point of this record wasn’t to have structured variety. Maybe this isn’t a record that’s meant to be analyzed like any other album. Maybe I shouldn’t be trying to find faults in every bit that’s made. Perhaps this is simply something that’s meant to be experienced. Something in which you just get lost in the textures and ideas, not trying to figure out if they’ve been repeated. Nah who am I kidding, that would take letting go of what I already know. And even though some blessed bands are able to do that, I’m going to sit here staring in awe, still trying to find a reason to subtract points on an imaginary scoring system like the complete simpleton I am.


9.5/10

Inter Arma – Paradise Gallows

I really, really love atmospheric sludge metal. Even though I don’t have a massive amount of experience with it, it’s definitely in my top 5 metal genres, maybe top 3 when done well. I also really, really hate post-metal. Now this is a bit of a strange opinion, as the general consensus is that post-metal and atmospheric sludge metal mean essentially the same thing. I would argue however, that they absolutely do not. In my mind, atmospheric sludge metal is something more in the vain of Neurosis. Sludge metal that uses atmosphere and older post-rock elements to create massive, momentous atmospheres, and often utilize other genres while still keeping very much in the realm of sludge metal. Post-metal on the other hand, is essentially just really heavy 3rd wave post-rock. Now, despite my distaste for one and like for the other, this is not to say that all atmospheric sludge metal acts are amazing, and all post-metal acts are steaming piles of cat vomit and old condoms, mixed together with the same 3 types of chord progressions over and over again. However I will say that when a band really takes what atmospheric sludge metal means to me at heart, it’s something I can greatly appreciate.

I love creative music, music that pushes boundaries. I also like metal, which is only known for being very creative in a more modern sense. Most of the old out there bands did that by a bit of an accident (or so it seemed that way much of the time). When they did, they became cult classics (i.e, Written in Waters, Nespithe, Drawing Down the Moon, etc.). Inter Arma is a modern band, with a modern sense of how atmospheric sludge metal should work, however they maintain that bit of creativity and stay at least somewhat true to the foundations that Neurosis laid upon the world. In such they create an epic adventure of an album, filled with variety in emotional expression, and one that I certainly won’t forget any time soon.

That being said, I do feel like the album doesn’t really “start” until track 4. The intro is pretty much an afterthought, and to me seems honestly a bit pointless, especially since it doesn’t have much in common with the rest of the album. Tracks 2 and 3 are basically the same track, stated in slightly different ways. That’s not to say they’re bad, quite the opposite. The first introduction you get to the album are these brutal, sludgy atmospheres, which are done well here. However I can hear that on any old album. Lots of bands do really awesome, super heavy, doomy sludge metal, even atmo sludge bands. What makes this album special is what comes after.

Primordial Wound takes a new angle, moving away from sludge and into straight up doom metal. It’s a hypnotic, almost ritual like track, which is backed up by the distant, ancient sounding ritual vocals, almost like some kind of Gregorian chant. This is the first demonstration of how Inter Arma can change styles from track to track without sounding schizophrenic. And they prove me correct in the next two tracks which I think are the highlights of the album.

The Summer Drones and Potomac are the two shortest tracks on the album sans the intro, but both are the biggest statements that Paradise Gallows makes. Summer Drones is structured almost like a modern Swans track, starting off with some low-key, yet ominous bass riff that evolves into these soaring, driving guitars that keep droning their riffs louder and louder until you can’t take it anymore. Then they keep going anyway. It climaxes in a way that doesn’t give a resolution, so it feels like you just took at that pounding for no reason, and yet despite feeling no sanctification, you enjoyed every moment of it. There’s a sexual joke in there somewhere, but I feel like there’s no way I could make without sounding overly explicit, even for me. Use your imagination. Anyway, it segues into Potomac, which, in a bizarre yet not unwelcome turn of events, is this epic, heavy metal-esque ballad that puts the entire album on it’s head. God fucking damn, that main riff is going to be stuck in my head for a while, that’s legendary shit right there. If you were tasked with creating the most epic and memorable sludge metal track possible, you would be hard pressed to do better than this. I feel like it’s the best track on the album, which is no disrespect to the rest of the tracks (except maybe the intro). This just feels like something I haven’t heard much before, if ever. You don’t typically hear riffs that sound like they came from if Seventh Son of a Seventh Son was released in 2010 in a sludge metal album. And now that I heard it, I fucking want more, which sucks, because there’s no way to google “heavy metal riffs in sludge metal albums” and find good results. I tried, fucking Godflesh came up. It kinda sucks now, because this band has set a president of shit I want that I can never find by any other way than sheer luck.

And by sheer luck (or stupidity, probably stupidity) Potomac managed to end the worst possible fashion possible. It’s a fucking fade out. Like what the mother fuck? I was actually thinking to myself “you know, if this does anything but fade out, this is gonna be one of my tracks of the year”, AND IT FUCKING FADES OUT LIKE ARE YOU SHITTING ME? This is literally KD going to the Warriors, nigga chose the one solution out of every conceivable solution that no one wanted, how do you fuck up that bad? KD could’ve literally hung up his cleats and joined the Westboro Baptist Church and everyone would’ve been like “ok KD, you do you man, you do you”. But no, he wanted to be the evil empire. This is the evil empire of track endings. Ok yeah, maybe as an album closer that would’ve been ok, but fuck there’s still 3 more tracks to go, jesus. If there is one actual fault of this album, it’s the transitions. The track transitions are in these awkward states where they flow from one to the other, but not directly. So like one track will end, then fade out slightly and there new track will begin. It makes it seem like the tracks are trying to be related to each other, but they really aren’t in any way. It’s not really terrible, just really awkward.

The final 3 tracks aren’t quite as good as the two middle ones, but still of high quality, as expected. The title track continues on the theme of Potomac, while giving it a much more sludgy vibe, and trading epic solo material with more questioning, and sometimes even a bit bluesy sludge riffs. It leads right into Violent Constellations, which as the title implies, is pretty fucking violent. It harkens back much towards the earlier tracks, however nothing is held back as it acts as a rhythmic assault on the ears. This track is also where the black metal influences are the most pronounced, in both guitar tone and blast beats. I feel like the black metal aspects are played up a bit too much by other people, but I will agree that they are there. It’s probably a good thing they aren’t a played up, I feel like there’s just enough to keep things spicy without detracting from the fact that this is a sludge album. Kinda like a cherry on top, except people would actually eat it. If someone actually eats the cherry on top, don’t trust them, that’s the kind of dude who’s going to say yes to absolutely everything and his computer will crash because he clicked on too many popups that said “CONGRATULATIONS, YOU WON!!!!” and “WHY THE FUCK WOULD YOU PAY FOR DICK PILLS??!!”. As a closer, I feel like it would’ve been fine, definitely better than what actually closed the album.

In a way, aside from the intro and outro, the album kind of goes full circle. Starts off raw, gets more progressive towards the middle, then ends really raw. I would’ve like that as a possible intentional detail if tracks 2-8 had been the whole album. Unfortunately this is not the case. The final track, Where the Earth Meets the Sky, is essentially a whimper, focusing on acoustic (this actually said “autistic” for like 10 minutes until I realized what I wrote, wow) guitar and the promise of an epic secret track. Full disclosure: I fucking HATE secret tracks. Hate, hate, hate, hate, hate them. There has never been a good secret track in the history of music. They’re supposed to be rewards for those who stayed around after the credits so to speak, and instead act as ways to mock the listener, saying “Haha holy shit, you actually just sat through 20 minutes of silence for this? What a fucking loser! What would your mom think of you if she saw you now? Hey, let’s take his lunch money…” etc. This album is no different. After 5:30 of actual music, you get 20 minutes of silence until your finally greeted with basically that shit you get that takes like 20 minutes to actually get out of your asshole, and then when it is it’s like the size of a quarter. You’re massively disappointed and you feel like nature itself just conspired to rip you the fuck off.

That said, aside from the transitions between tracks, none of the negative things I said about this album are really faults, just disappointments that prevented it from being better than it already was. I can shit talk that fade all I want, but let’s be real, it’s a fade that literally lasted like 10 seconds of the 70 minute album. As whole, this is absolutely my sludge metal AOTY so far, and I’m really curious to see what tops this, both in terms of heaviness, and sheer creativity in atmosphere.


9/10

Vektor – Terminal Redux

Believe the fucking hype. With Terminal Redux, Vektor didn’t just aim for the sky, they didn’t just aim for the moon, they aimed for fucking pluto and then zoomed past it into the next galaxy. The actual concept isn’t unheard of, plenty of bands have tried to make space adventure concept albums. However few if any have ever executed that concept as well as Vektor did here, especially in a genre so traditionally limiting like Thrash Metal. And in the process of succeeding where few have before, they created an all time classic that will be played, discussed, and thoroughly enjoyed for generations to come.

But you don’t get there by just doing what others have done previously, and in this case not even what Vektor themselves have done previously. This album is more entrenched in black metal than any of their other records before, the harsh vocals especially being almost purely black metal in style. Actually calling this black thrash wouldn’t be too much of a stretch on most tracks. However that’s not why this album is amazing. It is a reason I feel it differs itself from others, especially in that it combines such a sinister sub genre with an extremely technical and progressive leaning, but not why it’s the top of the ticket for this years list of AOTYs. What really sets this apart is in it’s comparison to other albums released as concept albums (or just albums in general really).

Concept albums tend to have the massive bother of being A. too long, and B. Not having enough content to be that long. If there’s anything any music listener knows, it’s that music artists tend to have a hard time making their music match their vision, especially with albums with large concepts, and ESPECIALLY in metal. Usually that’s a result of a lack of talent, but even talented artists fail at this simply because no matter how gifted you are, making 70+ minutes of music that’s not only consistent, and not only diverse, but ALSO centered entirely around a theme or story is just fucking hard. Many artists get some of those aspects right (and by some i mean almost always just one), but god damn is it almost impossible to get the triple play. And even albums that do get all three right typically suffer from being too tame, or playing it way too safe in a way that their album is a technical success, but feels underwhelming. It’s why I’m so quick to bash concept albums, it’s not that i hate them, it’s that executing them to the level of which I regard as acceptable is almost impossible. I feel like if you’re going to set the bar as high as possible, you have to reach that bar, fair or not.

Now it goes without saying that I feel like Vektor wins on all sides of the triangle of my arbitrary standards for concept albums. Sans some slight hiccups which I’ll get to a bit later, Terminal Redux is astoundingly consistent, with every track feeling unique and worth listening to. Even the one “filler” track on the album feels like it wasn’t wasted, as it leads perfectly into the track following. And not only is every track a hit, but every track sounds like it’s own being. I have to comment on how melodically diverse this album is, because that is a major rarity among metal albums, especially in fucking thrash metal of all things. I honestly believe every track but the 1 minute lead up track could be released as a single, which holds some truth, because 3 of them actually were. Normally something like that would be a sign of a band who has sold out, but not, 3 of the 10 tracks are singles because they’re all just so fucking good by themselves, let alone together. The best example of this I think are the final too tracks, Collapse and Recharging the Void. When I first heard Collapse, all I could think of is “wow, this would’ve made a fanatic closer”, and could taste that juicy 13:37, leet disappointment of a finale. I’m cynical as fuck, if I see a long track finale, and the shorter track before hand would make a great closer, even before I hear the final track I’m going to assume the band fucked up. But no, not only is Recharging the Void just as good as Collapse, it’s even BETTER as a closing statement. I would even go so far as to say it’s the perfect way for them to close this album, I really don’t think they could’ve pulled it of better. And that leads me into the most unique aspect of Terminal Redux, and what really separates this from the crowd.

The biggest problem with concept albums is that no matter how good the music is, if the lyrics can’t be heard, the concept is often lost upon people, because it’s really hard to tell a story via just music without either making it really obvious, or the listener knowing the story before hand from an external source. Vektor manages not just to masterfully tell a full story with music, but they make you feel the story as well. This albums feels like a blockbuster movie. A gripping, 73 minute, action packed, science fiction thriller that if made into moving pictures would probably be nominated for uh, idunno, probably a Golden Globe, the Oscars don’t really like nerd shit. Very few albums this long have the ability to make me just sit there listening to it without doing anything else, and being totally entertained at the same time. Charging the Void and Cygnus Terminal make me envision the hopeful start to a heroes journey throughout the cosmos. LCD to Pillars of Sand show me the action filled, perilous trials of the hero, enunciated on by the sinister and tense riffs. And finally we have Collapse and Recharging the Void, the triumphant victory of the heroes, shown by the proud and euphoric chords, and powerful noisy atmosphere. One small thing that I absolutely love is how Charging the Void and Recharging the void end with exactly the same riff, which implies to me that these heroes are not done, and that after a well earned victory, they continue to set sail for adventure. The album is at it’s best when it’s at it’s combining it’s harsh reality of peril and death with it’s ever ending optimism, when it combines both the positive and the negative, the major and the minor. It’s so refreshing to find a concept record that not only focuses on doom and peril, but the joy and idealism of an adventurous spirit. Plus it sounds pretty, what’s not to like about that?

Terminal Redux is one of those albums that we may not fully appreciate until 5-10 years down the road. We see it simply as one of the best metal albums this year, but further down the line, I can see this easily being not only a 2010s classic, but a thrash metal classic, period. Hell I wouldn’t be surprised to see this on some top 100 metal albums ever lists after the dust settles.

Are there flaws with this album, of course. I feel that tracks 6 and 7 feel just a tad bit too similar to each other, and one of them could’ve been taken off for the benefit of the album. Other than that, I can’t complain much. Could I spend an hour digging through the album to find flaws, you bet I could. I’m an asshole at heart, and if there’s anything more fun than praising an album, it’s taking a giant shit on it. But what the fuck would be the point? Nothing is perfect, and anyone who uses that as an excuse to not give something a perfect score is a massive memelord who should be ignored at all costs. Terminal Redux is not the greatest metal album of all time, nor is it perfect, nor is it worth the endless amounts of shitposting and memes it spawned. But if you even bother focusing on that fact, and not take time to just appreciate the album for what it is, you’re missing one hell of a ride.


10/10

Deviant Process – Paroxysm

Jesus christ there are so actual moments of genius composition here. Everything is thoughtfully done and logical, and while the entire album isn’t mind blowing (but consistently good), there are enough amazingly mind blowing moments that I have to put this in AOTY contention. Every tech death fan needs to hear this, ASAP.


9.25/10

Droids Attack – Sci-Fi or Die

How the fuck do you make an album with riffs so damn perfect, a a cover art that incredible, an atmosphere so monolithic yet groovy at the same time, and STILL manage to have a band name that lame? Droids Attack? That sounds like a line from The Phantom Menace, which I’m assuming is not something they want to be associated with considering their album title. Still, this is the best pure stoner album I’ve heard since Welcome to Sky Valley. Absolutely fantastic work, gonna be hard to top this in the same genre.


9/10

Ivar Bjørnson & Einar Selvik’s Skuggsjá – Skuggsjá: A Piece for Mind & Mirror

It’s really not fair. Folk metal isn’t exactly my favorite genre but I absolutely have a massive bias to really authentic sounding folk metal. This doesn’t give me any sort of eargasm that i look for in the 9/10 ratings, but it’s just god damn solid and well made all around, as well as taking a concept and executing it to the highest degree possible, that I can’t not give this that score. This is some of the most well thought out, least cheesy folk metal I have ever heard. A must listen.


9/10