Phantom Winter – Sundown Pleasures

I really like the direction the band has gone with this album. Their last record was much more on the heavy sludge side, with some atmo sludge elements, and here they go much more on the atmo sludge side, with very heavy sludge elements. I really enjoy the sort of soaring, climactic approach to a dirty, heavy sludge album. Songs like The Darkest Clan embody this more than anything, giving a sort of grander scale to the album, rather than staying close at home with the heavy sludge riffs. The album just feels larger this way, and the experience is much more unique than if they had just played loud and proud.

Hence why the first track is so inexplicably mediocre. Phantom Winter introduces the album by playing this noisy, chaotic sludge track, that tries to masquerade as atmo sludge. The doesn’t work, and makes the fact that the entire rest of the album doesn’t follow this trend all the more confusing, especially considering the consistent quality of the other 5 tracks. I think all Phantom Winter needs to do is give their 110% for a full album, and maybe up the time to around 45 minutes rather then 40, and they’re be approaching the 9/10 category. Really enjoyed this, some of the best atmo sludge this year.


Eneferens – The Inward Cold

Supremely beautiful. This is one of the rare times where elements of romanticized blackgaze helps the music rather than ruins it. The floating beauty of the blackgaze riffs is grounded by the harsh vocaled doom metal (not quite death doom). It’s like natural beauty being thrown to the ground by crushing reality. It’s a great mix that I was very skeptical of, but it’s pulled off well here. This is way too damn short, but what you do get is a unique bit of atmo black from an area not known for any kind of extreme metal at all (Montana). Awesome work, hope this solo project produces more.


Carnifex – Slow Death

Legitimately one of the darkest and heaviest deathcore albums I’ve ever heard, and also probably the best. I went into this with every expectation that it would be trash, and I was proven drastically wrong. It’s one of those things that takes some getting used to in order to really appreciate, as when you first hear a breakdown you immediately react to it as being trash. Only when you open your mind do you realize that the breakdowns here are actually really fucking good and ADD to the atmosphere of the album. The muted, down-tuned guitars actually make sense, and the black metal tremolo riffs just add onto how dark this fucking album is (at least for deathcore). In terms of being the most sinister deathcore album ever, I’d say it lives up to the hype, and then some. It’s still deathcore, so it comes with its own issues, but I would highly recommend this to anyone who believes that all deathcore albums are made equal.



Wormed – Krighsu

If a group of cybernetically enhanced space worms from across the universe lusted to conquer other life forms lower them themselves, took their kooky spaceship to planet earth, got here, started fucking shit up hardcore, raping the women and children with penises half their size, burning everything down with space lazers, and eventually leave the planet a desolated wasteland. But in the rubble they find, of all things, a suffocation album. And they listen to it via telekinetic worm-jitsu and are blown away. Then they look into each others wratlygles and speak to each other through their assholes “You know what, fuck the conquering thing, let’s make music”. This is the album they would make.


Däng – Mönstrum Ex Machina ALBUM REVIEW

Man I actually can’t remember the last time I reviewed a trad doom album in one of these lists, if I’ve ever done that. It’s nice to hear, I’ve always liked trad doom, even though it’s a relatively dead genre now. And it’s especially good when a band not only plays a lesser known genre, but plays it damn well. Or should I say, “Däng” well. Däng produces a fantastic trad doom epic about the greek monsters of the underworld. The vocals are top notch, giving a more laid back aspect to the music to contrast the heavy tone of the guitars. The guitars synchronize perfectly with the production to create a wonderful atmosphere that’s simultaneously deep and heavy, but relaxed and a bit lazy. The whole album is very subdued while still maintaining a form of epicness. Every time I hear the vocalist sing about the fact that the Hydra’s gon getcha, I feel like while it is a bit cheesy, I can’t help but smile and feel happy that it’s happening. Mönstrum Ex Machina gives a fantastically somber, yet appropriately silly experience that I don’t think I’ve heard before.

And it’s not just the atmosphere. While the elements of ambient sections and story building mini skits help build the ambiance of the album, the actual guitar playing is no slouch either. The soloing is absolutely on point, being of the technical, yet not really shredding variety. It’s very reminiscent of old 70s rock soloing, bringing a sense of nostalgia to the record. Beyond nostalgia just being an inherent aesthetic to trad doom, it makes Mönstrum feel like an album aged with wisdom, as if all of these stories are the tales of an experienced traveler, warning the listener of the horrors of hell. Everything is really summoned up in the final track Minotaur, with the band pulling all the stops to make an epic track, full of great riffage and solos that really sounds like the band was putting their best foot forward, the final warning to those who wish to enter the underworld.

This isn’t the most known album out there (far from it), but I hope that these guys get some attention, because they’re doing a pretty damn unique thing in making really heavy, yet nostalgic and laid back traditional doom metal. And who the hell doesn’t want to hear doom meal about the Cerberus?


My Dying Bride – Feel the Misery ALBUM REVIEW

My original experience with My Dying Bride was not a good one. I felt like they overdid it on the gothic aspect, creating something cheesy rather than dark and beautiful. In their latest record, Bride rejects their roots somewhat and goes with a much more straightforward, and down to earth sound that baths you in a sea of despair, engulfing you in unrelenting melancholy and sadness. The sound is quite clean, but it never feels plastic, as I’d describe it more as modern and forward thinking. Listening to the album, you wouldn’t think it would be made at any time other than the present, however the mood transcends dates and years. The lyrics are a bit on the obvious side, but in my mind that’s part of the charm. Fell the Misery is upfront about what it’s about and how it wants you to feel, and what’s amazing is that Bride managed to do this without alienating the listener. I feel like when an album is too upfront about its intentions it leaves all the mystery out of it. I like to make my own interpretations of music and how I want to feel about it, I don’t need the band to tell me what to feel. However hear I don’t think it matters. The intent of the music on this album is to have its content accessible, universally understood, yet lovable all the same, which is succeeded in scores. I feel like just about anyone could listen to this, no matter what their background, and instantly understand, yet nothing here feels dumbed down, rather to put it simply, this is all around good shit.

I feel like the death vocals are completely unnecessary and ruin the mood a bit however. I know that’s a part of My Dying Bride’s sound, but I’ve never been married to that aspect of the band. It’s not that vocals of intense pain can’t coincide with soft depressive music, but I don’t think the death vocals are utilized enough to be a constant force, and utilized just a bit too much to be a special treat. I feel like if Bride had been on the latter side, it would’ve made more of an impact on me, while still keeping part of their traditional sound.

Gothic metal is a hard act for me to be pleased by, but My Dying Bride, against my previous notions of what they were, managed to do just that. Feel the Misery really makes you quite literally FEEL the misery, pronouncing itself as one of the better doom metal albums this year, if at the cost of the listeners hearts sinking into their stomach a few dozen times.


Grave – Out of Respect for the Dead ALBUM REVIEW

I love me some heavy death metal. I mean death metal that borders on doom without being so, going at a sludge-worthy pace that drags your soul down to the depths of the underworld, only to revamp back up and beat your face in with speed. Fortunately for me, Out of Respect for the Dead has this is spades, boasting some unparalleled pure death metal energy that I’ve only seen mimicked a few times this year. Through use of guttural down tuned guitars and otherwordly, hypnotic riffs, Grave delivers an experience worth listening to for anyone who has a remote interest in death metal.

And as I mentioned in the beginning, it really does start with how heavy this is. The majority of the record is quite slow, but never quite reaches the snail pace of death doom metal. The riffs feel plodding without being boring, and are balanced out by the technical runs and solos throughout the album. When listening to this I feel a sense of almost psychedelia in the way the riffs interact with the listener. A lot of that is due to the technique they use of letting the chords hang for a bit, using the natural reverb of the guitar to create the atmosphere. It’s damn effective, adding a bit of a surreal element to the music not as often found in standard death metal.

Further contributing to this sense of unique atmosphere is how nonsensical the solos are. They’re more guitar effect shows than they are proper solos, with more whines and pedal effects than actual melody. Normally I’d probably look at that as a bad thing, but in this circumstance Grave manages to make it work. I feel like the solos are concentrations of energy, trying to get as many notes and ideas out there as possible, acting as a great contrast the the relatively sluggish pace of the rest of the album. It’s like someone who has been trapped in a prison cell and chained to the wall, forced to play nothing but methodical and slow riffs, finally gets just a few seconds to do whatever the fuck they want, and uses the time to unleash all of that pent up energy they’ve been saving for all this time. It’s really evocative imagery when you think about it that way.

Though I have mentioned the riffs quite a lot, I would not really call this a riff based album. The riffs are there, but more in a supplemental way to the guitar effects. I guess one of the faults here is in the fact that for the most part, the riffs are relatively mediocre as stand alone motifs. Without the context of the music around them, they would be nothing. However what Grave does so well in Out of Respect is use timely riffs. They use the times where they don’t have average riffs when they need it most typically at climaxes to tracks. The track Deified is a fantastic example of this, using one great riff and repeating it over and over again at the right now, drilling it into your skull for maximum effect. It feels like I’m having the most wonderful trepanning season possible, with no regrets.

However the regrets I do have are mostly in the way of this album’s length. 48 minutes isn’t typically considered too long, but in an album with as little true variation as this, once it got to around track 8 I was looking at the final 9 minute monster with more of an unwilling glare than an excited one. And to my disappointment, there really isn’t anything justifying it being double the length of most of the other tracks. I think simply gutting that last track entirely would’ve greatly improved my experience, as I got to the point of being satisfied with my death metal meal just about right before it. Though even then, like I said earlier, the fact that the riffs generally aren’t that amazing as a whole, while making it so much sweeter when they are, leads to an experience where I felt I was waiting for a large part of the album. Simply waiting for the next “good part” and enduring the pleasant, but somewhat unremarkable filling that gets in the way of the meat.

Still, Out of Respect for the Dead delivers one of the best pure death metal experiences of the year, being simultaneously unique in approach, and containing all the familiar aspects that one comes to love with good old death metal. Anyone looking for a record that does what you want in a death metal album, and then a little extra, could do much much worse than Grave’s new work.


Fluisteraars – Luwte ALBUM REVIEW

I’ve been trying to get back into reviewing more little known albums, as I think the most fun I have as a reviewer is finding fantastic albums that nobody else has given a fair chance. I found my probable AOTY that way, and in Luwte I found one of the best atmospheric black metal albums of the year. While it’s ratings are sparse and mostly low, I hope that that changes after I give it the ‘ol seal of approval.

This album does two things in particular really fucking well; it utilizes unexpected and unconventional chords, and creates a wonderfully dark, depressing, and slow forming atmosphere. Not unlike Beethoven (did you ever think someone would use Beethoven as a comparison in an atmo black review?) Fluisteraars plugs in super strange chords into their progressions, which creates a sense of awe and mystery, while also keeping you interested in the long and drawn out tracks. The best example of this is one the first track “De Laaste Verademin”. The chord progression over the final section of the track reads as D major, Bb 7 (Bb, D, F, A), F #5 (F, A, C#), A major, then back to D major. It’s basically an extended I – V progression, but what’s filled in between is completely off the wall. Neither of those two chords in the middle have anything remotely to do with D major. And yet they sound great. They sound mysterious, unique, questioning. It’s amazing how adding just two chords can completely change the entire landscape of your piece, at least to me anyway. But I’m the music major, I’m supposed to jerk off to that kind of stuff. Even for someone who doesn’t study music I’m sure that you’ll understand what I’m talking about by listening to this, as these kinds of techniques transcend knowledge and go directly into your soul.

Soulful would be a great way to describe Luwte, in that it feels good to listen to. The slow, mind numbing progression of ideas is both extremely relaxing and a bit meditative. However it is also this albums biggest flaw. While I do get that this is supposed to be a very droney record, I feel like it feels a bit too repetitive at times. Ideas really tend to stay longer than they should, especially on the third track, the 15 minute long “Stille Wateran”. It feels like one idea lasts about 6 minutes, which is a bad thing no matter how comforting it is to listen to, or how good the idea is. I’d even call it boring to some extent. It’s one of those albums that you feel “done” with about 2/3rds of the way through.

However this does not take away from what is a hypnotizing and mesmeric record that ranks among one of the best of it’s subgenre this year. I feel like maybe I’m docking it too much for being slow, but I don’t quite feel comfortable giving it a higher rating. It’s still a great album. More people just need to give this a fair chance.


Gruesome – Savage Land ALBUM REVIEW

You know, I was going to do a full on review for this album, but I figured that the entire album can be summed up by quoting some of the lyrics from the first track, “Savage Land”

Savage land of brutal gore
Never should have been explored
As your limbs they carve and hack
You know you’re never coming back
Savage land, where you will die
Never understanding why
Headhunter sharpens his knife
Drawing near to take your fucking life
Their ways, best left undisturbed
Your tortured cries, will go unheard

Absolutely wonderful