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/

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

Kurushimi – Kurushimi

You know that one scene in spongebob where Squidward goes to the hyper future where the universe is all white and there’s just lots of weird shit going on? Like it doesn’t really seem like hell, more like this abstract dimension he’s trapped in that’s seemingly mocking him for his behavior. Imagine being squidward here. You brag about your clarinet skills but everyone knows you’re ass at it, you’re an asshole to the more genuine person you know, and you have your head so far up your own butt you can smell your small intestine. And now through your own fuck ups, you’re stuck in a world that is the very extreme of all you stand for. One that seems like an ironic punishment straight out of dante’s inferno. Now imagine that, but there’s also a giant fucking demon chasing after you the entire time. That’s this album.


9.25/10

Chthe’ilist – Le dernier crépuscule ALBUM REVIEW

I’ve always heard these death metal albums that people describe as “cosmic” or “otherwordly” or of evoking some sort of science fiction motiff, and I’ve never really got it on any of those albums I tried. Le dernier crepuscule is the first album in which I actually GOT it. One which actually felt otherworldly and strange, as if from another planet. One which houses creatures from distant universes, intent of destroying all of mankind. And it all starts with those riffs.

God damn those fucking riffs. Sure, you could state the obvious and call them atonal, but that tells a mere fraction of the story. Atonal riffs is a staple of death metal. What makes these so special is how mechanical and alien like they are. They’re played jagged and almost robotic like, which just enough mathiness to it to feel jarring. But there’s this strange element of them that feel somewhat organic. Perhaps it’s the production, but I don’t get the feeling that I’m listening to robo riffs like in djent, but more riffs done by highly intelligent life from a distant galaxy/dimension. That this is music that is beyond our understanding, but not so much so that it feels divine. As if with enough evolution, we can come to understand this music. It’s alien, but not unfathomable.

Speaking of alien, how about those vocals huh? Yeah yeah, I know everyone is gonna comment about how they’re Nespithe 2.0, but I don’t quite see it that way. Nespithe’s vocals felt more like a demon from hell unleashing hymns of damnation and hatred onto the listening. These feel more creature like, again as if not from this world. Though I guess that depends on if you count hell as “part of this world”. But I really don’t think they’re what makes this album so special, despite the fact that they are unquestionably going to get the most attention.

What makes this album so special is its atmosphere. From samples of void creature noises, to the chaotic storm of noise that ends to album, to the fucking amazingly appropriate and strange seinfield bass on Voices From Beneath the Well (how they pulled that off I really don’t know), to slow, downtune of the guitars to end that same track, to the sporadic choir segments that travel from track to track, there are so many unique individuals moments and aspects of this album that bring together an atmosphere that’s both alien and palpable that is unlike anything I’ve ever heard. I haven’t even gotten to the solos, oh my god the solos. Technically proficient while also being dissonant, yet strangely pleasing to listen to, you could not have asked for a more perfect way to flesh out the main riffs of the track than what Chthe’ilist does.

A truly horrifyingly good album, Le dernier is a testament to how appropriate use of dissonance can create an entirely new kind of sound, unseen since Nespithe and Obscura. And it’s arguably better than both of those too.
EDIT: HOLY SHIT THEY PUT THIS REVIEW ON THEIR FACEBOOK PAGE. Major props to this band! And wow, I had no idea those monster “samples” were actual human vocals. That just makes this so much more awesome.


9.25/10

Gorod – A Maze of Recycled Creeds ALBUM REVIEW

Soft piano intros in metal albums are an almost universal sign of doom to come. It’s always the cheesy, neoclassical darkwave shit that totally kills the mood of almost any metal album that it touches. But there was something off here. Something I didn’t expect. Something that wasn’t quite right. There was this sense of subtle atonality with some jazzier undertones in the piano playing. I felt like I was at a cocktail party when the acid just starts kicking in. It was a bit unsettling, but I was still forcing myself to groan, making sure I was unphased by this stir and reacted in the way I normally would. Then the album hit.

After seeing a dark, black and white, foreboding album cover, looking like the ritual march towards the depth of hell, I was taken aback by the not so dark and gloomy music. Very much not like hell, instead I felt more as if I was in this limbo, constantly battling the darkness and the light through music. The music felt strangely upbeat, without actually being so. I didn’t quite realize why until… are they… no…. yeah. They’re using major chords in death metal. Who the hell does that? What kind of madman makes their death metal sound happy? Further who does that and makes it work? The fuck am I listening to? And why do I love it?

No, it wasn’t the fact that there was some jazz influences here that made me confused. It wasn’t the occasional use of deathcore chugging. It wasn’t even the multiple uses of blatant djent riffs. No, it was the fact that they used chords that made happy sounds and made it sound fantastic. Or rather, not happy. A Maze of Recycled Creeds has this sort of insanity to it in how not dark and depressing it sounds. The music is constantly moving, constantly going forward. The past is in the past, there’s no time to dwell on the sorrows of life, we need to get to the next riff. A lot of this is accomplished through, aside from the major chords, off-rhythm riffs. As mentioned before, there is a very blatant use of djent influences that I’m surprised I haven’t heard anyone else pick up on yet. What’s more, it avoids the common mistake that plagues the often ostracized genre, in that it doesn’t have that plastic, “poser” production. It doesn’t sound robotic, it sounds forward thinking. It sounds genius. It sounds insane.

I imagine the members of the band who created this music must live in some sort of other dimension, where everything is normal, except every angle is off by 1 degree. On paper that doesn’t sound like a big deal, but think of how much that would add up to lead to a totally chaotic and crazy world. Because that’s how I feel about this album. Gorod created something rich with beautiful, sweeping technical riffs, full of character and color. They created an album both simultaneously unsettling and moving. An album that let’s the instruments do the talking, and gives the humans a chance to take rest and let the ride carry them. This is an album both for those who are of serious and joyous disposition. An album for those who want technical shredding, and beautiful melody. But above all, it’s an album for those who are just a tad off. But only a tad.


9.25/10

Soilwork – The Ride Majestic ALBUM REVIEW

Despite it’s name, melodic death metal is rarely every very melodic, often relying on metalcore influenced chugging rather than actual consistent flow of melody. And ever when it does sound a bit melodic, it often more sounds like generic power metal with death vocals rather than anything resembling what one would assume melodic death metal should sound like. Soilwork is here to say “fuck what anyone else is doing, let’s do the genre right”. This isn’t the best album this year, but it’s probably the album I’ve been the happiest to hear. This really is some of the best melo death I’ve heard, though I do say that as someone who is not extremely experienced in the genre (mostly because I don’t like much of what the genre as to offer). This goes beyond stereotypical melo death by actually well, being melo death. The focus is completely on the melody, with the absence of any sort of distracting factors. However there is also a subtle complexity in the music, with occasional jazzy chords thrown in, and dynamic shifts that add appreciated some depth to the music. I wouldn’t call this progressive metal, but a musical equivalent of “just the tip” will do fine. Another tip The Ride Majestic dips itself in (or would it be onto?) is the metalcore world. The ever so slight amount of well done chugging and shift between clean and harsh vocals certainly brings that vibe, however it absolutely does not distract from the music in the slightest. If anything I feel like it softens up the record appropriately, as I feel that if this hit too hard, the melodic runs wouldn’t have as much of an impact. The title track is absolutely the pinnacle of this album, being an entire string of logical melodic contours, with nothing to distract the listener. It’s an amazing and pure example of melodic death metal, and it is honestly extremely refreshing to hear it now. The only flaw that I can really find in here is that it’s just amazing rather than being super amazing. I know that’s not going to win me any reviewing skills points but I really can’t put it any other way, it’s amazing but not the most amazing. Despite that, this is certainly one of the best records this year, and anyone who thinks traditional song structure in metal is dead needs to check this out.


9.25/10

Shepherd – Stereolithic Riffalocalypse ALBUM REVIEW

Some many artists fail to do good stoner doom. They’ll get the vocals right, but the instrumentation will be off. Or more commonly, they’ll get the instrumentation right, but nothing else about it has anything to do with stoner doom. I’ve seen stoner doom with death vocals before. It doesn’t work . In honesty, it isn’t a hard formula. Mostly clean vocals with some screaming for emphasis, sung as if the person is stoned and crying our their troubles in blues like fashion, and then instrumentals that are psychedelic, but dirty as you can be. But above all, the atmosphere has to be relaxed, relaxed, and more relaxed. A good stoner doom album is something that you can get totally lost in and lose your mind to, without putting any kind of extreme stress on you.

This album does all of that and more. The vocals, the instrumentation, the everything. And they make it dirty. The opening riff on track two, “Turdspeak”, is like the title implies, the musical equivalent of someone taking a shit. I mean that in a good way. Coupled with the far out pseudo-ambient track in the background, and it’s really the highlight of the album. Though really, the entire album is a highlight in itself, it’s really that good. To boot, these guys are from India of all places, far removed from any kind of prominent stoner culture. You wouldn’t know it by listening to this album. Definitely an AOTY contender, and at the very least, it’ll be really hard to top this for Stoner Doom AOTY.


9.25/10

Enslaved – In Times ALBUM REVIEW

During my initial listen of this album, I was immediately put off by the pretty boy like vocals during some of the tracks. I found the whole thing to be too pretty for black metal. Black metal should be raw and angry, not beautiful! But then, while I was listening to the fourth track, something clicked. I can’t explain it, but suddenly I got this album. Part of it was me going “you know, maybe instead of comparing it to what i think black metal should sound like, maybe I should just take it for what it is”. This IS pretty. This IS beautiful. But at the same time it still IS black metal. This album seamlessly combines grace and evil, prettiness and grotesque, other things across the opposite ends of the spectrum. Definitely one of the albums of the year.


9.25/10

Acherontas – Ma-Ion (Formulas of Reptilian Unification) ALBUM REVIEW

I’ve said this before, but I feel like I need to say this again because it’s so relevant here; great ambient sections are my biggest metal weakness. The actual music can be only ok, but if the ambient is great, I’m gonna give it a high score. That’s one of my biases and I recognize that. Every reviewer has stuff like that and I’m no exception, even though I try really hard to be fair. So keep that in mind when I review this album, because this album is only about 40% metal or so. To me, that’s not a bad thing, but I could see how others would think that’s a turnoff (which is probably responsible for this album’s low score on this site). However to me, as long as it’s infused into the metal and done well, it’s totally fine. And this album is more than totally fine. This has some of the best ambient sections, metal or not, that I’ve ever heard. And the best part is that it still has plenty of metal to keep the album going instead of just getting lost in ambiance.

Probably the single best thing about this album is something I always look for when reviewing works and that most bands always fail, and that’s coherently combining different influences together instead of just treating them as separate entities. Now, what Acherontas doesn’t do is literally put their tribal and ritual ambient sections and just put blast beats on them. That would be messy. What they do to make the transition seem seamless and have it not be jarring at all is really subtle, but important. In many of their ambient sections, they will use metal instruments as a part of the ambient section. So for instance, on “Shaman and the Waning Moon” (my favorite track on the album), despite it being a completely ambient track, the drums are used as part of the ambient, but not to make a beat. It’s hard to explain unless you hear it, but think of it like someone just kinda playing around with the sound of the drum rather than specifically playing with them, only it actually sounds good. There are also sections where the guitar is used in a similar fashion. It’s such a subtle thing, but it really makes everything flow together, because you don’t have to fully switch from metal mode to ambient mode because there’s just enough metal in the ambient sections to keep it flowing well.

More on the ambient sections, they do a fantastic job of creating a mystic, occult feeling throughout the entire album. Sounds of amazonian flutes, ominous drums, occasional chanting, I always imagine myself deep in the amazonian jungle, witness the sacrifice of a virgin to appease the gods for one more year. I have never come across a band creating such a feeling like that this year, where you can so vividly imagine a scenario in your mind as you listen. There’s such a primitiveness in it, which really fits in with black metal as a whole, as so much of extreme metal is primal urges. Satanism is all about giving into your instinctual desires after all.

But this is a metal album, not an ambient album, so I do have to mention that too. It is obvious that the metal components of this record aren’t nearly pronounced, and when they are done, they aren’t done in the most incredible manner possible, but they are certainly done well enough to not bog down the record. This is especially prevalent when instead of backing up the actual vocals, they are backing up chanting. It gives a truly epic feel that I don’t think can be generated through traditional black metal. Harmonically there’s not much interesting, though I think if there was any sort of technical or progginess in this album it would be very out of place. This is all about going back to the tribal and basic after all. So on that front, it very much fits with the aesthetic. I think the best musical parts of the album are actually when they just drone chords with the vocals. I really wish this was utilized more, as these moments are mostly brief and afterwards they go right into blast beats. One final thing I want to mention that i find the biggest achievement in Ma-Ion is that they managed to make a 70 minute album not boring in the slightest. I initially saw that length and thought for sure it would be a dud, but I was very much pleasantly surprised with what I got.

So why is this album a 9.75 rather than a 10? When it comes to the difference between ratings this high, it’s typically the small things that keep it from reaching the maximum score. For one, the spoken word section on the 8th track goes on for way too long and really takes you out of the album. At first it’s kinda cool, but then it goes on and since there isn’t anything else to really supplant it, you start wondering when it’s going to be over until finally the next ambient section kicks in. If this had only been about a minute or so nothing would’ve been wrong but as is it lasted way too long for what it brought. Also the first solo on Therionic Transformation was extremely lackluster to say the least. And while true, the second solo was fantastic and dare I say epic, it didn’t fit with the rest of the album. It seemed to brainy for what this work is trying to accomplish, as it was very much laden with heavy metal influence. Don’t get me wrong, I like heavy metal influence in pretty much anything, but not for this album. But really, I think the main reason this doesn’t get a 10 is just gut feeling. When it comes down to it, the difference between a 9.75 and a 10 is just what the album feels like to me, and this doesn’t feel like a 10. It’s not something I can really explain fully, it’s just what I feel like when I listen to things.

It’s really hard to make a closer for this, because I feel like I’ve exhausted just about everything in this album (I haven’t, but I did just about as much as I could with my current ability). It’s ambient sections are god tier, and it’s instrumentals are adequate enough to not be a deterrent. Also this is my first 1000 word review (1100 word in fact)! That’s been a goal of mine for a while now and I seems weird to have finally reached it. I also want to thank everyone for their support, I’m not sure if everyone reads what I write, but I like to think they do, so this is keeping me going in my music writing. Hopefully one day I’ll be writing for a major website or something, but until then, I’ll just ramble on about things to anyone willing to hear, because that’s fun for me.

 9.25/10