Label: Ten Recordings
In many ways, post-rock, ambient, and drone music have a lot in common. All three genres seek, through different methods, to wrap the listener up in a cocoon of sounds, enveloping them in sounds either warm or starkly oppressive, taking their consciousness away to somewhere else. It’s a task that Ten succeed at on new album The Fog Bank. Though nominally an ambient group, there’s a lot of arresting melodies here that mean that tag doesn’t quite fit perfectly; but the overall effect of the music makes it accurate enough. Full of warm drones, blissful melodic lines and an aching sense of beauty, The Fog Bank is a record to sink in to late at night.
Label: Holy Roar Records
Can I confess something? Something that might seem vaguely controversial in modern metal circles, if not outright blasphemous? Previously records by Ohhms had left me slightly cold. Oh sure, I could appreciate them in a technical sense – I’d have to be a literally fool to not be impressed by the ambition and sheer muscianship on display on previous albums like The Fool – but with Exist, it feels as if all the potential demonstrated on such albums has reached its apex. Containing four songs of progressive sludge metal laced through with post-metal influence, Exist is an album as notable for its technical virtuosity as it is its emotional bloodletting; an album that pushes the envelope in terms of song structure, complexity, and sheer heart. In short, it’s a bit bloody good.
Label: Husk Records
Look at that artwork! No, seriously, look at it. Your first impressions will probably be similar to mine – that it’s crude, violent, and wonderfully over-the-top. But look closer, and there’s something more to it; it’s clear that the overall effect is completely intentional, with small aspects that demonstrate subtle talent. The same is true of the music contained within. Both Black Knife and Lustrum make music that, on the surface, is every bit as lurid as the cover to this split, all 80’s extreme thrash riffs, punk violence, and snarling, proto-black metal vocals. But such is the conviction and talent of the bands that there’s no mistaking this for anything other than the real deal, and it’s bloody brilliant fun.
Label: Eternal Death
When Death Vanish first made itself known to the world on a split with Misanthropos, the solo project of Valder (of One Master) spewed forth music that was crude, primitive, and very direct – akin to Von, but with an even stronger sense of wrongness. On follow-up EP Cold Hammer of Melancholy, there’s been a bit of a shift, but a slight one. The black metal presented here is even rawer than on that split, somehow taking primitive black metal and making it feel even more prehistoric. This is primal, dirty, violent – and incredibly effective.
Label: Grey Matter Productions
In an ideal world, an album like Labour wouldn’t need to exist. The new album from Clawing is unflinching in its depiction of drug-induced misery, that has such a sense for small details that it’s clear that this album is drawing deeply from personal experience. As you’d expect for any project involving Matt Finney, it’s a dark, harrowing journey, with practically no light; just an almost suffocating level of claustrophobia, dread, and the certain knowledge that there will be no happy endings. And yet. Labour is also a very rewarding listen; sure, it’ll ruin your day, but when the music is this good, it feels churlish to complain about that.
Label: The Fear and The Void Recordings
Whilst metal, as a genre, may largely be thought of in terms of aggression, volume, and speed (doom excepted), the genre also has vast scope for music that is atmospheric and captivating. This is, in itself, no great surprise (as the existence of atmospheric black metal proves, arguably the most popular black metal sub-genre of our times). Yet sometimes, an album can come along that blindsides you with just how masterfully it wields those aspects, conjuring up a dreamscape from a foundation of blasts and tremolo-picking riffs. The debut demo from Arête (who contain members of bands such as Twilight Fauna, Slaves BC, and Evergreen Refuge) impressed me just over two years ago, and I’ve been eagerly awaiting release of Hymnal, their first full-length. Adding traditional folk elements to the core atmospheric black metal sound, theirs is music of belonging; of searching for a place to call your own; ultimately, of home.
Hey, you. Do you like metal? Do you like riffs that make you want to drive fast, raise hell, and fight cops? Do you like vocals layered in attitude, that won’t stand for any bullshit? Do you like songs that have the ass-kicking power of a demonic skeleton riding down a bunch of other, less awesome skeletons? Then the self-titled EP by Roadkiller is for you. Containing five tracks of no-nonsense, take-no-prisoners speed metal, full of punk energy, snarling attitude, and a hell of a lot of fun.