Label: The Flenser
The promo for Out of Time, the new album from Mamaleek, describes the duo as “black metal weirdos”. It feels like a fair description; but also, on the evidence presented here, like a fairly tenuous one. That’s not intended as any kind of slight; rather, as anyone who has previously listened to the band will know, Mamaleek make the kind of music that isn’t so much difficult to categorise, as it defies genre almost completely. Out of Time, at various points made me think of funk; later-day David Bowie; art rock; Swans; dark jazz and, yes, avant garde metal. And yet, it always feels coherent, moving with singular purpose and direction, and far easier to lose yourself in than such a combination of styles might suggest. But more than that, it is an album with an unusual sense of character and humanity; most extreme music can feel like it is putting up a barrier between performer and audience, but this? This album wants to invite you in to share its pain.
Label: Unholy Anarchy Records
Italian trio Hierophant have had an interesting journey to bring them to where they are today. Initially starting life as a cross between hardcore, black metal, and sludge, their first records were released by hardcore stalwarts Demons Run Amok and Bridge Nine Records. 2016 saw the jump to the arguably more fitting Season of Mist though, and a subtle shift in sound – their approach to sonic devastation become less hardcore, more grind. New EP Spawned Abortions carries on in that style, being a short, yet undeniably vicious slice of black/death/grind, that takes no prisoners.
Label: Sentient Ruin Laboratories
Atrament‘s previous album, Eternal Downfall, was a conscise blast of blackened crust, ticking all the right boxes without ever risking over-staying its welcome. The follow-up album, Scum Sect, largely picks up where that one left off; which is to say, it’s a barbaric onslaught of violence and filth, with D-beat rhythms providing the backdrop for riffs that are heavy in decay and danger. Given that Atrament contains members of bands such as Vastum, Necrot, and Abstracter, odds are you’ll come to Scum Sect with high expectations; and it’s safe to say that the album meets them.
Fans of Jo Quail‘s previous records might find Exsolve to be a bit of a surprise. The cellist and composer has come to the attention of metal fans in recent years, touring with the likes of Amenra, Boris, and Winterfylleth, as well as appearing at festivals such as ArcTanGent. This is despite (or perhaps because of) her sound, up until this point, taking an innovative approach to the cello, resulting in compositions that have as much in common with drone and post-metal as they do modern classical. So, it is perhaps little surprise that Exsolve sees Quail team up with guests including Dan Capp (Winterfylleth), and Nik Sampson (Devilment, Prolapse A.D.). The result is an album that occupies a unique position in Jo Quail’s discography, being one of her most accessible, but also one where her distinctive musical identity is sometimes overshadows by her collaborators.
Label: Peaceville Records
It’s an old tale: classic band splits. Classic band re-forms a few years later. Classic band releases new material. Classic band releases an absolute clanger of a record. Classic band splits, and we all collectively agree to never talk of said disaster of an album ever again. Classic band splits for the second time. Such was the case with Cancer, the UK’s death metal veterans who released some undeniable classics in the form of To the Gory End and Dead Shall Rise. They also released the horrid Spirit in Flames – but we won’t talk about that. Instead, we’ll focus on the fact that Cancer have reformed again, and have a new album, in the form of Shadow Gripped. And, other than the artwork, it’s an utter triumph. It’s the sound of a band who have learnt from past mistakes, and come back with something that can sit comfortably alongside their old classics. This is no-nonsense UK death metal, as vicious as ever, and it’s just what you want from Cancer.
Label: Transcending Obscurity Records
I want to make something clear at the start of this review: Heads for the Dead are a very good band, and Serpent’s Curse contains some excellent songs. Given that the international band features a whole host of experience – with main member, multi-instrumentalist Johnny Pettersson being in about a dozen different extreme metal bands of various styles – it would be a surprise if that was not the case. But it’s also an album that can be slightly frustrating, where its own ambition gets the better of it. Being a tour-de-force of different styles of death metal, Serpent’s Curse ends up being somewhat inconsistent, and less than the sum of its parts. But despite this, it is still a very good album, and one that I recommend whole-heartedly.
Label: Arusha Records
A band that can scratch the same kind of itch as The Dillinger Escape Plan and Tool used to (before TDEP split and Maynard James Keenan was accused of rape) is undoubtedly an interesting proposition on paper. It’s also the kind of elevator pitch that sounds almost impossible to deliver on. And yet returning tech-metal band The Arusha Accord do just that with new EP Juracan. The first of four planned EPs, Juracan sees The Arusha Accord overcome some real adversity to deliver a varied, confident performance, as full of technical wizardry as it is emotion.