Your Fault doesn’t start in the strongest of ways. The opening track to the new album from Gravehuffer contains plenty of powerful riffs, ugly vocals, and furious drumming; but it never quite comes together, with its combination of crust, death metal, and raw punk energy missing the mark. Thankfully, this is an anomaly on an album that is otherwise full of vicious crusty metalpunk, switching between genres at ease, and with songwriting deft that is surprising for music that is so ugly and hard hitting. The first track aside, this is an invigorating listen, and a fine half hour of underground snarl and spit.
I think by this stage, it’s safe to say that we’re living through a golden age of underground death metal. Consideration the quality of bands like Blood Incantation, Spectral Voice, Chthe’ilist, Ritual Necromancy, Of Feather and Bone, Necrot, Undergang, Our Place of Worship is Silence – and so many others! Any such list should surely also include Tomb Mold, as their latest album, Manor of Indefinite Forms, is another highlight for death metal in an era that is stuffed full of them. Dirty, dark, and irresistibly heavy, full of incredible riffs, this is something special.
I confess, somewhere along the line, I lost my faith in later-day Sepultura. I have soft spots for Against and Nation, but from Roorback onwards, nothing had grabbed me. It’s not that they’re not the same band as Max-era Sepultura – they might as well be different entities completely now – and I’m longing for the old days. It’s just that the albums weren’t that, well, good. So, imagine my surprise when Machine Messiah didn’t so much change that streak as it did grab me, shake me around, and realise just how great their prog/thrash/groove combination can be. Their best album since Chaos A.D? As far as I’m concerned, yes.
The debut album from Welsh band Agrona is an interesting one. Though it doesn’t really stick within the constraints of what a black metal album should sound like, nor does it really push at the boundaries of the style. There’s something about Realm of the Fallen that is simultaneously trve and kvlt, whilst also feeling like it has been created without any consideration of genre. Sitting somewhere between Dimmu Borgir and Anaal Nathrakh, it is a very distinctive album that moves will bulldozering force, the energy of which ensures that it combination of styles works even as the album itself is constantly shifting form.
Prepare to be Let Down? Hardly. The debut album from American hardcore band Ruiner might have had a self-effacing title, but far from letting the listener down, this is one of the most urgent, emotionally devastating, and ultimately excellent records you could possibly listen to. Moving with a desperate pace, self-destructive urges, and sense of nihilism, this is the soundtrack to an emotional breakdown; uncomfortable, bleak, but oh-so cathartic. Bridge9 have a stupidly strong discography, but Prepare to be Let Down is one of the best things the label have ever released.
The final album from Punch was the band’s best, and a highlight for modern powerviolence / fastcore. They Don’t Have to Believe is a short (less than twenty minutes!) blast of righteous feminist rage, that circumvents many of the conventions of powerviolence by actually having intelligent, mature lyrics, as well as songs that are actual songs rather than 5 second blasts (aside from, erm, the 5 second long title track). It’s an album that has lost none of its power since release, and that the band is no more is a real shame – though at least they went on to form other great bands.
One of the real joys of underground music is watching bands develop before our eyes, going from promising early releases to albums that more than live up to expectations. Such is the case with the latest album from Abstracter, Cinerous Incarnate. The band have evolved, building on their earlier sounds, bringing further elements of noise and dark ambient to their already soul-crushing fusion of doom, black, death, and crust. It makes Cinerous Incarnate an album of utter despair and world-ending heaviness, filled with the kind of riffs that can collapse buildings and an atmosphere of the most haunting, searing dread.