Label: Sentient Ruin Laboratories
The previous record from 夢遊病者 (Sleepwalker), 5772, was one of the surprises of 2017 – a progressive, jazz-inspired take on black metal that followed no path but its own. The multinational band are already back with follow-up 一期一会 (For This Time Only, Never Again), and it has taken my expectations and stomped all over them. This is an even more nonconformist, experimental take on black metal that 5772 was, emphasising the psychedelic elements of their sound and adding drone elements – whilst still retaining a sense of fearlessness and black metal aggression. It’s an album that is seemingly full of contradictions, yet takes all of its opposing influences and makes them, somehow, work together. It’s quite special, and makes most other records being released today seem tame.
Label: Throatruiner Records
About thirty seconds into Only Love, the second album from The Armed, the thought occurs that this is what the future must sound like. The mix of hardcore/punk guitars, frantic electronics, and restless drumming (courtesy of Ben Koller of Converge and All Pigs Must Die, amongst others) produces a real rush of adrenaline and endorphins, and leaves the listener unsure whether to launch themselves into reckless dancing or simply staring in awe at what the band are creating. It’s a feeling that more or less lasts throughout the album and subsequent listens, making Only Love one of the most innovative, exciting albums released under the broad spectrum of hardcore thus far in 2018.
Are there any phrases that will cause music fans to recoil in fear in the same way that “experimental screamo project” will? Probably, yeah; but then you listen to the first demo from Formerly a Genius, and your reaction is likely to be either to embrace this three-song release like the best thing ever made; or to flee in utter horror. Six months on from first hearing it, and I’m still not sure what I think of it; sometimes it’s the greatest demo ever made, other days it sounds like an utter catastrophe. Either way, it’s not the kind of music that invites apathy.
Label: Devoted Art Propaganda
Cy isn’t your typical release. The new album from Polish band Koniec Pola opens with the sound of bells, swirling winds, warped percussion, and, after several minutes, a burst of heavily twisted voices. It gets no easier from there. Stradling the lines between post-rock, post-black metal, traditional folk, and all wrapped up in a defiantly avant-garde mindset and psychedelic atmosphere, Cy is the kind of album that you might get if Negura Bunget and Einsturzende Neubauten decided to do a record together. Based around the concept of a place that is simultaneously real and imaginary, and making use of unique instruments crafted by the band themselves in addition to the traditional bass/guitar/drums set-up, Cy is a unique album, full of adventurous, experimental spirit.
Label: The Flenser
The concept of creating music as self-care is hardly a new one, but sometimes, an album can strike you with just how powerful and important a concept that is. Such is the case with Cold Air, the new album from Drowse. Written during a spell of anxiety and depression, Cold Air is an album of interesting contradictions. At times, its hazy shoegaze is filled with warmth, and possesses a real power of emotional healing; and then at others, there is the feeling that something is desperately scratching at the walls, trying to get out with a life-threatening desperation. It makes Cold Air an intense listen, despite its often soothing sounds; and one that is filled with a unique sense of personality and intensity.
Label: Sentient Ruin Productions / AnnapurnA Productions
It is a depressing paradox that, for a genre which started off in such incendiary, challenging fashion, black metal is now often one of the most musically conservative of genres, weighed down by insipid songs about Satan full of uninspired tremolo-picking and blasts. It’s this context which makes the emergence of a band like 夢遊病者 (Sleepwalker) all the more inspiring. The debut album from this multinational band, 5772, is a bewildering, awe-inspiring journey that, whilst owing a considerable debt to both raw and progressive black metal, also draws heavily full sources such as improvisational jazz and krautrock, as well as the violent energy of bands like G.I.S.M. As this might imply, it is a unique listen, and one of the more intriguing black metal releases of 2017.
Label: Gizeh Records
Recorded in a few short, improvised hours one day in May 2017 by the trio of Aidan Baker (Nadja), Simon Goff (Molecular), and Thor Harris (Swans, Thor & Friends), Noplace is an album that possesses the kind of depth that would never hint at the way it was created, even if it has been edited down from that improvised session. Hypnotic in the most wonderful of ways, Noplace is an album that creates a psychedelic haze, taking the listener to some place more relaxing and spiritually cleansing than whatever place you may find yourself physically within. This is music that is good for the soul.