So, we’re a bit over halfway through 2018, and there’s been some excellent records released. Most notably, 2018 is shaping up to be an excellent year for death metal – bands such as Tomb Mold, Our Place of Worship is Silence, Memoriam, Slugdge, and practically everyone on the Dark Descent Records roster are killing it with top-tier death metal. Things aren’t quite so grand when it comes to black metal, but the new Immortal is pretty note-worthy, and there’s been a few other strong releases in the underground – including the final release by Cosmic Church.
Here, I’ll pick out ten of my favourite records released so far this year, in alphabetical order. Hopefully you’ll find something new here to enjoy, or be reminded of something you were in to earlier in the year. Enjoy!
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.
Whilst most hardcore records are pretty immediate, with their energy and speed being their chief points of note, the same isn’t quite true of Place Noire by France’s Death Engine. Their brand of hardcore is infused with a sense of tension and weight that is heavily influenced by noise rock, with the songs moving largely at a mid-tempo as if weighed down by the depths of despair and pain they carry. This is not hardcore for a good time; Place Noire is a half hour of soul-searching, of deep pain, and of the promise of redemption dangling so tantalisingly close, but forever out of reach.
I’m convinced that the main reason Plebeian Grandstand aren’t talked about as one of the best black metal bands of recent years by more people in the underground is simply because of their image. Whilst the likes of Portal present themselves as unknowable Lovecraftian demons, and Deathspell Omega seek to revel in obscurity, and stage names are taken as standard in black metal, the members of Plebeian Grandstand go by the still uncommon practice of listing their birth names. I hope I’m wrong, but if the (lack of) image is what causes most metalheads to pass over Plebeian Grandstand then it’s their loss, and their records – especially most recent album False Highs, True Lows – are excellent.
So, October has been pretty busy. There’s been quite a few big, exciting releases – not least of which are the new albums from Darkthrone and Planes Mistaken For Stars – and I spent a few days travelling around the country to see SubRosa on their first UK tour. Their shows were every bit as incredible as I hoped, and if you get the chance, I recommend you go see them.
For this month’s short review, there’s eclectic hardcore from Death By Fungi on In Dearth Of; psychedelic doom by Cities Of Mars with Celestial Mistress; discordant post-black metal by Simulacro on Echi Dall’Abisso; harsh soundscapes of Perennial Disappointment byConcrete Mascara, which is anything but disappointing; raw death/doom with black and folk elements onSangreal by Cóndor; and one of the most uncomfortable pieces of sludge/hardcore I’ve heard by Cowards on Still. Enjoy!
Before we go too far in to this review, just take a few moments to look at that artwork; and I mean, really look at it, and study it in some detail. There’s so much going on, so much pain and disgust, and it’s bound to produce an almost physical reaction. It makes perfect sense that it’s the cover for an album like Asexual Anger, then. The latest album from Love Sex Machine is a repulsive, violent, deeply uncomfortable listen. It’s also quite moving, with its bleak, heavy sound and atmosphere resulting in an album that is remarkably cathartic and emotionally challenging.
There’s roughly thirty seconds gone by before False Highs, True Lows reveals just how inhospitable an album it is, and from that point on, there’s practically no let-up. The third album from French band Plebeian Grandstand ventures in to depths of darkness that few black metal bands dare to go, with a relentless 35 minutes of atonal, discordant black metal. It can hardly be said to be enjoyable in any typical sense of the word, but there is something about the album that keeps me coming back for more. As impressive as previous album Lowgazers was, False Highs, True Lows feels like a much stronger record, and should surely see the band considered alongside the best of modern French black metal.