Review: Heads for the Dead – Serpent’s Curse

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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.

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Review: Master – Vindictive Miscreant

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Label: Transcending Obscurity Records

It’s incredible to think that it’s almost 30 years since Master first unleashed their self-titled debut album; and since then, the death metal veterans have barely put a foot wrong. They’ve never gone chasing trends, or caring about what is fashionable. Instead, they’re focused solely on doing what they want to do, releasing album after album of old-school death metal. It leaves them in an enviable position now, with latest album Vindictive Miscreant doing exactly what you’d want a Master album in 2018 to do. It’s an album filled with solid tunes, crushing riffs, and a brutal sense of energy. It’s also that most difficult of things to review – an album that does nothing wrong, but sticks so closely to the blueprint of what Master are that critically assessing it is all-but impossible.

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2018 Favourites: (just over) half-way edition

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 MoldOur Place of Worship is Silence, MemoriamSlugdge, 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!

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Review: Sathanas – Necrohymns

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Label: Transcending Obscurity Records 

There’s something to be said for consistency. Now on to album number ten,  Sathanas are the kind of band who have probably passed under your radar; their discography is one of solid black-thrash, that has – for whatever reason – largely been unheralded beyond their section of the underground. Latest record Necrohymns may be unlikely to change that, but it does serve as a demonstration of what the uninitiated have been missing out on. This is the sound of experience, of old hands who are utterly confident in their chosen style, and are seemingly content to keep doing what they do, regardless of whether anyone else pays attention or not.

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Review: Sahon – Chanting for the Fallen

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Label: Transcending Obscurity Asia

With a lot of thrash bands, the tendency is to slow down a bit as they get older – for the wild fires of youthful exuberance to become dulled into something more considered and, if not exactly tame, then more controlled. It’s not always the case, and sometimes it can result in a genuine masterpiece being created (as with, say, Sodom’s Agent Orange). With Korean band Sahon though, latest album Chanting for the Fallen could never be considered slow, or restrained, or tame. It is a full-on thrash onslaught, utterly relentless in its pace and delivery, carrying with it an undeniable energy and sense of enjoyment.

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Review: Gaerea – Unsettling Whispers

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Label: Transcending Obscurity Records

Sometimes, an album will take time to grab you. Other times, you know that what you’re hearing is special right from the first spin. Unsettling Whispers by Portuguese black metal band Gaerea most certainly falls in to the later category; by the time second song ‘Absent’ is about half-way through, you’ll be feeling sure that this is one of the most notable black metal records to have been unleashed thus far this year. That’s a feeling that persists not just throughout the album, but over time. Blending melancholy, dark majesty, and a sense of devastating nihilism, Unsettling Whispers is an album that more than deserves your attention.

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Review: Arkheth – 12 Winter Moons Comes The Witches Brew

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Label: Transcending Obscurity Records

Before we go far in to this review of Arkheth‘s third album, take a moment to look at that cover. Needless to say, it’s not what you expect from a black metal record – bright, garish colours; psychedelic landscapes; and a sense of conventions being not so much cast down, as utterly ignored in favor of doing whatever the fuck you want. It’s also a good summary of the sounds contained within 12 Winter Moons Comes The Witches Brew. Though the album is undeniably black metal, it takes almost everything you know about the genre and flips it on its head. This is black metal as defined by Sigh and psychedelics, rather than Mayhem and misery. It’s a bit of a headfuck, and a definite artistic triumph.

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