December 31, 2013

Ulla - My Year 2013 In Review

Written by Ulla Roschat.

There is of course no way to log-out from this year correctly without doing a list of what was best. So here is my list in terms of music. The list is easy to read. First I listed albums I reviewed for various blogs (Metal Bandcamp, Free Your Soul, and the now closed Temple of Perdition) and I just added some lines from the reviews. Then I listed all the great releases I unfortunately hadn't have the time (yet) to review. so they stand here quasi naked, but no less loved by me. The order is only roughly be understood as a ranking. That's why I put no numbers to them.

Eibon - II

This is about 2x20 minutes of violence, dispair, pain and hopelessness with the vigorous organic intensity of a live recording. Eibon absolutely capture the atmospheres and emotions of Otto Dix's triptych Der Krieg, which they chose as cover artwork, and they transformed the painted artwork into a richly textured soundscape of atmospheric blackened doom.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Cultura Tres - Rezando al Miedo

Cover art from the painting "Day of Judgement" by Damian Michaels.

Intricate multi layered structures and an enormous dynamic range are the base and frame on which Cultura Tres build and which they fill with their individual blend of sludge, doom, psychedelia. blues, drone, folk and whatnot. With their unique use of bent, blue notes and dissonances they create a special sense of hypnotic creepiness and alienation.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Nightslug - Dismal Fucker

This is the epitome of sludge, a nasty grimy monster that crawls through your ears into your brain to rearrange your poor brain cells with unrelenting thick heavy riffs, punishing drums and vicious vocals. This is a head spinning trip through destructive rage and groove laden doom. It's bold, abrasive, brutal and slugs right into your face.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Cult of Occult - Hic Est Domus Diaboli

This is the devil's house and Cult of Occult cordially invite you to enter. Images of occultish doomy atmosphere. ritualistic rhythms, slow heavy abrasive sludge, waves of distortion and screaming vocals with the energy of a hot blazing firestorm accompany you during your visit in this house.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Year Of No Light - Tocsin

Is it the fact that the album is entirely instrumental, or Year of No Light's experience of actually having made movie soundtracks, the overall dark and orchestral sound (3 guitars, 2 drums, 1 bass, 4 of 6 band members taking care of all electronic sounds keys/synths) or their ability to create that incredible balance and tension between heaviness and atmospheric parts of which both strike with devastating emotional impact?... whatever might be to blame for creating movies in my head... who cares.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Lords of Bukkake - Desagravio

There's intensity all over - the intensity of direct nasty brutality, of the depressive heavy doom and of the intricate jazzy structures that drench everything in a kind of jazz-doom mood thats absolutely amazing. And Lords of Bukkake merge it all so well into an organic experience with a feel of chaotic anarchy not least because of the insanely brilliant jammy guitar solos with a huge amount of emotional impact.

Napalm Christ - 2013 Demo

This is an utterly refreshing mixture of grinding crust HC, death, sludge and doom metal. Refreshing it is especially because Napalm Christ's style of combining the elements is so unique. They don't simply throw them all together into a cauldron and stir and boil them to one clump. Instead all is dispersed in unequal lots to the songs to give each a different taste of the atmosphere.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Buioingola - Dopo l'Apnea

Artwork by Virgilio

With their mix of black, ambient, post, sludge metal, some crusty HC and industrial influences Buioingola create atmospheres of darkness and discomfort in different shades and nuances. There are moments of dispair and fear, panic, desolation and sorrow and most of all there's an overwhelming feeling of melancholy and detachment.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Deep - Vol 1

This is a lysergic trip on a thick fuzzy magic carpet through various places and atmospheres, always carrying a bit of the previous mood to the next place and still each place, each song has its own magical mood, drawn from a variety of musical styles and influences. With a kind of wild and anarchic creativity Deep made an album that takes you on a magic trip with unexpected turns to unexpected places (Deep's Bandcamp is streaming-only).

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Shroud Eater - Dead Ends

Here are groove ridden swampy sludge riffs, furious tribal drumming, thick driving basslines and bellowing howling vocals drenched in a haunting and brooding atmosphere. Dead Ends is a coloss, the sound is monolithic, but what amazes me most is the way the musicians play off each other.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]


This is a superb blend of atmospheric post metal and doom. Most striking are the slow and long build ups that are able to carry their tension into the ambient soundscapes without drowning all the subtler details. This gives the songs a kind of filigree elegance and texture still embraced by doomy heaviness.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Obelyskkh - Hymn To Pan

A sense of lushness is carried through the entire album. Be it the strong compelling melodies, the violent, heavy riffs, the psychedelic vibe, ritualistic chants and rhythms or even the beautiful quiet piano parts, everything breathes abundance. And this sense of lushness and abundance gets even enhanced and multiplied, because Obelyskkh max out their dynamic range and use it effectively by either creating contrasts or slow build ups of energy.

Dopethrone - II

I'm sure Dopethrone have no blood running through their veins, but filthy sticky mud, pumped through their bodies by blues filled hearts. They don't breath air but dark smoke and they blow it right into your face. Their bundled energy hits hard. Thick heavy punishing riffs, tons of distortion numbs your mind to ease the way for the demonically snarling vocals to spit their venom into your heart.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Oranssi Pazuzu - Valonielu

Cover art by Costin Chioreanu

Colorful psychedelic space rock and cold, dark, bleak, black metal - two mood settings that are millions of miles apart from one other, one should think, but Oranssi Pazuzu show us that they don't only get on well together, but that they can create completely new atmospheres. Different styles and elements laid upon each other in varying manners, intertwining and merging, thus creating depths, intensity, and motion.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Boneworm - Boneworm

The songs take about 666 years to expand and pour their viscous corrosive venom into your ears to unfold gloomy soundscapes in your heart. Ostensibly unobtrusive, but relentlessly intense and menacing they carry a sense of omniscience and inescapability where no hurry or outburst of rage is necessary. You are doomed, there is no way out of it.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Plague Mask - The Frailty of Human Existence

Art by Václav Trajer

"Blackenedstonerrocksludgedoom"! Short as this EP is, no second is wasted here. Plague Mask experiment and play with contrasts, tempo changes and musical styles to create cohesive but varying moods. It leaves a hint and a feel of this quite young band (formed 2011) being capable of refining their already individual style.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Palm Desert - Adayoff

This band spends one day in the studio and comes out with an album that sounds breathtakingly soulful. It proves that brilliant musicianship doesn't necessarily need overly intricate constructions and yet is able to create exciting music that contains a veriety of moods and facets. A kind of laid-back unobtrusive attitude and tons of heartfelt tunes is all Palm Desert need to create something special.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Tentacle - Ingot Eye
Fyrnask - Eldir Nótt
The Disease Concept - Your Destroyer
In The Company Of Serpents - Of the Flock
Uzala - Tales of Blood & Fire
Curse the Son - Psychache
Young Hunter - Embers at the Foot of Dark Mountain
Coltsblood - Beyond the Lake of Madness
Barbarian Fist - Demo 2013
Massive Thunderfuck - Kill the Thunder (Demo)

Now having logged-out correctly there shouldn't be any problems to log-in to 2014.
Thank you Max for letting me be a part of Metal Bandcamp!
A Happy New Year to you all!

December 29, 2013

Andy's Best of the Rest

Written by Andy Osborn.

So much metal, so little time. Busy as we are here at Metal Bandcamp trying to dissect and divulge the best heavy releases available on our favorite service, we don’t always get around to digging in to everything we would like to cover. Hidden gems are uncovered on an almost daily basis so sometimes they just get lost in the chaotic whirlwind that is the collective mind of part-time bloggers. So looking back at the last 12 months, I’ve exhumed some of my favorite albums that for one reason or another never got a proper review. All of the following releases could be drooled over and written about at length, but for sake of brevity - and my sanity - here’s the best of the rest.

5. Speedtrap - Powerdose

Traditional speed metal came back in a big way in 2013. One of the groups leading the charge is Finland’s Speedtrap, whose full-length debut floated criminally under the radar upon its release in August. Riffs rip and twist their way across what may be a fairly standard template, but the beefy production and blistering finger-wizardry make Powerdose a perfect argument for revivalists.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

4. Immortal Bird - Akrasia

Artwork by Kikyz1313

I was enthralled by Thrawsunblat’s effort early this year, so another 2013 release featuring Rae Amitay was a devilishly surprising holiday gift. Not sticking to a single genre, Immortal Bird sounds like they have the fires of hell driving their passion for all things extreme. The complex, ever-bending songs coupled with Rae’s vocals remind of a death metal Ludicra, a comparison I save only for the most worthy of projects.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

3. Fir Bolg - Towards Ancestral Lands

Cover painting by Stephanie Simona

I listened to this album solely hoping to finish the laugh that the cover art started, but what this French solo project lacks in art direction it makes up for in energy and focus. It’s essentially a thought experiment in what Immortal would sound like if infused with folk influences, but holy hell does it ever work well. Fans of blackened riffage look no further.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

2. Noumena - Death Walks With Me

2013 was an incredible year for melodeath and saw top-notch releases from genre stalwarts Kalmah, Arsis, Dark Tranquillity and Hypocrisy. But the one that surprised me the most is this fourth full-length from little-known Finnish troupe Noumena. They fuse deeper than hell male vocals with poppy female harmonies and uplifting melodies that bring a fresh sound to the usually melancholic style. You’ll be humming along to these choruses for months to come.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

1. Satan - Life Sentence

Cover art by Eliran Kantor

These middle-aged NWOBH-ers burst back onto the scene two decades later with hands down the best trad metal album of the year. Life Sentence is a nonstop rager filled with infectious riffs, dueling lead guitars and good old fashioned metallic fun. The tight as leather songwriting is absolutely flawless as the Brits tell tales of war and strife, and even manage what may be the first appropriate 9/11 remembrance in metaldom. With better consistency and re-playability than any other album released this year, Satan have re-opened and re-written the book of British metal with this masterpiece.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Aaron's 2013 Year End List

Written by Aaron Sullivan.

Never been one for arbitrary numbers. Nor ranking one album above another. Instead, this list reflects the albums I enjoyed the most this year, metal and non. Maybe some of your favorites are here also, or maybe I can turn you on to a few you were not aware of. Either way here it is:

Deafheaven - Sunbather

If forced to pick a number one, it would no doubt go to Deafheaven’s album Sunbather. I was such a fan of their demo when it was recommended to me by Last F.M. towards the end of 2010. It was exciting to hear how they mixed their BM with Hardcore and Post-Rock. It was so emotional. Then came the second album and it felt too straight forward. I dug it. But not like the demo. Hearing that a new album was coming out was exciting, but I was also a bit tentative about how it would sound. My first time hearing the album was live when they opened for Boris in May. They had the album there for purchase, vinyl only, so I passed. Then they opened with "Dream House". By the end of that song I had determined I would be purchasing the album before I left that night. The songs hit me much in the same way the demo did. It was all there. The ebbs and flows that I loved about the demo and more. Songs were vibrant and alive with emotion. I declared then and there it was my album of the year, and despite many great challengers, it was not beaten. I’m sure it will appear on many a year end list. One more couldn’t hurt (Be sure to check out the great review of this album by Justin C).

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Primitive Man - Scorn

This is the closest any album came to topping Deafheaven for me. The band self released the album in February, it’s a monster of a record. To call it dark and angry is an understatement. I don’t even want to tell you what goes through my head when hearing this album. As I said in my review, “You get the idea from looking at the cover this is not a safe record with some cool riff and songs about drinking beer. This is as intense as the cover would have you believe. Songs have heft and weight to them. There is an underlying anger and ominous aggression no matter the pace of the music. It’s a vibe set early and often.” I had the pleasure of hearing them live this year. As intense if not more so than the album.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

True Widow - Circumambulation

A great band I found out about after their second album thanks to a friends year end list for 2011. From the first listen I fell in love with this band. Their mix of Stoner and Shoegaze was unlike anything I had heard before. Closest example I can give, is think later Earth with vocals. Bassist Nicole Estill and guitarists Dan Phillips both providing those vocals. The music they make along with drummer Timothy "Slim" Starks is sparse and airy yet somehow have these great heavy riffs at the same time. The drums are huge and complement the music with their quiet thuds. "Four Teeth" is THE single of the year. Three albums in and they show no sign of going stale. Another band I had the pleasure seeing live this year.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Owlfood - Destroyers of the Moon

Another great find by a friend who was kind enough to pass it on to me. Their brand of Dronish Ambient is very close to later era Earth, as I said in my review, “Owlfood music is able to give me the feeling of being outside in a vast desert with mountains far off in the distance, gathered around a campfire as the sun sets on the horizon. The album is 7 tracks but is to be heard as a 27 minute piece. There are no pauses or gaps. One song goes right into the next so that the experience is never lost.“ Super chill music for a cold night.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Skagos - Anarchic
I wrote a review for this album back in June stating that I was not really sure how to best describe this album, and here we are at the end of the year and I still feel the same way. But I’m realizing that is the very thing I love about it. It’s not an album that can be summed up in a single sentence. But it is one that makes for many enjoyable listens. Everytime I hear it I catch something that I had not heard before. I love that sort of thing. As I said in my review, “It really is something that just has to be heard. To take something out is to lessen the overall. This is an album to get lost in, to be experienced from start to finish.” Very excited to see where this band takes itself next.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Pendulous - Mirrored Confessions
Very excited to have these local guys on my year end list. Even more excited they have something on Bandcamp so the world can hear what I have had the pleasure of hearing for some time. Heavy on tone and heavier with emotion is the debut from these guys. As I said in my review, “The combination of Death DOOM and clean atmospheric parts are well done. Heavy when it is needed while also allowing songs to breathe and resonate with the listener.” Vocals are great mix of the Death style and clean vocals that have a Patrick Walker vibe to them.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Liar in Wait - Translations of the Lost
Of all the albums on this list this one may have actually got the most spins of them all. I think it is attributed to two things. Length of the album (just a four song E.P. really) and just how good it is. It features two members of the amazing Blackened Sludge outfit Wolvhammer, but this is not Metal. This is described as Coldwave or Darkwave. I’ll be honest I have no clue what that is. Not genres I am all that familiar with. But this album is just great. Gothy with with a low monotone Bowie-esque vocal style that I just love. Guitars float over you. And a feeling of darkened sadness looms over it all. It also has a cover of a Fields of Nephilim song. Love love love this album (The Liar In Wait Bandcamp is streaming only...)

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Chelsea Wolfe - Pain is Beauty

I LOVE THIS WOMAN! (hopefully the wife won’t read this) I was first made aware of her because she had the opening slot for a Wolves in the Throne Room show. I’ve been gaga for her ever since. Truth be told this album was not one I immediately liked. Not being a big fan of electronica and being a big fan of hearing her amazing vocals, this one took a while to get into. But when it hit, it hit hard. In many way this may be her most diverse album yet. But the thing I love the most is that with four albums to her name she has stayed consistent without repeating herself. Constantly pushing forward while staying true to her core. Highlights for me are, "They'll Clap When You're Gone", "House of Metal", and "Destruction Makes The World Burn Brighter".

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Life Leone - Comes Crashing In

It’s bands like this that keep me showing up to shows early to catch the opener. These guys opened for Vista Chino (what Kyuss calls itself now). Had no clue who they were or their sound. But when they started playing I was all ears. They have this interesting mix of fuzzy Desert Rock riffs, and Indie feel to them. Songs are very catchy and you’ll find yourself singing them in your head long after hearing them. A great record to hear while driving.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Panopticon/Vestiges - Split

I love when an album comes with surprises. Anyone who knows me, knows I’m a Panopticon fan boy. Austin Lunn can do no wrong. Whether Panopticon, Seidr, or Kolga the man is always a part of quality music. And this split is no different. The songs lean more towards his Atmospheric Black Metal side then the American Folk infused Black Metal music on his Kentucky album (a 2012 album of the year for me). The third Panopticon song is a cover of of Suicide Nation’s "Collapse and Die", but the surprise for me was Vestiges. Having no idea who they were and going in blind, they impressed. Their Crusty Black Metal has hints of Post-Rock and great atmosphere. This is a great pairing of bands. It does what a good split should do. Pair two great bands that compliment each other. If your new to either of these bands this split is great introduction.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Vaura - The Missing

Music like this is not something I usually find myself listening to. But the buzz about the bands second album was something unavoidable for me at least. So I checked it out and am glad I did. Featuring members of Maudlin Of The Well and Gorguts this is by far one of my favorites of the year. This gets a ton of spins. A great mix of Black Metal and Post-Punk with gothy undertones. Songs are addictive and have the same vocal style of Liar in Wait that I love so much. They can pull off dark and brooding, melodic and catchy all in one song. I now see why there was such a buzz about this album.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Batillus - Concrete Sustain
CRUSHING!! Another one of those bands I was way behind the rest of the crowd. I missed their debut. But hearing they were playing a show here in L.A. to support their new album, I thought I would check them out. WOW! Their Industrial tinged Sludge is one that kicks you square in the face and your only answer is, “Please sir may I have another?!?!” Great atmosphere throughout and songs that are more to the point then their first album. The song "Concrete" is a great opener. It makes you feel like smashing through a concrete wall (that’s a good thing). This was an album that was an early frontrunner for album of the year for me. Seeing them live was also a great experience, highly recommended (Be sure to read the great review of this album by Justin C).

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Jex Thoth - Blood Moon Rise
Along with Lori from Acid King Jex is one of the great women of DOOM. Her songs are are part Stoner Rock, part DOOM, and part psychedelic rides. Her vocals are perfect balance of feminine and powerful, a female shaman if you will. There is a mysticism to her lyrics. But also some wisdom, as found in the track To Bury.
“Remember this my friend, and the less you’ll have to bury. The more we keep collecting, the more we have to carry.”
It was five years between the release of this album and her amazing debut. But as they say, good things come to those who wait. (You can only stream one song from Blood Moon Rise, but be sure to also check out her work on the first Sabbath Assembly album).

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Torres - Torres
Female singer songwriter Mackenzie Scott who records as Torres. Her breathy vocals sung over her Indie style makes for a great album. Reminds one of P.J. Harvey or Cat Powers at times. Recorded live and minimalistic in sound. Lyrics are as if she is reading from her personal journal exposing raw nerves for all who wish to listen. One of those one off finds you were never looking for, but oh so glad you found.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Usnea - Usnea

What an album! One I put off listening to for reasons I can not explain, so I urge you not make the same mistake. Just crushing. Their Blackened DOOM along with touches of Post-Rock and Sludge are mixed perfectly. As I said in my review, “The closest comparison I can make is to the first Altar of Plagues album. Not in terms of sound but how they can blend genres within songs and the album. There is an atmosphere of darkness that runs through this entire album. Even when it gets quiet (and that is not much at all) you never feel safe. You know darkness is lurking just around the next riff.” Fantastic debut.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Jesu - Everyday I Get Closer To The Light From Which I Came

Yet another band that I really should have gotten into much sooner but didn’t (why do I keep doing that?). Between last year and this I have bought 8 of their albums to make up for lost time. 2013 saw Jesu return with Everyday I Get Closer To The Light From Which I Came. Over the years they have gotten a tad quieter than their debut. But the sense of longing and sadness have never lessened. Their droning riffs are filled with melancholy. This is one of those bands that scratches an itch that no other band can. Just another great album from a band that never lets me down.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Wolvserpent - Perigaea Antahkarana

This was band I lost track of when they were originally called Pussygut. But seeing them perform live changed all that for me. They blew my mind in what was probably one of the best shows I saw the whole year (though seeing Neurosis w/ YOB in December may beat it). As I said in my review, “Wolvserpent is a two person band consisting of Blake Green on guitars/vocals and Brittany McConnell on drums/vocals/violin. They play what would be described as Drone/DOOM. Along with that are hints of Post-Rock, Ambient, Black Metal, and enough atmosphere to paint a picture by. Think Sunn O))) meets Godspeed while living in the woods with Wolves in the Throne Room.” Man am I glad I went to that show.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Man’s Gin - Rebellion Hymns

This is a side project of Eric Wunder, half of the amazing Black Metal band Cobalt. I can not begin to express how much their first album Smiling Dogs means to me. With lyrics like, “So sinners unite, the sloven and weakened. If you’re beaten or broken press on frustrated.” is where I found solace during some rough times in my life. So to hear there would be another album in 2013 naturally brought excitement. The first was raw with a live feel to it. It had a Nick Cave vibe to it mixed with Americana and a vocal style that brings to mind at times Alice in Chains. The new one brings all those things back with more. This one finds Erik Wunder expanding his musical palette. This one feels like his Tom Waits inspired album because of how eclectic and, at times, how scrambled (in a good way) it feels. So many ideas going on in this album. The album also features Jarboe and the other half of Cobalt, Phil McSorley. I can never thank Erik enough for these records.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Here is Part 2 featuring the bands that have no Bandcamp but are among my albums of the year.

December 26, 2013

Atanamar’s Favorite Albums of 2013

By Atanamar Sunyata.

Django the Thrawsuncat

I dedicated myself to the cessation of physical media in 2013. I’ve had a long and illustrious career of collecting CDs, as the sagging shelves of my voluminous and hulking media racks can testify. But lest my house collapse and its foundations shatter under the weight of plastic discs, I have chosen another path.

As I will settle for nothing less than lossless digital audio (I discussed the glory of FLAC here), Bandcamp is the place to be, and here we are. Regardless of your chosen format, Bandcamp’s social features have turned out to be indispensably badass, leading this lost soul to many a marvelous musical discovery.

Still, there are recalcitrant and tardy record labels that aren’t completely on board our party boat. Thankfully, nearly all of my favorite albums made their way onto Bandcamp this year. I do have a few regrets; I wish Profound Lore would keep their store up to date. Castevet’s Obsian would most certainly be in my top five. Also, P.L.F.’s Devious Persecution And Wholesale Slaughter is ludicrously delicious grind; I don’t know why small labels like Six Weeks Records aren’t leveraging the platform.

Alas, I’ll keep it true; these are my favorite Bandcamp albums of 2013:

14. Mephistopheles – Sounds of the End
Cover art by Bill Dean.

Mephistopheles convey an articulate death metal chaos, forging something raw and primitive from esoteric riffs and peculiar melody. Strange arpeggios roll together in bizarre and baroque arrangements. Schizophrenic balance is preferred to overt brutality; Sounds of the End is uniquely satisfying.

13. Scale the Summit – The Migration

Believe me, instrumental prog-metal was the last thing I imagined falling in love with this year. The Migration walks the fine line of wankery and sweet shred, conjuring visions of Gordian Knot and Cynic circa 1993 along the way.

12. Vastum – Patricidal Lust
You know when you put on an album, and you’re compelled to turn it up louder, and louder, and louder? Patricidal Lust is that kind of album. Vastum marry the most seductive elements of death metal, laying lusty riffs over neck-wrecking cadence. Surrender yourself to the primal power death.

11. Lantern – Below
Illustration by Alexander L. Brown.

Below sounds like it was recorded in Belo Horizonte circa 1987, in the same subterranean grotto as Sepultura’s Schizophenia. Speaking in tongues of noxious catacombs and desecrated cathedrals, Lantern leverage superlative riffs in a morbid pursuit of quirky, proto-death glory.

10. Ulcerate - Vermis
Artwork by Jamie Saint Merat.

Ulcerate use dissonance as a weapon of mass destruction, scouring the outer limits of rhythmic oddity. Inhuman feats and unfathomable riffs mark this marvelous, bleak listening experience. Vermis is pleasure and pain.

9. Bölzer - Aura
Bölzer bring the thunderous, bulldozing, death-black goodness on their debut EP. These ball-crushing compositions are blessed with unhinged vocals and impossibly compelling riffs. The entire package is seasoned with satisfyingly sinister melody.

8. Gigan – Multi-Dimensional Fractal-Sorcery And Super Science
Artwork by Dr.Winter

Gigan have traversed the summit of utter oddity and descend now into lands of compelling technical death-grind. Make no mistake; this is some crazy shit. These impossible odes to deep space dementia, however, are sustained by the mundane magics of songwriting skill, riffs, and rage. I gladly resign my sanity unto Gigan.

7. Exhumed – Necrocracy
Exhumed push closer and closer to death metal nirvana with each release. Necrocracy slips and slides through tight curves of thrashing death-grind annihilation. Every move feels effortless, every riff is righteously ripping, and every solo is sinuous melodic perfection.

6. Aosoth – Arrow in Heart
Cover art by Benjamin A. Vierling

Aosoth nail the heart of my preferred black metal aesthetic in 2013. My initial trepidation regarding the album’s sultry sonic palate melted into adoration and addiction. The warm swarm, the gorgeously organic drums, and the carefully crafted madness are irresistible to my ears.

5. Gorguts – Colored Sands
Artwork by Martin Lacroix.

I was the guy who thought Obscura sucked when it first came out, selling it back immediately to the music store from whence it came. Clutching my copies of Considered Dead and The Erosion of Sanity, I wept at the album’s flippy-floppy oddity. Oh, ye death metal purist, how the years have proven you wrong. Returned from the grave, with Dysrhythmia in hand, Gorguts have constructed a modern classic. I would not be sad if Luc Lemay were my father.

4. Vex – Memorious
Vex slice and dice metal tropes in an endlessly listenable manner. Death, black, folk, and traditional truths are sculpted into paeans to soaring victory. Ridiculous riffs and boisterous dynamics seal the deal; Memorious won’t soon fade from memory.

3. Beaten to Death – Dødsfest!

Dødsfest! is an ode to joy and a lethal dose of fuck-all freedom. Although presented with tongue firmly in cheek, the album's unique grindcore vision is endearing and irresistible. Bravery and innovation are useless in metal without the chops to back them up; Dødsfest! is wall to wall riffage of the utmost quality. Check your pretensions at the door, or fuck off and die.

2. Cloud Rat – Moksha
Artwork by Brian Uhl.

With delicate grind-sludge destruction, d-beat debauchery, and impossibly vicious vocals, Cloud Rat have concocted the year’s most genuine articulation of rage. Moksha is diverse, but effortlessly complete in vision, welding beauty to a chassis of blastbeats and Thou-worthy trudge. Moksha’s lyrical sentiments speak to me, as do its attractive departures into melancholy. Cloud Rat summon sublime, immersive fury; I’ve been basking in it all year.

1. Thrawsunblat – Wanderer on the Continent of Saplings

If I rated albums solely on the number of headbangs they induced, the number of invisible oranges they caused me to crush, or the number of inextricable air guitar outbursts generated, Thrawsunblat would win in a landslide. Beyond the visceral appeal of Wanderer, however, lies a brilliant articulation of songwriting majesty and compositional might. Sage sentiments are woven into arcane tales of woodland legend, warfare, and loss. I rarely identify so closely with all aspects of an album, but Wanderer has been a constant companion, filled with irresistible riffs, rhythm, and vocals. Strive, struggle, mourn, but emerge victorious. “If every step is a mountain, enjoy the fucking view, and see the miles you’ve traveled stretching out below you. If nothing is forever, we are roaring stars. All that we endeavor is all of who we are.”

December 25, 2013

J.J. Hrubovcak - Death Metal Christmas

Artwork by Mike Hrubovcak

It's been a good year for death metal, so it's fitting that the last regular post of 2013 features Death Metal Christmas (Hellish Renditions of Christmas Classics). Brothers J.J. (all instruments) and Mike Hrubovcak (vocals and artwork) performs very serious and very brutal takes on some of the less festive yuletime classics. The death metal is very competent, sometimes reminiscent of Hate Eternal (in which J.J. plays bass), and the brothers have gone to great length to avoid falling into the novelty album trap:
Since many hymns written ages ago are dark in nature, they were obvious concept choices. The lyrics have been altered to portray a possible future outcome to mankind’s current path and focus on Azrael, the angel of death in some Islam, Sikhism and Hebrew lore.
While not quite being melodic death metal, you can pick out the hymnal melodies underneath the brutality, and that combination works surprisingly well. Check out Steel Druhm's review over at Angry Metal Guy, and listen to some death metal to get into a proper holiday spirit (!)

The rest of the year you will be treated to various end of year lists from some of the Metal Bandcamp contributors. Happy holidays, and see ya next year.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

December 24, 2013

Botanist / Palace of Worms - The Hanging Gardens of Hell / Ode to Joy

Written by Justin C.

Artwork by Roberto Høyem

The Flenser has released the fifth installment from the blackened eco-metal band Botanist, in the form of a split with another one-man black metal project, Palace of Worms. I wasn't familiar with Palace of Worms before this, so I wasn't sure how the split would work as a single album. Heck, who could share a record with Botanist and not sound out of place? But in spite of playing a (somewhat) more traditional black metal, the Palace of Worms songs work really well here. It probably doesn't hurt that Balan, the man behind Palace of Worms, has played in the live incarnation of Botanist, so they were already kindred spirits.

I've made no secret of my love for Botanist. Yes, this is a one-man black metal band by a percussionist who's chosen the hammered dulcimer as his primary melodic instrument, and his sole subject is a character called The Botanist, who would really prefer if plants retook this world from wasteful, destructive humans. It's a very singular project, but it works because of main-man Otrebor's sense of melody and songcraft. As with his previous releases, this one expands his sonic palette. The opening track of his side of the split, "Tillandsia," showcases a higher-pitched vocal rasp that contrasts with Otrebor's usual low croaks, and he takes it a step further with some clean singing in the second and third tracks. Botanist hasn't gone power metal, though. The cleans are chanted, and they're so low in the mix that they're more felt as atmosphere rather than heard. As with his previous releases, the delicate melodies remain at the forefront, and Otrebor makes great use of the hammered duclimer's ability to be both a percussion and a string instrument. The final track, "Tradescantia Pallida," starts with stately, piano-like chords under a single-note melody, then changing up to a descending line that sounds more like arpeggios played on a guitar. And of course, we get black metal biology in the lyrics, like "Cut to shreds, it rises again / Birthing three-petaled spawn."

The three Palace of Worms songs have a completely different sound, but I find it no less compelling. Balan's vocals are a more traditional black metal scream, but he largely forsakes tremolo-picked guitars and blast beats in favor of mid-paced, doomy riffs and rhythmically interesting percussion. There are a lot of great touches here: The are some creepy, spoken word vocals at the beginning of "Ode to Joy (Hurrah, the End Draws Nigh)," along with suitably ominous electronic touches. "King Leech" features some retro-sounding organ, and although "Twilight of the Idols (for R.B.)" starts as a straight ahead black metal stomper with a slithery bass guitar, but it travels through several more melodic ideas and rhythms through the course of the song, including more chanted vocals and an off-kilter, galloping beat. It's some unique-sounding stuff, and it's definitely inspired me to check out more of Balan's work.

December 23, 2013

Black Wizard - Young Wisdom

Written by Matt Hinch.

Cover art by Dena Lazarenko

Remember that Anciients album (Heart of Oak) released earlier this year and the torrent of riffs found within? Well it turns out guitarist Kenneth Paul Cook has plenty more and you can hear them on Young Wisdom by KPC's other band, Black Wizard. But this isn't merely a KPC side project, it's a band. Vocalist Adam Grant, drummer Eugene Parkomenko (Hookers) and bassist Evan Joel complete the lineup of this quartet that fuses styles with ease.

Opener "Spacer" kicks things off with some heavy duty High on Fire worship (always a good thing) and segues into a groovy stoner rock bounce. Right from the get-go you can tell it's KPC, as the style of riffs and solos he employs in Anciients are carried over to Young Wisdom. It's actually pretty cool that he can play in two bands that don't sound all that similar but you can still tell it's him.

With the exception of ethereal ballad "Danger Dances", the album is all about that groove. Head-noddin' riffs cruise down a highway made of good times. Sometimes Black Wizard put the hammer down and let the throttle rip and at others they're content to just coast down the hillside and let the road take them where it will during extended instrumental sections.

Young Wisdom has a great energy, mostly heard in Grant's vocals. There's a confidence and charisma there that can't be learned. Through his delivery you can tell that his stage presence (and that of the whole band) is top notch.

One can hear, and this is no slight, shades of bands like Wolfmother and Priestess, but don't go throwing a hipster tag around here. Young Wisdom is more of an amalgam of classic metal, grunge and stoner rock with some progressive elements. It's got soul, swagger and a definite blues influence running through its veins. But an album like this boils down to the riffs. Catchy and plentiful riffs.

Young Wisdom is easy, breezy, maybe a little sleazy and best enjoyed with a few friends and a few brews. (Wanna come over and see for yourself?)

Get wise, friends.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

December 21, 2013

Northumbria - All Days Begin As Night

Written by Craig Hayes.

The best drone combines vast mantric movements with profound sonic depths, and back in 2012, Toronto-based duo Northumbria released a self-titled debut that exhibited both those qualities in spades. Northumbria featured uber-amplified bass and guitar improvisations recorded in the interior of a 19th century church, and the album was a gothic wonderland of sanctified and distorted drone with post-rock flickers bringing a shroud of heartbreaking ambience.

Formed in 2011, by Jim Field and Dorian Williamson, Northumbria offers a glimpse of the eternal. The superficiality of modernity is left far in the background as Northumbria taps into the universal with its lengthy slow-motion experimental metal pilgrimages. And the band weaves textural tapestries while diving deep into the realms of consciousness, to sculpt beautiful, unnerving, and heavy mediations.

On Halloween this year, Northumbria returned with All Days Begin As Night. The release features one new track from the band, and additional remixes of tracks from its debut courtesy of like-minded sonic explorers. Released by Minneapolis-based label Altar Of Waste, Northumbria’s contribution to All Days Begin As Night consists of the title track, which finds the metaphysical echo and haunting resonance of the band’s drone continuing with powerful effect.

Elsewhere, electronic adventurer Famine takes the cavernous thrum of Northumbria’s “Threnody” and injects the lurch and scrapes of IDM – reworking the track into glitch-fed form. Witxes’ adds a warmer layer of treatments onto “Black Sea of Trees”; albeit with that warmth viewed through fractured glass, and splintering fragments of noise. Acclaimed noise-butcherer Theologian takes Northumbria’s “Lux Lunae” and reshapes and renames it, producing the grim and spine-chilling trawl of “The Sanguine Moon”. While Nadja’s Adian Baker takes the core minimalism of “Lux Lunae” and lets cloudbursts of crystalline sound arise from his remix.

Much like Earth’s Legacy Of Dissolution album – which saw the progenitor of ambient metal remixed by Mogwai, Autechre, and others – All Days Begin As Night sees plenty of inspiration mined from the ur-vibrations of drone. The album also contains an additional track, “The Eternal Murk (All Days Begin as Night)”, that’s only available by purchasing the CDR release, but the Bandcamp issue alone provides plenty of diverse reinterpretations and reassembling of Northumbria’s sound. Each artist leaves their distinctive mark on their respective tracks, yet a consistent theme emerges as the infinite search for meaning through sound manipulation connects at the elemental and cellular-rattling level.

All up, All Days Begin As Night is a fantastic piece of work, where the combinations of bruising drone and audio delirium make for superb dives into the fathomless depths of avant-metal and electronic chaos.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]