It’s half way through the year and everybody is falling over themselves to tell you what’s been good so far. There’ll be tons of talk about the Batushka schism or which new death metal band sounds the most old school or what the new crappy Tool album will be like (crappy) but nobody is going to tell you how fucking phenomenal power metal has been this year. You know which genre isn’t ripe with racists and fascists people defending those nightmare beliefs? Power Metal. You know which genre delivers exactly what it promises? Power Metal. You know which genre exists in its own self-contained bubble and is completely uncaring about trends or stances or long sleeve t-shirts with logos on the sleeves? Fucking power metal. So get on some power metal and make your life awesome.
Expectations were fucking high on this one as Eternity’s End delivered a top-notch, progressive power metal face punch with their 2016 album The Fire Within. Happily, this one is every bit as good, if not better. This is exactly the kind of power metal I was craving all of 2018: creative, balls to wall, majestic, and 100% infectious. This came out at the tail end of 2018 so I’m counting it for 2019 and we should all be so fucking lucky.
The question I had while reading this book is “can I truly hate every single character in this book and still enjoy it?” That’s what David Peak’s Corpsepaint brings me to. Let’s back up a bit.
This book was sold to me basically by a friends review that described it, so so many ways, as a nihilistic, black metal, horror book that is insanely bleak. Fucking aye, that’s my jams. So diving into it that’s what I was expecting, and essentially, that’s what I got.
Now with how bleak and dismal the book is, does it behoove the story to be told by such terrible characters? Terrible as humans, not terribly written. The book is not terribly written, it’s rather engaging for a horror yarn full of assholes that I just want to kick.
Personal baggage out front: I’ve been extremely disillusioned with the rising tide of edge lord stances and white nationalists and defenders of such shitty ideals currently being thrown around the black metal scene that I just have to fucking tolerance, or patience for anybody who wants to engage or support that bullshit. David Peak’s main characters are essentially those bullshit posturing, self-proclaimed “trve” black metal dudes with zero sense of self humor or irony. There’s even mention of them dabbling with racism or nazism just to be edgy. Fuck that. I immediately hated these characters. Minus their edge, they’re still shitty humans in general. So the idea is these two musicians, one who is a “legendary” black metal musician down on his luck, and his new band partner are heading to eastern Europe to record what he thinks will be his second coming. The place they’re going is some sort of reclusive, black metal, compound life sort of deal that harbors another legendary black metal band that’s going to aid him with recording the new album. Surprise, surprise, these people are a bunch of white nationalist assholes too, throwing black metal shows with skinheads and other right wing types of extremist. In the context of the book though, the main cult group has access to some ancient, natural force of evil power they hope to let loose. It’s amusing to me that the way Peak writes these characters, as being some kind of vessel for ancient, true, arcane knowledge of the natural word is what all these real life, stick-up-the-ass black metal fans fancy themselves to be. The big difference being Peak writes fiction and these dumbwits live in reality where they aren’t anything more than greasy fanboys.
So that’s how I’m coming out of this book. I hate every single person in it but Peak writes a good, slow burn, horror yarn that pulls a lot from the dismal, hopelessness of Lovecraft but with the added black metal, heavy metal, cold, bleak, surroundings and attitudes. Is it Peak’s intention to have you dislike the characters? Maybe that’s what I brought in to it but if you ask me, I think that’s part of the books challenge. Yes, these dudes are trash, and they’ll get theirs, but are you enjoying how that happens? I did.
Idle Hands debut EP Don’t Waste Your Time hit me like a ton of fucking bricks and had I heard it in 2018 it might have made my top spot for the year, or at least, very close to the top. Their debut album Mana, is all the promise and beautiful creativity promised on the EP. Idle Hands mix 80s pop and goth, Killing Joke at their most 80s-ish with a full on metal drive and intensity. It’s not like goth metal or anything you’ve heard before, it’s its own beast both 80s goth and metal and it’s fucking reinvigorating and exceptional.
Super fun and rifftastic, black n’ roll with speed metal tendencies. Not really much else to say except that this is Bewitcher’s second outing and second impressive and downright fun as fuck album. Good stuff.
Spirit Adrift is sneakily becoming one of my current favorite bands with their super powerful and heavy trad/doom/classic metal take. I kind of felt their first album was a bit Khemmis-y but on their second album, Curse of Conception, they blew the gates wide open and fully attained their own unique sound. Now on to album three and Divided by Darkness is a triumphant metal performance of exceptional order. Fucking insanely riffy and intoxicatingly metal Spirit Adrift is full on heavy metal without resorting to gimmicks like homage or tribute styles yet they encorporate so much of metal’s history and presence. What a phenomenal release.
Fucking Martyrdod rule. Just straight up rule, there’s no other way to put it. They just blast through album after album of pure energetic, punk-ed up and crusty as fuck black metal with insanely melodic and catchy hooks. I mean, why wouldn’t you fucking love this band and the new album, simply beautiful.
Denver’s own Call of the Void bring the nasty, dirty sludged-up punk metal vibes. Damn intense and energetic and well done all around. Hail, Denver!
It’s The Accused, I mean, it’s crossover metal at some of its best. Is this as classic as some of the Martha Splatterhead stuff? No, but who fucking cares? It’s the Accused doing their thing and have some punked up thrash fun so what the fuck more do you want?
Dreadnought’s music is simply beautiful. Combining elements of post rock/metal with black metal, psychedelia, and backed with some trippy keyboards, Dreadnoughts third album is their best outing yet. A band that keeps getting better is amazing to watch and hear and leaves you breathless with each move. Big fucking hails to Dreadnought and Denver metal.
Just fucking blasting out of nowhere is the debut from Warforged. Fucking going all over the place with a massive death metal foundation as it’s root, I: Voice handles black metal, tech, prog, and jazz scales all with masterful creativity then throws it all into a sci-fi story blender to make one of the best albums of the year. Fucking massively creative and intensely interesting, this is what I wish we were striving for always.
Oh buddy, I used to be so fucking into Rammstein in my waining high school days and I’ve always managed to check out what they were up to over the years but the past decade or so that they’ve been missing I didn’t really give them much thought and just sort of moved on but word on street was they were all of a sudden releasing a new album with little to no buildup. Now here we are with a new Rammstein album a decade since the last and you know what? They still sound like Rammstein. If you’re looking for progression or change this isn’t the album or band for you. And that’s just fine. Rammstein do the pop metal/industrial thing so well there’s no want on my end for them to do anything else and this album is wall to wall, 4 minute long, catchy, industrial metal songs. Just the way they’ve always been. Just the way they always will be.
As far as I’m concerned Bethlehem is a classic band at this point and they’ve been fucking knocking it out of the dingy dungeon with their past couple albums. I love their weird, experimental, goth-ed up take on black metal and the addition of Onielar on vocals since 2016 has just given the band the extra power to help make some of the best albums of their career. Speaking of Onielar, I am a fan of her other band Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult in all of it’s raw black metal-ness but I think her vocal performances are better in Bethlehem and this gothic black metal realm. She’s the stand out performance for sure on this album and their previous but the whole band is hot fucking fire and continue to make incredible albums.
Hot fucking hell, this album fucking rules. It’s an extremely energetic, riff show of power metal, thrashed the fuck up and topped with a little melo death just for good measure and that makes it super fucking fresh and exciting and all the things I want. Power metal continues its dominating streak over 2019.
I know that Allegaeon is want to be the dominating tech death force here in Colorado but if you ask me, Vale of Pnath is running circles around Allegaeon’s science based tech death with their horror, cultish, Lovecraftian-like tech death. I know, splitting hairs and who fucking cares, really, because both bands are rad but for my money Vale is fresher, more on point with the tech and death metal combo and just flat out awesome.
I hope this deluge of incredible albums never ends and we all just get washed away in a sea of amazing art and persistent creativity instead of whatever nonsense and horror is typically waiting for us around the bend. Here’s my best choices to help that swell occur:
Fucking nasty as all get out Iowan black metal. The filth on this is amazing.
Isotope – Isotope
So all about crust and anything crust infused. Isotope approach their crust through a sleazy rock n roll vibe that is pure drive and aggression and it’s all the fucking awesome.
Polynove – On the Edge of the Abyss
I tend to be weary of anything approaching symphonic goth metal territory and even I have my cheese limits but Polynove take the operatic style Nightwish/Epica vocals and make it work with a more melodic, death metal, doom sort of style. It still has a healthy dose of lactose but enough less than say Nightwish to make me dig this. Plus some of these riffs are fucking stellar and the rest is pretty damn fun. Don’t be so fucking serious all the time.
Naturalistic and raw Swedish black metal. Simple yet moody and massively emotional, the semi low-fi quality sets and ominous presence, something Murg has always reveled it. Damn good.
This is the debut album from the fictional characters based on the hilarious and poignant comic strip of the same name. Now the comic does an excellent job of pulling back the curtain on extreme metal on it’s own and I’ve never really thought the band that is featured in the comic needed to actually musically exist but all that aside, it’s a decent album. It’s produced by Dan Swano so naturally it sounds incredible and the music is fun if not ripe with the “heard this before” sort of polished, studio friendly black metal. It’s better than it has any right to be existing as pretty much a punchline to a comic strip gag but it’s got a lot of reverence for classic black metal and is enough to make you nod your head for an hour.
Beautiful, mournful, melodic, atmospheric doom/death metal that lived up to all the hype (self imposed) from their debut EP. Perfect for this gloomy spring weather.
Ridiculously infectious crossover thrash that reinvents the idea of punk/metal hybrid, infusing the wild mashup with a biting and ludicrously hilarious attitude. This shit fucking rules all over.
A collaboration between dreamscape folky singer Marissa Nadler and eccentric metal adjacent Stephen Brodsky of Mutoid Man seems like an odd clashing of divergent styles but the end result is something of great beauty and creativity. These two work amazingly well with each other, musically, on something that leans more towards Nadler’s strengths but with slight Americana and dark folk tinge provided by Brodsky’s guitar work. The point is, this is something creative and fresh being made by two exceptional musicians and we need much more of this energy.
This mish mash of Icelandic and German metal players has produced some epically expansive and beautifully bleak black metal albums and the fucking five year wait since Aldafǫðr ok munka dróttinn seems to have only sharpened their skills. Pagan oriented atmospherics abound with tons of low, bass heavy chanting vocals set agains grand, sweeping black metal of magnificent emotional structure could pretty much sum up the band in general but they go all in on all those ideas on this album. True to form the album is a bit long, an hour and ten minutes, which is actually a bit short for them but every second is worth hearing. Fucking killer band.
Bad Religion – The Age of Unreason