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.
Eternity’s End – Unyielding 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.
Thornbridge – Theatrical Masterpiece
Sweet fucking surprise for me! I had no idea Thornbridge even had a new release coming out, finally giving me more sweet German power metal to listen as well as burning their previous debut album What Will Prevail into the fucking ground. That album showed up in 2016 during a fucking glut of power metal and just blasted the genre in the face with exactly what it needed, which was catchy, well written, grand songs and presence. Thornbridge doesn’t rewrite any power metal rules but they wholly embrace the genre and the edgier Euro style that German bands are sort of known for. There’s still a lot of grandiose and large scale moments, the album is called Theatrical Masterpiece and while it’s not a masterpiece, per say, it is rather theatrical. More so than the last. More aggressive as well, which is a welcomed addition. I’d say this one might not hit me as hard as the debut because I was so desperate for some good power metal at the time, but this is just as good as that album and makes me giddy as fuck that on their second album they didn’t stumble or falter and have produced another high quality power metal album because we sure fucking need them.
The Three Tremors – The Three Tremors
The Three Tremors concept (a play on the “Three Tenors” of opera) originally came into being as a project featuring the massive vocal talents of Rob Halford, Bruce Dickinson, and Geoff Tate in the early 2000’s and fizzled away producing nothing tangible. The concept was resurrected last year this time featuring Tim Ripper Owens of Rob Halford, Judas Priest replacement fame (or infamy) as well as a stint in Iced Earth and his highly underrated Charred Walls of the Damned project, as well as Sean Peck of Cage and more recently the Mercyful Fate guitarists reunion band Denner/Sherman where he’s been crushing the vocals, and the legend that is Harry “The Tyrant” Conklin of the fucking amazing Jag Panzer and Satan’s Host. Phew, let me catch my breath. Of course I was drawn to this project based on the pedigree alone and I fully expected it to be a classic, power metal infused heavy metal cacophony of cheese and brilliant vocal performance, and that’s exactly what it is. It’s a stripped down, heavy, American power metal album that musically exists to let the three vocalists bounce off each other and shine in their own ways. Ripper is unmistakeable and continues to impress me when he’s doing his own thing and not being wedged into established bands. Cage has a powerful voice but seems a little out of his element here as both vocalists, good as they are, are pretty much overpowered by Conklin’s amazing and unmistakeable voice. When they’re all bouncing back in forth Conklin dominates, as do the songs where he’s featured. The others have their moments as well and when they’re isolated they hit the mark but when all three come together it’s a bit of a mess. None of the vocals mesh well together as all three are such dynamic singers, but it’s kind of a glorious mess of power metal and indulgent cheese. I fucking love it.
Avantasia – Moonglow
Nobody has, or likely ever will, accuse Tobias Sammet of being subtle. Even when he’s taking up vocal chops in Edguy there’s a distinct level of over indulgence. Avantasia is his solo project and his excuse to just go full on, power metal saccharine. I legit thing the projects first two releases, the Metal Operas one and two are legit power metal classics and on point examples of how even the excess of this genre can produce well crafted music. From there Tobias got even more ambitious, grand, and theatrical. The follow up album The Scarecrow and the double albums The Wicked Symphony and Angel of Babylon found Tobias bringing in his many musical friends and a who’s who from all over power metal and hard rock. These albums are also the most self-indulgent and over the top albums you’re likely to find. Then he just sort of stuck to that template to varying degrees. The following two albums may have been just too much of this sort of thing because I lost interest in them, despite my love for cheese-fueled power metal so I approached this new album, Moonglow, with trepidation. Much to my surprise I was immediately hooked back into Avantasia land with all it’s mighty grandiosity and bombastic nonsense. It also didn’t hurt that the second song, “Book of Shallows” features both Hansi Kürsch (of fucking Blind Guardian, rubes) and Kreator’s very own Mille Petrozza. Only Tobias Sammet’s mad scientist approach to metal could have produced a song with those amazing vocalists in it, and have it be good. And that’s how the rest of the album goes. A ton of guest musicians, insane, cheesy, over indulgent power metal and it’s fucking awesome.
Mortanius – Till Death Do Us Part
It pleases my heart to hear bands trying new stuff with power metal. Dream Troll and Lor come to mind instantly but now Mortanius joins the list. While maybe not as adventurous as either of those bands, they are thinking more progressively and combining the genres of power metal and progressive metal. Now, that’s not new but add in the intense theatrical and dramatic elements, the exceptionally long, winding, story driven songs with various instrumentation, and the more bizarre prog timing tropes and it’s enough to make it stand out from the pack, both prog and power metal. It’s only downfall, and it’s a major fucking one, is their cover of Wham’s absolutely horrendous “Last Christmas.” I couldn’t even make it 30 seconds into it. I don’t even care if they totally reinvent that song, there’s no fucking saving it. I just deleted that song from the album and there you have a complete album that’s experimental and crazy enough to work.
Twisted Tower Dire – Wars in the Unknown
My whole fucking year was made with the announcement of a new Twisted Tower Dire album. It’s been 8 years since their previous album Make it Dark and that album is easily one of my favorite heavy metal/power metal albums. That album will hook itself on to you and become part of your being with it’s diabolically catchy songs. You’ll find that same melodic and infectious song attack on Wars in the Unknown. Twisted’s absolute celebration and honoring of heavy metal is what drives this band and you’ll be hard pressed to find any practicing band that extols such energy and fun and that’s exactly what makes them stand out. You’re going to have a good time with this album, no doubts at all and that’s exactly what heavy metal needs, a Twisted Tour Dire in 2019.
Tanagra – Meridiem
Sent to me as a promo, because I’m living they metal highlife now, I was more than fucking pleased to see this show up in my inbox. As I mentioned (all the fucking time) power metal is blasting this year out of the water and Tanagra’s previous album None of This is Real was a power metal sleeper album of 2015. With the sophmore album Tanagra still revels in power metal glory but has fucking upped the progressive and dramatic story telling components of their song writing. Grand in scope with songs that are individual journeys as well as inform the entire album’s journey, this creative song writing and story telling dynamic is what I fucking love about power metal. The cheese, or the cheese, but the music and songs are un-fucking-deniable. 2019 is the year of power metal and it’s the fucking best thing about metal in this fucked up year.
Paladin – Ascension
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. It’s not even fucking around and if I had to pick a top power metal album for the year, this one would likely be it.
Lunar Shadow – The Smokeless Fire
Lunar Shadow simply fucking dominates at the classic, epic heavy metal style. Their approach is so directly straight up heavy metal but they take it that one step further with simply beautiful melody and structure so they don’t just sound like every other traditional heavy metal worshipping band right now. Epic is right and this album fucking slays.
Skelator – Cyber Metal
Power metal and more traditional forms of heavy metal have been on fucking fire this year and have been completely satisfying when most of the rest of metal-dom is rife with fucking bullshit so when a band like Skelator, that fully embraces the ridiculousness of heavy metal comes along and fucking owns it, I stand up and take notice. Taking the drive of Judas Priest and Manilla Road, and infusing that with a heavy hitting power metal/speed style and jacking the whole fucking thing up with sci-fi nerdery (I mean, there’s a fucking Fist of the North Star song on this), Skelator totally fucking own all the fun and killer riffs. Purely refined heavy metal awesomeness.
I don’t want to get into why Nocturnus is now adding “AD” to their name so let’s just sum it up by saying this Nocturnus is essentially the band that made the fucking masterpiece that is The Key, a balls out creatively wild, symphonic, death metal sci-fi monster from 1990, way the fuck before anybody was doing anything like that at all. So yeah, the promise of new music by that band is enticing. Paradox definitely wants you to know it was made by The Key as the production is very similar and very 90’s. It’s not a bad thing at all it’s just very much in your face with “HEY WE MADE THE KEY” which is fine because as we established, that album fucking rules and Paradox is pretty similar in it’s balls out approach to wild death metal musicianship. To me, that goes a long fucking way because creativity is scarce around these parts and Nocturnus are at least going for something their own and blasting you in the face with it. Even if it was a carbon copy clone of The Key it’s light years ahead of any OSDM band. I dig it and all it’s insanity.
Visigoth – Bells of Awakening
Um, yeah, absolutely unsurprising to me that Visigoth manage to destroy all other metal releases this year with a ten minute, two song, single release because that’s just how fucking monstrous this band is. This band is the very literal and emotional epitome of heavy metal as a whole. Everybody else is just posing.
Goregang – Neon Graves
I’ll admit I was 100% in on this band solely based on the cover art alone by artist Juanjo Castellano, clearly influenced by Dan Seagrave and very reminiscent of his work with Entombed, BUT the album is pretty fucking rad. Sure, it’s a bit of a throwback, as if the cover art didn’t suggest that already but what do you really expect from members of Soilwork, Ribspreader, and Venom Inc. However, the OSDM tendencies don’t take center stage and they aren’t galavanting around trying to prove how old school they are, it’s more informed by old Swedish death metal, Death, but with a fucking filthy layer of crust to give it a nice punk push. Fucking super fun all around.
Vale – Burden of Sight
Fucking blasting, crusty as fuck black metal. I just can’t get enough of this crust infused metal, particularly the bands that have those super sweet melodic tinged riffs. It makes it all the fucking shit.
Neckbeard Deathcamp – So Much for the Tolerant Left
I think Neckbeard’s anti-fascist meme within a meme humor is so fucking sidesplittingly funny that I give this band a huge high five. They’re so fucking good at riling up and pissing off these fucking NS supporters and alt-right metal ass clowns that it’s almost an art. These same fucks that sit around and boast about how “black metal should be offensive” yet Neckbeard offends them more than anything, the irony isn’t lost on me, just this dunderheaded dumb fucks. And their song titles, sheer comedic gold. They’re such a joke within a joke that it surprises me they’re getting so much label attention and festival support but hey, if this flash in the pan keeps pissing of NS idiots I say keep it coming. The music on So Much is hard to review because it’s made as a reflection of all the trappings of typical NS bands, IE war-metal like production, low quality, but also it has to stand on its own as good jams. I’m not sure they get there but I do enjoy it for the novelty and the complete and devastating blow the’ve been serving this basement dwelling fuck nuggets. Keep it up, boys.
Mispyrming – Algleymi
A lot of hype around this band and this album. It’s been four years since their debut, an album that was one of the focal points of the then exploding Icelandic black metal scene, which has since gone on to be extremely fruitful and creatively prolific. I’ll say this, Mispyrming bring all that same creative and unique energy that set that scene apart from all the rest with this new album while expanding their scope. It’s a massive album and something to behold.
Ares Kingdom – By the Light of Their Destruction
Ares Kingdom is so good at being so fucking good so of course I was anticipating their new release to be, well, fucking good, and it fucking sure is. Their determined approach to killer thrash/death is so satisfying I don’t have any idea why this band is just dominating everything. That being said, I think this album is just as good as any of the rest and that they all stand on equal footing. In my mind at least. Just super solid, enjoyable metal from a band that does it solidly every single outing.
Kull – Exile
So this is all the members of Bal-Sagoth minus the lead singer. From what I gather it’s the continuation of the idea of Bal-Sagoth just without Byron Roberts. I don’t know what the story there is but more Bal-Sagoth is a big fucking win for me and this album sounds just like what it promises: Bal-Sagoth with a new singer. All the grand, over-the-top, cheeseball, insanely symphonic black metal fantasy Bal-Sagoth did so well is here in fine form once again. It’s super satisfying for a Bal-Sagoth or cheese fan and I’m glad this exists in my ears because it’s fucking all over rad.
Epectase – Astres
it’s an I, Voidhanger release, my go to label for black and death metal bands that go above and beyond to expand and explore their metal genres and don’t give a fuck. I, Voidhanger has proven by far their bands are worth the listen and more often then not numerous label bands are jockeying for year end positions on my list. Epectase is going to be one of those bands. Completely not satisfied with the conventional black metal trappings, Epectase takes a “progressive” and wildly cosmic approach to black metal that dares (guffah!) to inject some melody and major chord stylings into black metal. It’s a creative powerhouse that makes me wonder why other bands are so stuck to the trappings of their genres.
Gloryhammer – Legends From Beyond the Galactic Terrorvortex
I mean, if you don’t like overtly cheesy and theatrical, humorous power metal, you ain’t gonna like Gloryhammer. You really have to dig this sort of sensational metal or at least be willing to give yourself over to it completely. This is the bands third album and it’s just as fun and ridiculous as the other two. Gloryhammer fully embraces, unapologetically, the highest order of cheese power metal. You cannot take this stuff seriously or you’ll have a bad time. Just go with it. Embrace it. It’s fucking power metal. it’s supposed to be fun.
Esoctrilihum – The Telluric Ashes of the Ö Vrth Immemorial Gods
Just leave me alone with I, Voidhanger’s catalog of bands. Seriously, how does a label get so good at releasing amazing albums? Of all the bands on the roster though, Esoctrilihum is the one that excites me the most. They play death metal and black metal but not like you’ve ever heard. Those are just loose constructs that they play with. It’s fucking extremely creative and original and unique and inspired and is still brutally heavy. And this is the bands third release in just over a year. Year end contender, right here.
Nekroi Theoi – Dead Gods
Any metal band that is willing to play with genre limitations and purposefully try and expand them or break them is something that’ll catch my ear, even if it’s a genre of metal I don’t delve into all that much. That genre being Brutal Death Metal, a genre that’s rigidity is what’s kept me from it in the first place. Nekroi Theoi decided to root themselves in brutal but meld in a ton of doom, atmospherics, and prog-ish, technical aspects to view the genre from a different angle. Does it work? For the most part. There’s a lot of “this is the death metal part” or “this is the prog” part and I wish it was more integrated as a whole but yeah, it’s better than most brutal death metal I’ve heard so that’s saying something.
Captain Three Leg / Office – Suggested Listening/Executed Prophecy
Super awesome split between the humorous, sound clip heavy, nasty punk of Captain Three Leg, and the grindtastic face punch of Office. A killer split between to sonically different bands but emotionally similar.
Misanthropic Rage – Towards the Greyscale Aphorysm
This band is completely new to me but it checked a lot of my “must hear” marks. IE avant-garde, black/death from Poland (fingers crossed they aren’t full of fucking fascists). Poland has some killer bands along this line already. Thy Worshiper comes to mind, but Misanthropic Rage keeps the heavy side of things up front and center and lets the experimental and avant-garde nature float around in the back, informing the sound rather than being the sound. I like that approach and keeps things super balanced and engaging at the same time.
Skaphe + Wormlust – Kosmiskur hyrllingur
This is interesting as it’s not a split but a collaboration between two of the weirder Icelandic black metal bands and of course, it’s a weird, dissonant, psychedelic mind fuck. Particular interested in Wormlust’s involvement as that bad was one of the first to usher in the big explosion of the Icelandic black metal scene and has been rather quiet for years. Pretty killer and unique stuff here.
Atlas Entity – Beneath the Cosmic Silence
A one-man death metal band that is not fucking around with genre conventions. Equal parts technical, atmospheric, post, thrash, and melodic, this album is another blast of fresh air in an overcrowded, old school worshipping genre.
Sadistic Ritual – Visionaire of Death
Super fucking satisfying thrash metal that derives influence from a lot of the rougher, classic thrash bands but borrows so much it never ends up sound like just one band or style of thrash. While it’s nothing new to be sure, that non-specific thrash riffing and force is enough to separate it from the rest of the locked-in-place, new thrash bands and deliver a wholly pleasing thrash album.
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 Corpsepaintbrings 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 – Mana 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.
Bewitcher – Under the Witching Cross 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 – Divided by Darkness 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.
Martyrdod – Hexhammaren 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.
Call of the Void – Buried in Light 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!
The Accused AD – The Ghoul in the Mirror 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 – Emergence 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.
Warforged – I: Voice 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.
Rammstein – Rammstein 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.
Bethlehem – Lebe Dich Leer 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.
Paladin – Ascension 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.
Vale of Pnath – Accursed 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:
Dryad – Split w/ Acid Leather 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.
Murg – Straven 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.
Belzebubs – Pantheon of the Nightside Gods 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.
Varaha – A Passage for Lost Years 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.
Oozing Wound – High Anxiety 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.
Marissa Nadler & Stephen Brodsky 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.
Árstíðir lífsins – Saga á tveim tungum I: Vápn ok viðr 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.
Sol Sistere – Extinguished Cold Light
Chilean black metal of mystical and mildly atmospheric order that focus primarily on ferocity and aural encapsulation. There’s a bit of a classic, more produced style of black metal at work here which is fucking rad and as far as I can tell they aren’t fucking racists scumbags and really that’s all I ask of black metal nowadays. It’s seemingly harder and harder to come by.
Bad Religion – The Age of Unreason
I don’t even want to hear about what is punk or not in regards to Bad Religion. You all just wish you could be as relevant and crucial as Bad Religion are to punk seventeen albums in. Still on top of their game, still poignant and precise with their current societal observations and sharp with their humor, Bad Religion’s latest offering is exactly all the things that keep them out performing everybody else. This is the album I needed to hear. It’s the album we all need to hear. For the moment new Bad Religion in the world makes everything right again.
If somebody asked me to describe the perfect concert going experience my description would go as follows:
1. An Alice Cooper cover band that turns out to be just one sloppy dude with poorly applied Alice Cooper make-up just screaming Alice Cooper songs into a microphone backed only by the audio tracks from his laptop and in-between songs he would play audio clips of Alice Cooper promoting shitty products.
2. A muted TV in the bar that played nothing but ALF episodes with the closed captions on so nobody misses a goddamn thing that abominable puppet is saying.
3. An audience that is only about thirty people strong but consists of a dude rocking a full on American flag leather jacket and dragon head rings as big as his fingers as well as a man in his fifties rocking a tucked-in-to his jeans Judge Dread shirt dancing the entire night away.
4. The Thunderhawk himself, Jon Mikl Thor, bringing his unyielding earnest, decades long devotion to his performance, complete in cape and viking helmet with rubber Mjolnir, wandering around the crowd during guitar solos and at one point making everybody sit on a grimy bar floor, mid song, so he can take quick break thusly exposing his codpiece to all.
5. All of this culminating in one glorious moment on stage and in the audience where you realize just how amazingly awesome all the ridiculousness building all night has become.
And then last night all of those things came true.