Every year (every week these days) there is too much music released to hear it all let alone give it the time and energy required to fully appreciate it. Naturally for whatever reasons a number of great releases can fly under one’s personal music radar and remain undiscovered for long periods of time. It is then with true graciousness that the seasonal event of “year end” lists has arrived. As I read through the many lists made by contributors over at Metal Sucks, I kept an eye out diamonds among the rough. While some potential diamonds turned out to be uninteresting to me, the number of actual diamonds was far higher than I had anticipated. Here are some capsule reviews…
Decapitated – Carnival is Forever
I not only slept on this album but have slept on Poland’s Decapitated since always. Their latest album is an extraordinarily confident summation and perfection of death metal from its genre inception to the present. Guitars have girth and precision, the drumming is technical yet creative and restrained and the songs themselves are made up of ferocious riffs, gnarly solos and a plethora of unpredictable turns. An up and coming death metal band could choose far worse role models than these gents to equip them with a template for taking the genre to the next level. Shame on my remiss!
Leviathan – True Traitor, True Whore
I am not quite sure how to take this album. On one hand it is a brilliant update of the contemporary black metal sound with an array of intriguing and at times unsettling timbres. The whole album is somewhat frightening,claustrophobic and eerily misogynist. Yet on the other hand, the real life events surrounding this album including the alleged sexual assault (rape with tattoo tools?) perpetrated by Wrest against his former partner unsettle me in ways rather different to the music. A very important black metal album until context and ethics intrude. And after that? That is a push-pull issue I have yet to resolve.
The Atlas Moth – An Ache for the Distance
It is doom but of the likes never heard before. If it has peers then perhaps Zoroaster, Yob and Om fit the bill. This album sees the band transfer the ethereal atmosphere of black metal and overlay it on the sludge and thump of doom. What this equates to is groovy Sabbathian riffs tempered by frequently two or more additional counter-melodies, drones and rhythmic figures. Vocals are intelligible and at least half of the time melodic/plain sung. How on earth did I miss this release? I know, the demise of Sludge Swamp.
Glorior Belli – The Great Southern DarknessA while back I wrote about how Americans seem to be trumping Europeans in the black metal originality stakes. In this game, Glorior Belli are not unlike an interception and 99 yard return in NFL. These Frenchmen show how it is done: not only do they incorporate the ill-suited genre aesthetic of Southern Metal into their sound, but they do so in a way which is more American than American. The pairing of southern and black metals sounds so natural, so deep and considered as to trick the listener into thinking it has always been this way. Some southern-ness is more pronounced and at other times subtle and requiring interpretation. This has to be one of the coolest black metal albums of the twenty-first century.