MetalBite's Top 10 Albums of the Month - April 2021
It's back - bigger, better, and with more writers!
Because I wanted to make these monthly top 10 lists as comprehensive as possible for everyone fiending all things heavy, and to give some attention to some styles of metal I tend to ignore, I recruited some faithful MetalBite scribes to give me some thoughts on more music that came out in April - and they caught onto some really cool stuff that I missed myself.
That also means that way more than 10 albums were covered, so for the first time since these lists started, we're including some…
Corr Mhona - Abhainn
This album has been a slow-burn success for me, but repeated listening has revealed an enchanting piece of work, which blends elements of Irish folk, doom and death metal into a captivating, mournful sound that is reminiscent of a more riff-based Agalloch, or an alternative take on the kind of propulsive, bittersweet melodic death metal that Insomnium specialise in these days. The band switch effortlessly between growled and clean vocals, but it is the latter that really stand-out, picking out delicate and plaintive melodies, and weaving soaring harmonies to contrast spectacularly with the furious, serrated guitars. An additional layer of romantic mystery is provided by the exclusively Irish lyrics, and the poetic quality of this language compliments the majesty of the musical soundtrack perfectly. The tracks are generally on the epic side, which contributes to the album's status as a 'grower', but it is ultimately difficult not to be drawn in by a release that offers immersive atmospherics, but not at the expense of ripping metallic fury. ~Benjamin
Nordgeist - Frostwinter
Frostwinter has the same frigid, bleak, monotone atmosphere, but with more of a long-form elegance to the pacing and a cleaner, almost bombastic feel to it, like there's small cracks of light peering through the turbulent winter storm. The actual guitar lines sound like they're coming from a very similar place, sitting at a midpoint between the rawer, Paysage d-Hiver side of things and the more grandiose melodic stylings of Mare Cognitum and early Midnight Odyssey. The drums are an unrelenting blizzard of cymbal and snare that feels programmed, yet subdues itself in the mix enough to add to the atmosphere.
In a way, it feels like it arrives at a similar endpoint as Black Cascade-era Wolves in the Throne Room, haunting keyboard overtones and crescendo riff swells and everything. This is far from an album that grips you immediately or leaves you humming choruses, but leave it on in the background and go do something else for a few minutes and feel how you suddenly find yourself captivated by a simple yet haunting tremolo melody under hale, shrill growls. ~Nate
Cannibal Corpse - Violence Unimagined
Metal Blade Records
It's a new Cannibal Corpse album.
What else to write here about the band? If anyone thought that Violence Unimagined was going to change anything musically or lyrically, they 1.) do not listen to Cannibal Corpse and 2.) are profoundly mistaken.
If you listen closely, you can recognize the guitar playing of new addition Erik Rutan (Hate Eternal, Morbid Angel, Ripping Corpse), but the technical finesse, the typical Cannibal Corpse trademarks like tempo changes, breaks and everything else,are right where they should be. Cannibal Corpse relentlessly pummel their way through 11 songs, every single one absolutely worth listening to. Violence Unimagined adds to their recent run of very strong albums, everyone who likes A Skeletal Domain and Red Before Black can easily grab this one. ~Michael
Cathartic Demise - In Absence
While I'll admit thrash is my blind spot when it comes to metal subgenres, I was completely taken aback by the intricate musicianship, sprawling, epic songs, and crisp, tight sound and songwriting displayed by these young progressive thrashers on their debut full-length album. The main issue with the genre for me is that it's really difficult for bands to keep it fresh while still remaining within thrash's boundaries, but that's something that never crosses my mind throughout any of these tracks. If you like the modern fusion of Skeletonwitch mixed with the crisp, technical delivery of Heathen, you'll absolutely love this album. ~Nate
Universally Estranged - Reared Up In Spectral Predation
Despite the recent resurgence of old school death metal, Reared Up in Spectral Predation manages to cover a lot of ground that hasn't been beaten to death yet in that realm. The key is mixing the jagged, squealing guitars with a thrashy backbone that bands like Mithras and Wormed might forget when they draw from similar influences. Lacking a lot of the straight-up speed a drummer like Pete Sandoval can provide, though, they instead choose to lumber in obtuse directions, like Autopsy with a more dead-eyed and serious delivery. This has all those old-school metal nerd influences journalists and critics love to pick at, but never tries too hard to be high art - no need to worry, this still has more than enough raw savagery to sink your teeth into. ~Nate
Body Void - Bury Me Beneath This Rotting Earth
The kind of crawling, death/doom that US duo Body Void slowly unravel across the course of four lengthy tracks on their third album is prone, in less dextrous hands, to lose a listener's interest as the droning repetition threatens to become monotonous. For every Burning Witch or Primitive Man, there are legions of imitators trying and failing to plumb the depths of human despair in the way that they intend to. Body Void walk the fine line with aplomb, however, creating a truly impressive level of sonic violence courtesy of an astonishingly viscous, feedback-laden guitar sound, and the anguished vocals of the asbestos-throated Willow Ryan. Each track contains just enough variation on the extreme doom sound to suggest that Body Void are capable of carving out their own niche in a crowded genre, inflecting their leaden riffing with subtle hints of death metal and electronic noise, all of which keep their festering sound compelling throughout. At its nihilistic best, the album conjures nightmarish visions of what Gnaw Their Tongues might deliver, were they to construct their horrific soundscapes with purely conventional metal instrumentation, and for a new band to bear comparisons with such hellish luminaries is impressive. In the best possible way, this album sounds like the slow eradication of humanity by an inescapable lava flow, and by the time you get to the end of this hour of harrowing noise, you too will be begging for the sweet embrace of death's cold hands. ~Benjamin
Helslave - From the Sulphur Depths
Crunchy HM-2 Swedish death metal...from Italy! Helslave have a hearty low end that brings to mind Centinex and Demonical, with a crunch to the guitars that pays the appropriate amount of tribute to early Dismember, especially when things lean to the melodic side. The faster, riff-heavy songs like "Unholy Graves" and "Desecration" are furious and fist-pumping and will keep your head nodding for close to the entire duration, and the slower groove songs like "Last Nail in the Coffin" are guaranteed to get stuck in your head, like it or not.
Allegedly Helslave was more of a melodic death metal styled act before this album - I probably could have guessed that based on the efficient, rounded songwriting with all the frills and fat trimmed off, and how these songs are memorable in a way that's comparable to pop songs on the radio - every now and then I'll just start humming an isolated riff out of nowhere, and it'll take me a couple of minutes before I realize where it came from. A lot of Whoracle-era In Flames is basically just pop music in death metal's clothing (no disrespect, I love that album), and Helslave essentially takes that concept and adds a beefy low end and some extra sandpaper. If you dig the Swedeath style you'll be surprised by how much mileage you get out of this, as at least half of these tracks have a section that's gonna make you put them on constant repeat for a few days. ~Nate
That almost could have been a top 10 on its own in a month like January, which just tells you how stacked this month is. Now, for what you've been waiting for…
METALBITE'S TOP 10 ALBUMS OF THE MONTH
10: Unflesh - Inhumation
Whether it's the acrobatic bass-heavy verse in 'Holocaust of Stars', the unusually catchy atonality of 'Inhumation', which evolves into flourishes of beautiful little licks guaranteed to induce air guitaring, or the hook-laden progression of 'Vast Forest of Impaled Cadavers', which throws punchy yet abundantly melodic guitar leads at you one by one, the memorable moments are aplenty. And despite the abundance of skill clearly present in each member of this power trio, the songs never push themselves harder than is required and are more apt to rely on the natural allure of their riffing, with garnishes of the occasional blackened motif on songs such as 'Amongst Horrors Must I Dwell' that evoke auditory images of bands like Inferi and Demon King.
It's hard enough to pull off 6+ minute numbers in the tech-death genre, and Unflesh did it three times on Inhumation; all those songs feel half as long as they are. With the distinct, legible rasp of Beevers and songs that toe a line between melody and technicality with aplomb, Inhumation is simultaneously mindboggling and infectious in that very specific way that elevates an album from good to great – from an occasional stop in the journey to a staple in the listening rotation. ~Nate
MetalBite's Rating: 8/10 (full review here)
9: Obsolete - Animate // Isolate
Unspeakable Axe Records
Having issued Ripper's sensational Experiment Of Existence in 2016, one of the best thrash albums in recent memory, the excellent Unspeakable Axe Records continue to demonstrate their unerring eye for quality with the release of Obsolete's thrilling debut Animate // Isolate. Obsolete achieves an almost perfect balance between mind-boggling technical proficiency, and taut, memorable song-writing, which ensures that every track is an exhilarating succession of unforgettable riffs and jaw-dropping technicality. Most pleasingly, despite the intricacy of the band's compositions, Obsolete maintain a feral intensity throughout, which ensures that their music never approaches the kind of sterile exhibition of athleticism that tech-metal can fall prey to, and instead the band's ability to delight with unexpected harmonies and snaking, complex riffing is enhanced by the multiplicity of options available to them at any given point. It has been some time since a technical thrash album got its hooks into me so deeply in such a short space of time, and it will be fascinating to see just how far Obsolete can take this. ~Benjamin
MetalBite's Rating: 8.1/10
8: Throne - Pestilent Dawn
Redefining Darkness Records
Throne exemplifies a type of sound I have been searching for, and have only discovered in occasional bursts. It's deathcore...without the 'core'. There's still a stripped-down, raw anger to this that hearkens to punk-oriented roots and a blunt lack of nuance in the breakdowns.
Nonetheless, when you pick apart the influences in the riffing and song structuring, there's nothing else you can say it sounds like other than the furious maelstroms of bands like Hate Eternal, Azarath, Marduk and Angelcorpse. The key difference is that the delivery is less "mystical incantations" and more "hammers to your skull". Pestilent Dawn has a very ominous atmosphere that creeps around the edges while the band is grinding you into a pulp. ~Nate
MetalBite's Rating: 8.1/10 (Full review here)
7: Nekromantheon - The Visions of Trismegistos
Inculter and Aura Noir are cool bands, yes? Well, check out the new release by Nekromantheon! "The Visions of Trismegistos" is a very strong album after 9 years of absence. This is for those of you who like thrash old-school and without any experiments. This Norwegian group knows how to skillfully mix old Slayer, Destruction and Death Angel influences with their very own entertaining and aggressive style. The melody is technically superb and you will be surprised again and again by breaks and tempo changes. The album is a wonderfully nostalgic trip back to the 80s, when thrash was still mangy and didn't give a damn about trends. Next album please - just not in the 2030s! ~Michael
MetalBite's Rating: 8.3/10 (Full review here)
6: Wheel - Preserved in Time
Cruz Del Sur Music
A doom metal album I can listen to front to back without having my attention drift off is rare. Wheel have caught my attention here with absolutely masterful songwriting that toes a fine line of keeping you thoroughly intrigued while never doing more than it needs to. The vocals are distinct, with a tone that doesn't hook you right away, but thanks to careful attention to detail and some gripping, emotive melodies you'll find yourself humming the choruses after you hear them once. This is classic Candlemass/Solitude Aeternus styled epic doom fused with modern Pallbearer-esque sensibilities and is the most rounded and efficient album in Wheel's discography. If this doesn't get more people talking about this German group the same way we talk about Khemmis and Spirit Adrift, I don't know what will. ~Nate
MetalBite's Rating: 8.5/10 (Full review here)
5: Crypts of Despair - All Light Swallowed
Transcending Obscurity Records
April brings us a final unpleasant death metal trip to the depths of Lithuanian cave landscapes, where mold, rot and outlandish monstrosities await the listener. Crypts of Despair present an absolutely morbid OSDM album: cool breaks, insane guitar leads, lots of blast beats and two insane singers make the album a real hell trip. When the band then switches to doomy realms, it makes you shiver with its truly oppressive and hopeless atmosphere. If you like your death metal raw and unpolished like Krypts, Disma etc. and can also do well without keyboards and superfluous things like good mood, this is the right album for you. ~Michael
MetalBite's Rating: 8.6/10 (Full review here)
4: Bewitcher - Cursed be thy Kingdom
On this album, Bewitcher develops from an insider tip to a well-known metal institution. After a casual country-like intro, it goes off and doesn't stop. The band has changed their sound slightly compared to the already good predecessor Under the Witching Cross. Classic heavy metal influences à la Judas Priest come out clearly, but the band skillfully combines them with speed and black metal. You can clearly tell that the guys are having fun with this, and right away it puts you directly in the groove. As a crowning conclusion Bewitcher covers "Sign of the Wolf" by Pentagram, one of my absolute favorite songs by the band - frock out, open beer, party time!!! ~Michael
MetalBite's Rating: 8.7/10
3: Spectral Wound - A Diabolic Thirst
Profound Lore Records
For a minute there, it looked like there wasn't going to be a lot of black metal on this list, but like always, when Profound Lore puts out something new, it doesn't matter what it is, you shut up and listen. This is a Quebecois project with the brevity and immediacy of Sargeist-type finnblack, with a triumphant, uplifting edge accompanying a raw black metal framework. Right away, the piercing guitar tone with an ear for hooks grabs you by the collar while a noisy but tight drum performance drills into you. Even though this is a black metal band that you could say leans to the more primitive side of things, it immerses you right away and leaves you wanting it over and over again like a drug fix. This has that over-the-top seriousness to its imagery that would seem corny if it wasn't so damn badass.
It's hard to find a lot more to say about this, because it doesn't really do anything that you haven't heard before, it's just so damn good at it that soon enough you'll be singing the praises of this release too, just like myself (and everyone else on the internet, it seems). ~Nate
MetalBite's Rating: 8.7/10
2: Endseeker - Mount Carcass
Metal Blade Records
The new Endseeker is flawless Swedish death metal...this time made in Hamburg, Germany. HM-2 fans should not miss Mount Carcass. The band was always a bit under the radar until now, but that will change with Metal Blade releasing the new album. Brilliant melodies, cool riffs, catchy songs that had convinced me on the first listen - all this reminds me quite a bit of old Dismember. The songs groove and make quite a good mood, even if the lyrics don't really fit. When the band drops the tempo a bit, it remains heavy and aggressive.
With some of the newer HM-2 bands I always have the impression that things seem a bit artificial, especially when the band in question has already put out several albums (this is Endseeker's third full length). On Mount Carcass, it's the other way around. I wish the new Lik sounded like this - it would find its way into my CD player much more often. ~Michael
MetalBite's Rating: 9/10
1: Stone Healer - Conquistador
I am not kidding when I say every single track on this is going to blow your mind in one way or another. If you can name a subgenre of rock or metal, chances are there's something sprinkled in Conquistador that will remind you of it. Unlike most albums in this genre-blending style, though, it retains enough structure and hookiness in its songwriting to give you something to draw you back in and doesn't ever use complexity at the expense of memorability - it feels like Dave Kaminsky lets his fingers go wherever his heart guides them and maps out the direction by repeating and returning to motifs. Combined with the drumming that follows the riffs like they came out of the same brain, it's an album that I promise will defy your expectations even after all the hype I've given to it so far. Conquistador is simply spectacular and one of the best albums you'll hear all year. ~Nate
MetalBite's Rating: 9.1/10 (Full review here)
Thanks a ton to Michael and Benjamin for helping out with this one. Since I'm not really a big thrash guy, for example, it was nice that both of those dudes were able to cover my blind spots. The Albums of the Month list continues to grow.
To catch up on everything from this year, check out the lists for January, February and March. More importantly, buy stuff from the bands you like so that they can continue to make unreal music like this. Keep the metal flowing!