MetalBite's Top 10 Albums of the Month - May 2021
Come one, come all, we're almost halfway through the year and the list of hot fresh riffs continues to grow!
In an attempt to increase the degree of objectivity in the ordering of this list here, May 2021 was a first in that MetalBite writers were given a spreadsheet to rate anything they had listened to that had come out this month, and then the ratings were sorted by average.
Did it just add an extra convoluted, yet arbitrary element to these lists? Who knows. All I know is I'm more likely to give something a listen if multiple people are recommending it, so feel confident as you peruse this top 10 knowing that at least two MetalBite contributors think it slaps.
That being said, adding a venue for multiple people to give an opinion on something does mean that there were some things that only one person liked/listened to, or some releases where opinions were more divided. Thankfully, we already have an honorable mentions section to scoop all that stuff up.
Anyways, thank you for reading this far, most people wouldn't care to read any of that and would just scroll to listen to the albums. You must be really bored.
Anatomia - Corporeal Torment
Dark Descent/Me Saco un Ojo
This is a polarizing album by nature, and opinions given on the new album from the Japanese death/doom stalwarts reflected as much. Either you're going to think this is amazing, or it's going to be mediocre, and there will be very little beyond your gut feeling that separates the two. That's kind of the deal you take when you listen to death/doom - it's all about the feeling, perhaps more so than other metal genres. There's very little in terms of style or technique that separates a great death/doom band from a mediocre one.
Anatomia take things one step further into the realm of inaccessibility by providing a mix of death/doom with funeral doom metal. On earlier albums it could be argued they operated in a filthier but more uptempo realm similar to regional brethren Coffins, but Corporeal Torment brings things to an agonizing, bleak, haunting crawl at times, particularly on the final track. The first three songs on this album are comparatively more varied, with distant howls and cries dancing around the foggy, yet cutting and soul-crushing chords. If you prefer something a little more uptempo in the same style, check out the album below this one, but if you want to feel like you're being slowly dissected while you're still conscious, you know what to do.
Full review by Alex here
Grave Miasma - Abyss of Wrathful Deities
The Englishmen of Grave Miasma present us with Abyss of Wrathful Deities a wonderful OSDM album, which brings to mind old Morbid Angel, even older Paradise Lost and the epic Bathory. The 9 songs mostly keep to the mid-tempo range and leave scorched earth. Singer "Y" punctuates the songs with his vicious vocals, the lyrics of which deal mainly with ghostly apparitions during mind-altering states. Particularly noteworthy is the use of sitar and saz, two instruments that are not necessarily typical of death metal.What remains is an oppressive feeling and the urge to play the album again right away.
Full review here
Impaled Nazarene - Eight Headed Serpent
"Use your aggressive feelings, boy. Let the hate flow through you!"
That's what sets the tone for the new album Eight Headed Serpent by the Finnish nuclear goats, which is their first album since 2014. It is Introduced with a recording of an incredibly stupid exorcism by "Pastor" Ed Citronelli (I originally thought it was about Bill Clinton), and immediately you know the guys around head goat Mika Luttinen are back. The songs go back to the roots and at least I am often reminded of the old glory days of the first albums up to and including "Latex Cult". Everybody who had already written off the band after their later albums, should take another look. Let's hope that the Oral Sex Demon is finally exorcised!
Dead and Dripping - Miasmic Eulogies Predicating an Eternal Nocturne
Maniacal, twisted one-man death metal from New Jersey, which includes a live drum performance. That in particular is essential to the effectiveness of this release, which combines early Cryptopsy (think Blasphemy Made Flesh) mixed with an atonal chaos similar to Incantation's swirling savagery, This manages to throw a lot of jarring elements together and the resulting mix hits you with its depth and execution immediately, with careful time put into each element, each little vocal change, each riff - and the instruments gel perfectly since all their ideas came from the same brain.
This was self released, and that combined with its obfuscating approach means that Dead and Dripping's sophomore album didn't arrive with nearly the fanfare a lot of other albums on this list did, but I could see Miasmic Eulogies Predicating an Eternal Nocturne making its way into the regular rotation of any modern death metal fans if they were to give this a chance.
Hundred Headless Horsemen - Apokalepsia
This get a mention simply because of how confoundingly bizarre this shit is. The "psychedelic death/sludge metal" tag had be curious going in, and they deliver on their obscure promise with a very non-aggressive approach, sort of like Oranssi Pazuzu with a bit more death metal, but still manage to be unnerving, menacing and entrancing at the same time. I don't have much to say about this since I haven't been able to give it as much time as I would have liked, but I do know it's got enough going on to be well worth some more invested listens based on how much stood out to be the first couple times around.
METALBITE'S TOP 10 ALBUMS OF THE MONTH
To signify their importance, and to give them a reward of sorts for making the cut, each of these albums will get their own fancy album art and an aggregate rating out of 10 from our MetalBite writers.
10: Pačess - Poupě
Slovak Metal Army
Poupě, the third full-length from Pačess, is the first to be released after their transformation into a fully active band, having previously been the eponymously-named solo project of main man Pačess. This new-found collaboration has been highly beneficial, and the result is a strong and compelling album, which skilfully traverses a number of extreme metal sub-genres, while never moving too far into the realms of the avant-garde to lose a clear emphasis on memorable song-writing, and which features an array of hooks sharp enough to burrow deep under your skin.
The album is a sophisticated and elegiac work, which successfully moves through mournful, gothic melodrama, into pastoral, mellotron-tinged Opethian prog, with surges of melodic black metal akin to Watain and Obtained Enslavement occasionally coming to the fore, and transforming a babbling brook of gloomy metal into a raging torrent of unstoppable force, all coursing through a bedrock of solid metal classicism, distinguished by fragments of delightful twin guitar harmonies. Poupě displays a satisfyingly organic feel, conjuring heady atmospherics with layers of sound, synths draped over the metallic framework like a fuggy, low-hanging haze, suffusing the entire album with a dreamlike quality which enhances the mature and classy compositions, and Pačess are clearly a band that, in the right conditions, can flourish into something rather beautiful, while impressing enough in the here and now to draw admiring glances from all who pass.
MetalBite's Rating: 7.7/10
Full album premiere here
9: Seth - La Morsure Du Christ
Season of Mist
It seems like I can't get through these top 10 lists without including at least one generic black metal album, so here we go. Seth have actually been a mainstay in the French scene for over 20 years now and seem to have pretty solid mid-tier black metal status (they've been on bigger labels like Osmose and Season of Mist for basically their whole career), so I was very surprised I had never heard these fellas prior to being pointed towards this by some more favorable ratings from my MetalBite comrades.
La Morsure du Christ does absolutely nothing I haven't heard before, but I must admit the execution is solid through and through and it's hard to find a weak point. In the spectrum of the genre, this is closest towards Dark Funeral or Setherial, a marginally more elegant and Frenchified take on Swedish meloblack. Not a second is wasted on this album, and all the garnishes like the keyboard layers, fade-outs and additional guitar effects are carefully and tastefully placed in, adding a proper amount of dynamic to the steady riff assault. If you're not a melodic back metal fan, skip this now, if you are, get this. This band has been around the block a few times and knows how to get it done, and they're not trying to cater to anyone except for people who already know and dig the style.
MetalBite's Rating: 7.8/10
8: Palus Somni - Monarch Of Dark Matter
Although Palus Somni are a completely new band, it is unsurprising to discover that the individual members have a strong track record in other bands, most notably drummer Eoghan, involved in both Aoratos, and their more heralded spin-off Akhlys. Unsurprising, because the quality of their debut, Monarch Of Dark Matter is both universally high, and also contains more of their own distinctive personality even at this embryonic stage of their career than any listener could reasonably expect. It would be an exaggeration to suggest that the album is a black metal revolution - this month alone has seen a number of other highly impressive avant-garde releases in the genre, most notably Inferno's Paradeigma - and it's easy to trace a faint line between the kind of icy, but cosmically-inclined, black metal that a band such as Darkspace specialise in and this first release from Palus Somni, but there are also enough distinctive touches of their own to mark them out as an exciting prospect in their own right.
The album is aptly-titled; Palus Somni's off-kilter approach to the genre exists in the same universe as the more orthodox version typified by Thanatomass' excellent release this month, but instead seeks to reveal the hidden, unknown reverse side of black metal, an echo in space of the bestial and infernal, fire and brimstone cooled to absolute zero. Each track is a whirling vortex of ambient-inflected black metal, stretched uncomfortably into complex shapes. Grim tremolo riffs are submerged beneath layers of distant screams, and discordant minor-key melodies weave intricate celestial patterns around the endless and mechanised blasting of the drums. It's difficult to pick out highlights, when the very nature of an album such as this is to create an overwhelming atmosphere through hypnotic repetition, but the driving slow-motion melodies of 'Iron Empyreal Rain' excite in the same way that Aborym's electronically augmented efforts once did, and it's fair to say that Palus Somni have a certain amount in common with the Attila Csihar-fronted version of that once-majestic band. Monarch Of Dark Matter is an intriguing debut, and yet another addition to the ever-growing number of brilliant good avant-garde black metal bands currently at the forefront of extreme metal.
MetalBite's Rating: 7.9/10
7: Dordeduh - Har
What's there to say about this record that hasn't already been said by me in my review?
It is one of the most refreshing listening experiences that I've had in a long time, proving that there's always some band willing to push the boundaries even further. The mixture of clean pure instrumentation and vocals with heavy riffs and growls (already tried often by other bands) is taken to a whole new atmospheric level that is both relaxing and unnerving at times. Discordant, yet melodious.
MetalBite's Rating: 8/10 (Full review here)
6: Terminalist - The Great Acceleration
Whether you're talking about the groovy death metal of Illdisposed, the downtuned bludgeoning of Undergang, or even the more rock-based thrashing of Hatesphere, the Danes have this...bounciness to them that's hard to quantify. As ravenous and intense as the music is, they all inherently just know to have fun and not take themselves too seriously.
Terminalist fits this bill rather nicely, but fuses the Danish bounce with sci-fi thrash like Vektor with some more attention paid to subtleties. It takes the right thrash album to stick in my head, most of the time the riffs have to be doing something different, and this has the right amount of that slick cosmic melody that dances around the jagged chugging and grooving to prevent it from becoming stagnant like thrash typically does for me. If you liked the new Obsolete album, this would be up your alley, as it offers fresh ideas in a style that is (in my opinion) flatlining. That being said, despite the "hyperthrash" tag, Terminalist doesn't operate at a rapid-fire pace often, as it's much more aware of itself and the bigger picture of the album than most bands are.
MetalBite's Rating: 8/10
5: Panopticon - ...And Again Into The Light
I imagine most readers of this list will already be familiar with this Appalachian folk/black band - it you're not, at least go give a spin to Kentucky before coming back to this just so you have proper context for the brilliance of this project.
Now that you've returned, make sure you have at least another hour to clear on your schedule, because their new release is an incredibly dense one. The sublime, soulful acoustic passages are a bit more meshed into the ascensions, and the album in general is a bit steadier and more professionally done, with a crisp drum production and much tighter playing over the longer blast beat sections - you can tell Austin Lunn's musicianship has slowly developed with age. This may be one of the most adventurous Panopticon releases I've heard, with deep dives into his more atmospheric side, but also a healthy dose of crust punk and even doom influences to sufficiently round out the overall sound. It has its high points and low points for sure, and might turn off a few people who are looking for Lunn to lean more into his bluegrass influences, but whatever, it did the trick for me.
MetalBite's Rating: 8.3/10
4: Thanatomass - Black Vitriol & Iron Fire
As fascinated as I am by the infinite possibilities of black metal as a genre, and the way in which progressive artists have successfully integrated apparently incompatible sounds into a surprisingly flexible template, it is heartening and invigorating to come across a band from time to time whose only interest is in the creation of sheer, orthodox, sonic violence. This is resolutely the case with Thanatomass, a Russian collective whose origin is shrouded in mystery, and whose relentless barrage of noise at all times emphasises the metallic side of the black metal equation, each song built upon ferocious chromatic riffing which sounds just as fresh and exciting as it did when the likes of Gorgoroth and Taake manifested their destiny in exactly the same way at the turn of the millennium.
The devastating power of Black Vitriol & Iron Fire is derived from the punishing sonics, which perfectly balance the need for enough clarity and heft in the drums and guitars to be able to follow the twists and turns of the riffing, with just enough ashen grime and filth to prevent things from gleaming suspiciously brightly. Screaming guitars appear and disappear from all directions, drums clatter cavernously, and the coruscating vocals are pitched somewhere between Impaled Nazarene's Mika Luttinen and Von's Venien; indecipherable, but appropriately domineering. Thanatomass' sound is the cleansing fire of a burning torch seen through the murky mists of an eldritch night, and it sounds intoxicatingly convincing and authentic. Not quite as utterly nihilistic as Teitanblood or Blasphemy, Thanatomass nevertheless share a similar aesthetic, while also recalling the golden age of mid-80s underground metal, triangulating the point at which early death, black and thrash metal were at times indistinguishable, and bands such as Kreator, Bathory and Celtic Frost laid the foundations for almost everything evil and extreme that has come since. The whole thing is utterly thrilling, and the best black metal album released so far this year.
MetalBite's Rating: 8.4/10
3: Oriflamme - L'Égide Ardente
Everyone's been swooning over the new Spectral Wound album (myself included). With all the credit it gets, though most of it is deserved, it may cause a few to overlook another standout release in Quebecois black metal. Oriflamme has a warmer sound, one very redolent of its home scene and the bombastic, marching riffs of Forteresse. The songs can do a lot with a little, and sense of subdued, but determined pride seeps through in the riffing. Xavier Berthaume showcases his versatility as a drummer, giving equal weight to the ambient, sparse moments as he does the bombastic speed.
MetalBite's Rating: 8.5/10 (Full review here)
2: Sněť - Mokvání V Okovech
From the putrid morass of Prague's underworld Sněť send their acoustic mold spores into the listener's inner ear. This is OSDM of the most deviant style - fans of Funebre, Funebrarum, Autopsy, Undergang etc. will get their money's worth here completely. The songs creep along slimy paths, but with variety - there are catchier parts like 'Kůň Kadaver' and occasionally the album picks up in pace 'Demon'. The overall work is very mature and skillful - and for a fairly young band that just released their first album, that's an extra thumbs up! Sněť has definitely set the bar pretty high for the "most disgusting OSDM record of the year" award (editor's note: this is totally going to be a feature on MetalBite at some point).
MetalBite's Rating: 8.5/10 (Full review here)
1: The Flight of Sleipnir - Eventide
Pulling rank here a little bit, since consensus showed this had the same overall rating as a couple things here (and more people rated the Snět' album), but I just can't compile this list without putting this in the #1 slot because aside from a handful of intriguing releases (most of which you just read about) this was the only thing that came out in May that I knew I was going to buy the second I saw it had released. The Flight of Sleipnir are a phenomenal band, immediately one of my favorites since I first heard their album a few years ago, and every new album brings a unique spin on their formula while still ensuring not to taint the very precise concoction that makes their music so special.
For the uninitiated, that precise formula is a mix of folk, doom, and a tinge of black metal similar to the legendary Agalloch - if anything, this band is the only suitable replacement for the American pioneers after their unfortunate split. The band can create a lot of atmosphere with a little, and their sense of timing and balance is extraordinary. Every riff lasts exactly as long as it needs to, and each moment has enough busyness to drive the atmosphere forward, yet still spacious enough to give everything room to breathe. The drums in particular highlight this feature of the music, taking a slower, and more straightforward approach with tons of little snare syncopations and fills being the paintbrush that shapes the twists and turns. This is by no means the most technically challenging or even the most stunningly unique music out there, but it does exactly what it needs to in order to create music that is spectacular.
Eventide is perhaps a good album to start with if you're not familiar with the band yet, because it does underscore a bit more of their black metal influences with a lot of anthemic, cathartic tremolo lining these songs, forming the base of the build-and-release in "Thaw" and giving a bit of a heavier edge than than more ambient approach of Skadi. If you know, you already love it. If you don't know, now you know, and now that you do know, get on that shit!
MetalBite's Rating: 8.5/10
Old school death metal and black metal in its various odd forms and atmosphere dominated this month, with lots of unknown bands coming out of the woodwork, even making albums that outpaced the veterans. Perhaps it's a sign of how the modern bedroom artist can compete with the big names and studio budgets. Either that, or it's a sign of how a lot of big names are holstering their best work until the pandemic has ceased. Gives us the chance to try more stuff by the little guy if nothing else.
Thanks for reading, buy stuff from the bands you like in this list, tell us what we missed, and check back in at the end of June!
|The Zenith Passage|