MetalBite's Top 10 Albums of the Month - August 2021
Welcome back to MetalBite's Top 10 Albums of the Month! This month, I (Nate) received fewer contributions from my fellow MetalBite writers than I usually do, so you get a double helping of my bizarre and nonsensical music taste in August. Fortunately, there were some big releases that were unquestionably going to be on this list the second they were announced, so there wasn't much room for me to fuck up. Enjoy, and let us know what we might have missed in the comments to flex your superior music knowledge!
Korrosive - Kaustic Hordes
I'm not usually a thrash guy, but I can acknowledge a ripper when I see it, and as a bonus Korrosive are local boys for me, hailing just a couple hours' drive away. As is necessary for a work in this style to stick in my head, Kaustic Hordes takes an appropriate amount of extreme metal influence and informs the base of Kreator/Slayer inspired riffing with modern conventions. The vocals of Rad Zarei have a full, hearty rasp that gives a sharp edge to the clean but meaty guitar tone, and apart from the midpaced breaks such as 'Terminal Violence', the album retains a gripping intensity and volatility through multiple tracks. Korrosive understands that the point of thrash is to beat you over the head with riffs until they're senseless, and although their ballad-esque moments don't hit me quite as hard and could benefit from some refinement and expansion, all the other songs understand their purpose and deliver the goods in spades.
Ruin - Spread Plague Death
Nameless Grave Records
Fucking R I F F S and lots of em. Big riffs, little riffs, fast riffs, slow riffs, all gently eased in with the force of a cement mixer unloading on your head. Only reason this isn't further up the list is because I only heard it for the first time a couple days ago and I need to get more familiar with it before I'm comfortable rating it, but I'm definitely giving this more spins.
Wormwitch - Wolf Hex
These guys are frustrating for me because I want to love them so much, they have all the elements that put them right on the cusp of greatness, they make subtle tweaks to their formula as if they acknowledge they haven't yet struck the perfect mix, and every time it once again has potential but it falls short. Strike Mortal Soil has a great base black/crust sound, but was a bit too samey and underdeveloped. The follow-up album Heaven That Dwells Within, which spliced in a bit of Dissection-esque melodic black metal, has some hooky moments but overall was easy to overplay and burn out on, feeling a bit thin and bereft of substance when all was said and done.
Wolf Hex sees the band strip it down once more, with hints of folk and even some 80s speed metal woven into their upbeat black metal-by-way-of -hardcore. There's some moments of powerful entrancing atmospheres backed by catchy, driving riff sections, and then there's moments that are just flat-out uninteresting, and sometimes the transition from the former into the latter can be sudden and rapid. I will say that this is a very uneven album, but I'm still including it on this list because the moment that do hit are excellent, and I can just feel that Wormwitch is about to break out and make something that goes hard 100% of the time instead of the 60-70% range they're flirting with right now.
Arcane Sanctuary - Astraios' Callingstrong
I got one riff in and was like "yeah I gotta include this". This year has been absolutely flooded with tech death and it's getting to the point where it's overwhelming and if the up-and-comers don't hit right off the bat, they're not going to stick. This does not have that problem. Conrad Meyer's sense of melody is effortless and natural, Kevin Paradis (Benighted) provides some thoroughly efficient and professional session work, and the occasional expanded range and progressive flirtations a la Beyond Creation allows the songs to breathe and sustain over multiple listens. Don't overlook Arcane Sanctuary, as this stands out even in a year of great tech-death releases.
METALBITE'S TOP 10 ALBUMS OF THE MONTH
10: Woman Is The Earth - Dust Of Forever
While people continue to ponder over whether or not Deafheaven's new direction is worth your time, invest your music listening minutes into a band that formed in the wake of Sunbather's popularity explosion that still keeps the riffs around. The name suggests an approach somewhere along the lines of Wolves In The Throne Room if they leaned more into their new-age side, but Dust Of Forever isn't what I expected at all going in - the riffs are powerful and varied, the melody isn't too over-saturated, and there's a tinge of underlining dissonance that lends weight and gravity to even the more uplifting sections. It seems like post-black metal has been fading out of prominence for the last little while after a popularity swell, and that void has left a space for the second and third-stringers of the genre like Woman Is The Earth to flourish. Not only that, but it seems like WitE are actually leaning more into the meat of their music than the atmospheric side, which, paradoxically, actually makes the music more lush and hard-hitting.
MetalBite's Rating: 7.8/10
9: Burial In The Sky - The Consumed Self
Rising Nemesis Records
The first time I listened to this, I turned it off less than halfway through the first track. There were just too many odd choices in a row. Anthemic clean vocals overtop of staccato guitar chugging, occasional technical flourishes used in a different kind of way, a random ass saxophone... I just could not make sense of it at first. It was only during about my third playthrough of the album that I realized something was actually going on.
Really, you won't get much out of one track off The Consumed Self, but about midway through you begin to realize there's a bigger progression - it just takes longer to develop. Many of the songwriting choices are very unconventional, they're not the first thing that you think of and it almost turns everything into a jumbled, ill-fitting mess, but they balance the technical with the atmospheric and mix them together in a very complex and nuanced way, similar in approach to Warforged (though the end results do sound quite different). The Consumed Self will grow on you and it's an incredibly unique, powerful and rewarding listen, but only if you put the work into it.
MetalBite's Rating: 7.8/10
8: Oxygen Destroyer - Sinister Monstrosities Spawned By The Unfathomable Ignorance Of Humankind
Redefining Darkness Records
Oxygen Destroyer made a moderate splash with 2018's Bestial Manifestations Of Malevolence And Death, turning a few heads with a black/death/thrash mix that draws comparisons to Destroyer 666 with an extra helping of war metal spliced in. It's fast, bouncy and riffy, with an energy similar to Californian death/thrash outfit Ripped to Shreds. It's also got a fresh lyrical theme. Godzilla metal (or "brutal thrashing Kaiju metal" as the band calls it) is a pretty untapped well of potential - its aesthetic fits metal like a glove, being just a tad cartoonish and over-the-top while still retaining a menacing character.
The production on this is a bit thinner and quieter on this follow-up, but that's just the price of creating a more full and multifaceted sound. Despite the punch these songs have when they're thrust upon you, there's a quirky depth to Oxygen Destroyer that comes through in the choppy screeched verses, the thrash influence integrating itself in a way that stimulates the songs instead of holding them back, and just the general way in which this grows on you over time and reveals a few extra tricks during the fourth or fifth go-around.
MetalBite's Rating: 7.9/10
7: Devoid Of Thought - Outer World Graves
Everlasting Spew Records
Lately, there seems to be an abundance of new death metal that likes to crawl, but isn't quite at death/doom speeds. It's like all the actual death/doom bands realized that little to nothing set them apart from one another, so they spliced in some fast riffs to break up the monotony. Either that, or everyone just realized how much Autopsy's janky Frankenriffs rule and how more bands need to take cues from their first two albums. Whatever the actual reason is, there's a lot of newer bands that flirt with drawing out the ambiance and atmosphere within an OSDM revivalist framework, perhaps in order to expand a sound that was in danger of becoming a gimmicky niche (remember how retro-thrash fell off hard in the 2010s?).
I say all this preamble only to make the point that Devoid Of Thought are definitely not an ordinary band in this selective "death/doom adjacent metal" category, mostly because the range of motion on Outer World Graves is absolutely massive. Usually what happens is a band will like the smell of Spectral Voice's panties too much and all the payoff riffs are midpaced, chuggy grooves. Devoid Of Thought has frantic Vektor-esque guitars leading some verses, hints of clanging, blackened doom with stripped-down blast beats, and some minimalist atmospheric gaps that can feel downright unsettling and turgid all taking center stage at different times. There's something in here for everyone!
The appeal of Outer World Graves is not only in the incredible variety Devoid Of Thought brings to a style where the sameness of bands is considered a weak point, but in how they weave all the disparate elements into a unified fabric. No matter what sub-style and odd refinings this band adds to their music and how drastically they sometimes shift into one another, it always feels smooth and like it's contributing to the mood and atmosphere the album quickly establishes. Even if you normally pass on bands in this style, these whacked-out Italians deserve an extra look.
MetalBite's Rating: 7.9/10
6: Fleshbore - Embers Gathering
The vocal mixing and general production on this album almost turned me off of it, but there were enough cool ideas going on to make me stick around, and I'm glad I did. It sounds like there's some lingering deathcore influence from bands these guys were in during high school, but there's way too much going on in the guitars and the drumming is pure, untainted tech. Embers Gathering isn't quite a slam album, either, although it does flirt with the genre at times.
The meat of Embers Gathering is dextrous, clinical riffs mixed with hollow groove and flourishes of dissonance. It reminds one of Warforged, Beyond Creation, Inveracity and even draws comparisons to Archspire in the more dextrous vocal sections. This has a very realized and polished execution for a new band, and the range of motion in the riffing is almost certain to surprise you as time goes on. Don't overlook this one - with the abundance of wack ass tech death coming out this year, it's easy to let Fleshbore blow under the radar, but you could very well miss the sleeper hit of 2021. It keeps a certain immediacy and force while still numbing your mind with the sheer note volume, and above all else it's just hella brutal.
MetalBite's Rating: 8/10
5: Killing - Face The Madness
Face the Madness is definitely one of the thrash metal standouts of 2021. This debut by the Danish quartet offers uncompromising old school thrash in the style of old Kreator, Slayer or Destruction without feeling like a second-rate copy. The guys know how to write convincing songs that use little unique touches to stay in your mind. Everybody who is looking for some nu metal influences will be heavily disappointed because listening to Face the Madness takes you right back to 1986. Titles like 'Kill Everyone', 'See You in Hell' and 'Legion of Hate' speak for themselves concerning the lyrical content. Every thrash metal maniac should give this album a listen, it's really worth it!!!
MetalBite's Rating: 8.5/10
4: Diskord - Degenerations
Transcending Obscurity Records
Oh look, another Transcending Obscurity album on a MetalBite top 10 list. They really gotta send me some free shit soon with all the unsolicited PR I give them (hint hint, Kunal).
In all seriousness, though, Diskord is excellent and even among a really strong Transcending Obscurity roster, this is one of my favorite things the label has put out this year. For the uninitiated, these Norwegian bizarros have a loose, scatterbrained approach to death metal - think along the lines of the wandering, vaguely progressive death metal like Morbus Chron amped up with clanging dissonance, bumbling bass lines, and a playful noise rock approach and delivery. It's an album that carefully walks the line between having enough meaty riffs to ground it while also taking ample time to relish in their unusual quirks. If Ad Nauseam had a grindcore-themed jam session, Degenerations is the end result.
Diskord has an impressively full sound for a three piece. Every musician consistently contributes vocals, which only serves to enhance the untethered diversions with more unusual chaos. Where most of the enjoyment stems from though, is the incredibly creative and intricate rhythm section. The bass/drum tradeoffs, the ever-evolving tempos and the synchronicity maintained between them (even when the timing is practically linear) brings forth music that keeps you engaged with its weirdness, instead of using it as a crutch to bridge ill-fitting riffs.
MetalBite's Rating: 8.5/10
3: Wolves In The Throne Room - Primordial Arcana
Are we past the point now where people just care about the music these guys put out and not about anything else? I seem to recall a time when people hated on this band for no reason, but it's honestly been years since I've seen much of it. Perhaps everyone ignored the plaid shirts, sat down and listened to a couple of their albums, and finally realized these hermetic Cascadians actually make some pretty damn fine black metal.
That being said, they were in a bit of a career plateau prior to Primordial Arcana coming out. Thrice Woven was a solid return to form after the failed experiment that was Celestite, but it didn't feel challenging compared to their earlier albums, which were overflowing with ambition. They sounded more comfortable, their sound more realized and in turn less adventurous, solid as the music was.
Primordial Arcana progresses the sound and vision of Wolves In The Throne Room by taking cues from their forefathers. Normally, a "back to the roots of our style" release would be a safe, calculated move by a band to retain their core fanbase, but these fellas have never operated in the typical realms black metal does. No matter how much they directly crib from Enslaved and Burzum, the post-rock elements always seem to butt in line and carve their way into the foreground. Even with this being the band's most "traditional" album, most of the time it still feels like metal-adjacent post-y stuff.
As a result, the mild touch of classic black metal elements in the band's signature style works incredibly well to expand the band's sense of scope. No longer do the Weaver brothers seem inhibited by their pursuit of cathartic crescendos. These songs breathe, ebb and flow, and shift in directions you're not always expecting. The band actually sounds excited for what future directions hold for their sound, which you do not expect from a group on their seventh album. Where most touring acts are phoning it in by this time, it's possible Wolves In The Throne Room may be establishing a completely new era of their sound and I am excited to hear what they do with it.
It's not just me that took notice either, with fellow MB denizen Fernando giving Primordial Arcana a perfect 10/10 review earlier this month. It's time we start considering WITTR to be a true black metal heavyweight.
MetalBite's Rating: 8.8/10
2: Wormwood - Arkivet
Black Lodge Productions
The end is near! That's the conclusion you'll come to if you have a look at the news lately, anyway - and you'll also feel it when you listen to the new Wormwood release. The Swedes wrote a very captivating album with great melodies and arrangements that show on one side clear melodic black metal influences like Borknagar or Naglfar, and on the other side some traditional Swedish folk. If you've heard the other two albums by Wormwood, you'll know what I mean (and check them out if you haven't!).
Lyrically Wormwood try to focus on the destruction of our Mother Earth through mankind and they display this theme in their music quite convincingly. Just listen to the spoken part in 'The Gentle Touch of Humanity'. If you care about the environment, goose bumps are guaranteed, but not because all is well. If you don't care, this will definitely get you thinking about it.
MetalBite's Rating: 9/10
1: Ænigmatum - Deconsecrate
20 Buck Spin
I’m still not sure where I stand with 20 Buck Spin. By and large their roster is cluttered with bands that have a super cool aesthetic and album art but musically fall flat in comparison to their far more memorable contemporaries. They’ve got a lot of second and third-rate type artists if you know what I mean. So far, 2021 hasn’t been a strong year for the label either, with new releases by Witch Vomit, Ghastly and Wode failing to grab me in any way.
But then, just when I think I’ve completely fallen out of favor with the label, they bust out an instant classic that immediately goes in my regular rotation and gets me singing the label’s praises again. It happened before with Tomb Mold, Spirit Adrift and VoidCeremony, and this year they’ve once again pulled a fast one by releasing what may turn out to be my 2021 album of the year.
Ænigmatum’s second full length shows stunning growth on what was already a developed and engaging core style. Like all good metal should, the star of the show is the riffs, and Kelly McLaughlin makes a serious case for becoming a household name in American metal with Deconsecrate. The free-flowing dissonant approach that incorporates multiple metal subgenres brings to mind prog death contemporaries such as The Chasm, StarGazer and early At the Gates, but the riffs still have a hearty punch that hits you in the gut courtesy of the incredible drum performance laid down by Pierce Williams. The skinsman enjoyed a rapid ascent into metal notoriety in recent years for his guitar work in Lord Gore and Torture Rack before switching to drums and quickly being scooped up by death/thrash juggernauts Skeletal Remains, just to give an idea of his pedigree. The best part is, he was holding back in those past bands to fit their respective styles. Ænigmatum is where he gets to go all out with extended drum fills and relentless, bubbling speed, and the end results are tight, catchy and complex all at once.
The only other release this year that has the same power and originality to their riffing is Suffering Hour, but their style was more focused and less expansive, and also has the disadvantage of not having Brian Rush on bass. After being thoroughly enthralled and mind-boggled by the lead guitar and drums for a few spins of Deconsecrate, you’ll eventually notice the bass creeping in and how it seems to create a different harmony with each new repetition of a riff, locking several more moments on Deconsecrate straight in to your memory. It’s hard to identify a weak point on this album, as the parts where you’re not jamming out to the riff usually have something different going on that require further focus and inspection. As a connoisseur of various extreme metal styles myself, this has everything I want out of a new album in 2021. Ænigmatum is here, and they deserve to be recognized as the force they are.
MetalBite's Rating: 9.2/10
Thanks for checking out this list! Browse past top 10s if you feel like more: