MetalBite's Top 10 Albums of the Month - April 2022
Welcome back to MetalBite's Top 10 albums of the Month. April is always a really good month for new releases. Spring is here, shows are slowly getting back to what they used to be, and love is in the air. Let's cut the shit and get right to it.
Terzij De Horde - In One Of These, I Am Your Enemy
I'm writing new bass lines for the post-black band I play in, so I need to listen to more of this shit again and get back into the game, I've been too infatuated with tech-disso-prog death lately. This is cool and starting to pull me back into the groove. It's tense yet subtly delicate and evocative, but still maintains an edge like they could lash out at you in fury at any moment (and they occasionally do). Also I always appreciate when the vocals sit in a more faded spot in the mix like they are here - if all you hear is vocals, a lot of the things I like to appreciate about riffs and drum patterns get drowned out in a sea of AAAAA and EEEEEE.
Undeath - It's Time…To Rise From The Grave
Okay, I fucking loved Lesions Of A Different Kind, it was one of my top 10 albums of 2020, but for some reason I just…don't feel this as much? It sounds like they started writing album 2, ran out of fresh ideas halfway through… but they already had all this hype behind them and had started touring more, so they filled the gaps by ripping off early 2000s era Cannibal Corpse. It's got moments where it pulls me back in (the single 'Rise From The Grave' is undoubtedly a banger), and I like it fine when it's on, but it seems like most of my enjoyment of it is just residual effects from how much the last album slapped. I dunno, maybe it'll grow on me.
There's enough that draws me in to warrant an honorable mention, at the very least. I do hear these guys translate well to the live stage too.
Kraanium / Existential Dissipation - Polymorphic Chamber Of Human Consumption
Two slam bands slamming some of the slammiest slams that ever slammed. Existential Dissipation is the newer, younger group on the block, but honestly, they show up the veterans on this one. Kraanium's drummer is insane and they crank out the big chungus riffs like they always do, but their guitar tone is a bit flat and they lack the ping of the snare that Polymorphic Chamber brings in. ExD also has a more snaking, technical edge to their stops and transitions, with the occasional air of early Defeated Sanity or Severed Savior in the clanging, slapping bass lines and the way they use quick triplet timings to grind between and transition through riffs.
Long story short: it's got the br00tals. It's also unfortunately the swansong of vocalist Bob Shaw, who passed away not long after recording the parts for this album. He's sent off with a sickeningly low, yet irresistibly smooth gore purr, with a tone that sounds like a more professional version of Torsofuck (lol) or maybe American Disgorge with a bit more wetness and less breath. We lost a good one, that's for sure.
Sentient Horror - Rites Of Gore
Redefining Darkness Records
From Stockholm, New Jersey the deathly quartet spit forth their third full-length album. Titles like 'A Faceless Corpse', 'The Grave Is My Home' (song title of the year!!!) or 'Till Death Do Us Rot' sound quite old-school and fans of the style won't be disappointed. The Swedish influences are, of course, apparent in every track - a little bit Entombed here, some Carnage there, and don't forget the Vomitory riffs serving as the blueprint for the punishing parts. There's also some Autopsy influence on songs like 'Rites Of Gore', you know - these slightly doomy, somewhat bluesy parts. In comparison to their previous albums they aren't honing their technical chops as much, but instead focus only on that brutal Swedeath feeling. The album closer/bonus track is 'Supposed To Rot' by Entombed - it's kept very much to the original version, a really cool way to end the album. The production was done by Dan Swanö- who else? The only point of criticism is that the vocals are kept a little bit too much in the background in comparison to the instruments.
Miseration - Black Miracles And Dark Wonders
I used to be a huge Christian Alvestam fanboy - when I was in my early teens, Holographic Universe was one of my favorite albums ever (still holds up, to be honest). He not only has a super-smooth, resonant growl, but also a great natural singing voice, and he's not shy about switching up between the two frequently in songs - so much so that the strain of playing Scar Symmetry songs live made him quit. I still consider him to be one of the best clean/harsh hybrid vocalists in music today (Strid who?).
Now, when Alvestam did quit my favorite band at the time, I didn't see it as a huge blow because he had at least a half-dozen other projects he was involved with at the time, Miseration being one of the best among them. And then…he didn't really do much with those, either. Solution .45 put out a few albums, but that was always the most boring and hook-reliant of his bands anyway. The Few Against Many did nothing after their excellent and promising debut album. He had some solo project come out as well (Svavelvinter), but it was definitely a thin trickle of albums compared to the barrage of quality listening I expected based on how much different stuff this musical polymath seems to occupy his time with. Miseration was one of the few bands that seemed like they would steadily churn out a long list of great albums, but then they didn't do anything for…ten years? Jeez, has it really been that long?
This has a bit more synths and clean vocals that I came to expect out of this project - the angelic singing were more of an occasional spice, but here they stick out as a bit more prominent. The draw of Miseration was that it was more punishing and death metal-oriented than Scar Symmetry, but this teeters riiiight on that line between integrating some melody to keep it fresh and relying on hooks to carry a song at time. That being said, this doesn't skimp on the meaty riffs by any means, and some of the songs feature some of Alvie's most dextrous and detailed harsh vocal lines ever. Thi isn't my album of the year by any means, but it's a solid little slab of kinda-melodic death metal that reminded me this band existed (if you haven't heard their earlier albums, take some time to do so, they kick ass).
Vimur - Transcendental Violence
I've been silently following the output of these Atlantans for a little while, although admittedly they weren't much on my radar until I saw this album dropped. Vimur are the kings of really good generic black metal - it's nothing you haven't heard from other bands, but it's delivered with such efficiency and careful attention to pacing and arrangement that it never matters anyway. Their third album demonstrates how evolution and progression can arise through simple refinement of what's already there. They haven't changed their core sound, but everything about Transcendental Violence feels more refined, punchy and improved over previous full-lengths.
METALBITE'S TOP 10 ALBUMS OF THE MONTH
10: Dischordia - Triptych
Transcending Obscurity Records
More madness from T.O. in a style of janky, techy, abrasive dissodeath that the label seems well on its way to patenting these days, what with releasing new albums from bands like Diskord, Replicant, Hateful, Orphalis, and probably a couple of others that I'm forgetting. Where some of those bands might just like to linger in an unsettling space for a while, Dischordia like to make it hurt. Occasionally something resembling a coherent lead will pop up, but it's quickly buried under multiple duelling layers of guitar echoes and a haphazard drum skeleton. It's a mosaic where you appreciate the parts more for how they bleed into your head and interact with one another all the while. I'm using a lot of words to describe what is essentially just extra mathcore influence in tech-death, but there's a subterranean grime to the bass tone and low, cavernous vocals that make it feel like a slightly downtuned version of The Red Chord. Since they're probably not putting anything out ever again, this is about as good as it's gonna get - which is still quite good, mind you.
MetalBite's Rating: 7.8/10
9: Spiteful Visions - Spiteful Visions
This kind of thing tingles my heart and I already want to like it before it's released. Formed out of the compositions of Stuart Selter, who passed away about a year ago, Spiteful Visions is an effort by some of his former bandmates and friends to pay tribute to him and also let something he created be immortalized.
That's a noble enough cause to give this a shout-out for, but I wouldn't be putting it in this top 10 list if it didn't kick a righteous amount of ass, and that's why it's really here. The guitar licks are all sorts of tasty, with a certain Inferi-esque quality (the more melodic side, anyway) mixed with some tendencies taken from Stuart's former melodic death metal group Aetheric. Brett MacIntosh, known for being the bassist/frontman of prog-death group Aepoch, handles standalone vocal duties for this one, really letting his thick, hollow low come out, in addition to putting some extra chops into the vocal lines while keeping the appropriate amount of balance to let the riffs breathe. This is likely going to be a one-off project (considering the main songwriter is no longer with us) but either way, don't sleep on it - it's an excellent EP and a worthy tribute.
MetalBite's Rating: 7.9/10
8: Viande - L'abime Dévore Les Âmes
Transcending Obscurity Records
Sooner or later, the head honchos behind Transcending Obscurity will realize my entire reviewing career is just a long con to meddle my way into becoming the label's official hype man. I don't care what they put out or what genre it's in, I'll eat it up like it's Cardi B's ass right in my face.
This time it's oppressive, vaguely sludgy black/death metal from France. The dismal and anti-melodic atmosphere has an air of the Canadian dissodeath scene a la Auroch and Mitochondrion, but with less fretwork and more visceral hammering on a single note. While this is professionally played and produced, it has flickers of spacious, open-sandbox type songwriting, which is where most of the sludge comparisons are coming in. It's a Portal album written by Eyehategod that overcomes the obtuse nature of the former, and leaves behind the sheer contempt for the listener that is a hallmark of the NOLA sludge vets. Though varied and willing to take its time to sit in the uncomfortable atmosphere it creates, Viande's intent is never to exhaust or bore you. Nonetheless, this is dense and might take some time to fully get into, but at the end of the day it's got a lot more you can latch onto than most of the dissodeath and sludge it's influenced by.
MetalBite's Rating: 7.9/10
7: Analepsy - Quiescence
Atrocities From Beyond is one of the better slam albums put out in the 2010s, but it was going to be interesting to see how the band's mainman Marco Martins adjusted to having a completely new lineup record the full-length with him five years later. Turns out he probably wrote all the songs to begin with, because Quiescence adds versatility and a more rounded dimension to Analepsy's signature brand of busy yet super groovy brutal death metal. They're always slamming, but with forward momentum and a lot of little groovy textures in the chugging. The new guitarists pull out some wicked leads without compromising the sheer bludgeoning force of the grooves.
MetalBite's Rating: 8/10
6: Watain - The Agony And Ecstasy Of Watain
Although they have sometimes been the focus for a certain amount of ire from elements of the black metal scene that consider any level of popularity or mainstream acclaim as heretical (often despite continuing to champion other such underground acts as Immortal or Venom), Watain have been one of black metal's 21st century success stories, their incendiary live shows and albums such as the classic Lawless Darkness positioning them firmly among the elite. The best moments on this album come when the band lean heavily into the florid and propulsive guitar work that cannot avoid the Dissection comparison, with 'Leper's Grace' and 'Serpentrion' significant highlights for this reason. The level of quality throughout is admirably high, with a good balance between the kind of furious lightning-speed passages that recall the Swedes' earlier albums such as Rabid Death's Curse with the more infectious and technical instrumental sections that allow the album to stand comparison with the seminal Lawless Darkness. The Agony And Ecstasy Of Watain does not quite hit the majestic heights of that record, but it is certainly the band's best for a decade, and a worthy addition to what is now an impressively strong back catalogue.
After a total flop called The Wild Hunt and the more promising album Trident Wolf Eclipse Watain are back on track. The opener 'Ecstasies In The Night Infinite' is sheer black metal fury at its best. Icy riffing with exploding drums and hateful vocals make a definitive statement in the battle for the black metal throne of 2022. 'Serimosa' shows a more melodic facet of the Swedes combined with dissonant riffing that leaves a bitter taste in your mouth. That is black metal - Agony and Ecstasy go hand in hand here. Another worth mentioning track is the last one - 'Sepentrion'. This one could have also been on Lawless Darkness because of its driving riffing and more accessible composition.
The album consists of many different layers. There are three facets to the Swedish heavyweights on this album. One is the furious black metal aspect, the second is their catchy side, and the third one is the very thoughtful yet depressing side that Watain show on songs like 'Not Sun, Not Man, Not God' and 'We Remain'. The latter track is supported by amazing guest vocals from Farida Lemouchi (ex The Devil's Blood). Let's hope that Watain keep on performing this way and don't stumble back into a not so wild hunt for fame.
MetalBite's Rating: 8.1/10
5: The Spirit - Of Clarity And Galactic Structures
Art of Propaganda
It seems like The Spirit got tired of being called a German Dissection, because their new album attempts to transition the band's sense of melody into slower-building and unconventional song structures. As a result, a lot of those rolling tremolo riffs are gone, so those of you that appreciated the more straightforward black metal tendencies of Cosmic Terror might be thrown off by this, but Of Clarity and Galactic Structures has a wider range of motion and holds your attention span longer as a result.
Their previous album was great, but it was top-heavy, with the first few tracks being outstanding and the remainder of the album struggling to hold your attention. Of Clarity And Galactic Structures spaces out the bursts of melodic energy to create something that won't hit you with the same immediacy, instead preferring a rise-and-fall over multiple tracks. For example, the song 'Repression' is a mediocre, meandering piece when listened to out of context, but when you realize that it's immediately followed by an active, riffy track in 'Celestial Fire', you can make much more sense of it. Sometimes they wander a bit too far out of the way without really coming to a conclusion, which causes a few moments on this to miss the mark, but overall this is a solid and capable follow-up from a band that I'm eagerly going to continue to follow as they grow and evolve even more.
We are nothing in this universe, not even a grain of sand. This is the message of the third full-length album by the German duo The Spirit. But even if we are nothing, at least we get to enjoy Of Clarity And Galactic Structures.
This German group started with black metal quite similar to Dissection but this has changed with this new output. They put the focus more onto technical finesse and some tricky songwriting structures and timings, using some 7/4 or 7/8 signatures in 'Arcane Wanderer'. This may not be interesting for the normal listener but the band tried to make a push to be ambitious and make something more creative and challenging to listen to. Of course you can still find black metal on the album but there is always this progressive component that swings along with it. All the tracks are kept in the mid-tempo area, with small increases in speed and slower, gothic moments that bring to mind early Parsdise Lost.
Of Clarity And Galactic Structures is an album that wants to be explored like space and this cannot happen within one listening session. Become one with the album and enjoy the musical universe of The Spirit.
MetalBite's Rating: 8.4/10
4: Pharmacist - Flourishing Extremities On Unspoiled Mental Grounds
Bizarre Leprous Production
Pharmacist exist in that strange space that is permitted in especially niche areas of the metal underground, whereby they take a sound that is intrinsically associated with a single band, and base their own career on this, as if they represent some kind of alternative future for the band that so inspired them. In their case, that band is Carcass, specifically the Carcass that recorded Necroticism – Descanting The Insalubrious, and in the same way that other bands have carved their own very respectable career taking Entombed, Discharge, or Celtic Frost as their lodestone, so do Pharmacist look to be capable of doing exactly the same with the UK gore-grind godfathers. And with Carcass themselves having moved (very successfully) into more melodic death metal territories with their post-reformation releases, it is hard to argue that there is not a place for a band like Pharmacist to provide their own spin on a sound that the originators left behind long before its possibilities were exhausted. All of this abstract sophistry ultimately leads us to the important question though: is it any good? Happily, the answer is that it is utterly superb, both a thrilling recreation of something very familiar, but also a compelling listen in its own right. Flourishing Extremities On Unspoiled Mental Grounds brings all of the elastic and strangely groovy grind riffing that anyone could rightly expect, combined with the pyrotechnic leads of guest six-stringer Andrew Lee. Things get really exciting though when the Japanese grinders add their own twist to recipe, and in so doing, create something intriguingly original. This suggests that Pharmacist are ready to bury the Carcass for good, standing on the precipice of transcending their origins, and flourishing as a unique death metal juggernaut in their own right. Time will tell if that turns out to be the case, but in the here and now, Flourishing Extremities… is more than good enough to keep gore maniacs happy.
MetalBite's Rating: 8.4/10
3: Dawohl - Leviathan
This is a debut album, but this French group is by no means made up of novices, featuring known scene veterans Eloi Nicod and Thomas Hennequin. The former helped put one of the better tech-death albums of 2021 out with The Scalar Process, and the latter has many credits to his name over the past decade or so, the most notable of which would be Aosoth and Merrimack, with some live performances for Antaeus sprinkled in.
Normally I'd be wary of newer musicians attempting such a refined, uncompromising style, but Dawohl brings a fresh, tasty voice to the Marduk/Angelcorpse school of blastbeat-overloaded black/death metal. It takes all of 3 seconds for the presence of a song to be felt, with the nicely balanced production job (great fucking drum tones on here!) allowing the maelstrom to effortlessly glide through your eardrums. The tempo shifts (I would call them "breakdowns" but it doesn't seem fitting for a band in this style) are placed perfectly and are almost guaranteed to get your head nodding.
In a style like this, it can be hard for bands to create a distinct feeling that makes them stand out. Dawohl overcomes this hurdle by having a surprisingly discernible melodic undercurrent in their songs - though it's all couched in an overwhelming maelstrom of speed, guitar lines have a very clear path that can be followed, with occasional traces of mid-period Watain in the higher register melodies. Though everything's right in your face, the production and songwriting is very tight and streamlined, which is why I can listen to Leviathan all the way through and still feel like I have enough energy for another go. I don't always want a Concrete Winds-esque waveform brick to the face, because that can leave me feeling completely overstimulated and exhausted at times - this strikes a better balance between unhinged ferocity and tasteful song construction.
This stands out among a sea of cacophonous but indiscernible speedfreaks, but I expected no less going in - Dolorem Records has been quietly making a name for themselves by curating some of the tastiest blasturbation coming out of France right now. Nephren-Ka, Creeping Fear, Huronian and Storm Upon the Masses have all put out great stuff, and the label doesn't seem to be showing any signs of slowing down either (musically or productively). Get on them before they get too trendy and sell out of all their merch!
MetalBite's Rating: 8.4/10
2: Abhorrent Expanse - Gateways To Resplendence
Amalgam Music / Lurker Bias
It's not often a dedicated seeker of extreme sounds comes across new music that truly sounds different from anything else currently being released, but the debut album by US quartet Abhorrent Expanse is one such example. Abhorrent Expanse are that rarest of beasts, a truly improvisational extreme metal band, and Gateways To Resplendence captures the frankly terrifying output of a group of astonishingly competent musicians, as adept at building screeds of ambient noise and drone as they are at churning out roiling, dissonant death metal riffs. Somewhere between Ephel Duath, Krallice, and Gnaw Their Tongues, Gateways To Resplendence is what Imperial Triumphant have been heading towards for a couple of albums now, but have lacked the courage to truly throw themselves into, always pulling back into something comparatively accessible at the point at which they threaten to lose the shackles altogether. That is not intended to be a criticism of the superb New York jazz-metallers, but more an indication of just how out-there Abhorrent Expanse are, heading into far-flung solar systems, while their peers are comfortable within the confines of the Milky Way. Gateways To Resplendence will not be for everyone, but those that they do connect with will likely find the connection unbreakable and endlessly rewarding.
MetalBite's Rating: 9/10
1: Inanna - Void of Unending Depths
To be frank, nothing in 2022 has truly blown my socks off yet. There have been a few really strong albums that I remember well and will keep coming back to, but I haven't heard an album yet that just made me sit there in awe for a few tracks, completely locked in and unable to turn it off, immediately knowing it would be an AOTY contender…well, until now anyway.
Inanna are a Chilean band that is well regarded, albeit somewhat obscure and unknown as they've been relatively inactive for a decade. Their style, while multifaceted and amorphous, is relatively easy to describe because of the distinct flavor the guitars have: it's like a more melodic Immolation, with the vocals in particular mimicking Dolan's tone and delivery. This is balanced out with wandering, progressive thrash sections, comparable to The Chasm with extra psychedelia. It's maddening and discordant, with incredible builds into wild, layered atmosphere grounded by addictive guitarwork that doesn't forget to riff. Suffering Hour is one of the few modern bands I could say this reminds me of, and even then, there's much more of a "death metal" vibe with this overall. In fact, the band adamantly rejects any subgenres to describe their music other than "death metal", full stop. This is despite the fact that their music has a layered, almost ethereal and uplifting vibe at times owing to what are almost certainly 70s prog influences. In the end, the resulting atmosphere is exactly what death metal should be: that entropic, undefinable thing Cynic, Immolation, mid-era Death and Atheist were going for, but with a facelift informed by some tricks from the modern underground.
Void of Unending Depths arrives 10 years after their stunning sophomore full-length Transfigured In A Thousand Delusions, on an up-and-coming label focused on the spirit of the oldschool that seems to operate exclusively through mailorder, in an apparent attempt to recreate the early days of buying albums online. It's a fitting means of promoting an obscure yet highly regarded group such as this - even the experience of acquiring this album has an OSDM aesthetic. With a band like this that releases albums at the pace of Funebrarum and makes you hunt for physicals of their stuff, you know whatever they do provide you is going to be nothing but absolutely top notch shit.
This third album does come with slightly more streamlined rhythms and a more vacuous, drawn-out atmosphere than the technical, riff-driven maelstrom that was the previous full-length. This may be due to the band's first-ever significant lineup change - longtime skinsman Felipe Zara apparently left the band prior to this full-length after 17 years of service. He left behind some incredible performances and tough shoes to fill. No worries! Since Inanna are better musicians than you (and also probably realized it's easier to replace a guitarist than it is a drummer), guitarist Carlos Fuentes just said "fuck it, I'll do it" and switched to drums himself, and you barely notice the difference. His performance is more than competent and serves the music incredibly well, and the band shifted from aggressive to brooding to accompany the shift in playing style, which opened the door for even denser harmonies and more powerful emotional climaxes.
Like any truly great album, there are no weak songs, each new track brings its own distinct vibe and has a different reason why it's great. Opener 'Evolutionary Inversion' has a melody and constant sense of catharsis so beautiful it nearly brings you to tears…and then the second track completely switches gears and pulverizes you with nasty, ripping tremolo and chugs straight out of the 80s with some of those Chasm vibes spliced in. 'The Key To Alpha Centauri' has a phenomenal sense of pacing and slowly adds more melody and contrasting elements to create a surreal and powerful atmosphere, and the epic closer 'Cabo De Hornos' feels half as long as it does and has a terrific middle section packed with some of the tastiest licks on the album.
I'm not going to jump the gun and call this my 2022 Album of the Year right off the bat, but if Void Of Unending Depths doesn't at least place in the top 5, that means it's going to be an unprecedentedly amazing year for music, let me put it that way. This is stunning, I don't want to listen to anything other than Inanna and I'm probably going to have this feeling for weeks, and I'm also going to desperately track down any physicals of their discography and hope they don't end up costing me hundreds of dollars. What a fucking album!
MetalBite's Rating: 9.3/10
Thanks for stopping by! View all the past lists from this year here:
|The Infernal Sea