MetalBite's Top 10 Albums of the Month - May 2022
Welcome to May's Top 10 Albums of the month at MetalBite! You might notice that this is list is late by a couple of weeks, and that's because I (Nate) got married on May 27th, and I really didn't want to spend my wedding (and subsequent honeymoon) worrying about proofreading or whether or not Morgue Supplier would make the top 10 list over Encenathrakh and Misery Index when I should be focused on banging my wife on a beach.
If you can forgive our slight diversion (even if you can't, I don't care), here's a massive list of shit you should have already checked out in May. If you missed out on new releases this month because you were too busy trying to see if it was physically possible to blow yourself, never fear, MetalBite is here to give you what you need.
(We can't fix your spine, though. That's permanently broken. Should have gotten your lower two ribs removed first!)
Misery Index - Complete Control
Century Media Records
I don't think they're ever going to reach the heights of their golden run from 2008 - 2014, but this at least has more urgency and immediacy than the comfortable, plodding Rituals of Power. They throw in some cute little nods to their past - the title track reminds me of 'The Carrion Call' with the steady mid-pace and constant grinding groove. I understand that Netherton and Kloeppel have established their style and are looking more to refine the mixture rather than add extra elements, so the real question isn't if the ideas are good, but rather if the execution is. They did add a slight melodic tinge, which enhances the music as often as it seems at odds with the pummeling ferocity, but when things seem like they're about to get boring, Adam Jarvis comes barreling in to save the day and reminds you why he's one of the most distinct and powerful (yet still underrated) drummers out there. Overall this is worth a pickup if you're a Misery Index fan, with a couple solid earworms that are likely going to turn into live staples.
Michael Schenker Group - Universal
Atomic Fire Records
13 very melodic hard rock songs which generate atmosphere through the incomparable guitar play from Michael Schenker. It's composed professionally and may not be flawless, but proves the ideas haven't stopped flowing out of this man's brain. It's a comfortable piece of music that will easily elevate your mood.
Blut Aus Nord - Disharmonium – Undreamable Abysses
Debemur Morti Productions
The master that is Vindsval is back, with another uniquely disturbing and nightmarish acid trip of an album that will require several listens for you to fully digest and comprehend. The previous album was more colorful and lucid, but Disharmonium is what happens when you hear that album and take more shrooms because you didn't think they'd kicked in yet…and then they do. It's way too new in my ears for me to at all feel comfortable rating an album by Blut Aus Nord, they're one of my all-time favorites, but because of their stature and history, they are a mandatory honorable mention even if I hadn't heard a note of this yet.
Gonemage - Master Of Disgust
If the idea of a blackened death metal concept EP based on Nintendo's Wario character, in which the metal is augmented with snatches of 8-bit chiptune sounds just a little self-consciously wacky for the always extremely serious and discerning metal fan, fear not. It takes just moments of the furious opener and title track to Master Of Disgust for the understandable trepidation to evaporate in the face of a set of tracks that are nothing less than an utterly compelling example of avant-garde metal. Gonemage are the 'side-quest' of Cara Neir's Galimgim, and his obvious passion for his chosen subject matter is palpable throughout a bizarrely intriguing set of tracks that one would have to say succeeds in its aim of revealing the dark side of chiptune, utilising the many 8-bit samples to synthesise unsettling soundscapes with the rampaging death metal riffage, in much the same way that a band like Sigh might use keyboards and other unconventional instrumentation to provide a depth and scope of sound that guitars alone may not be able to achieve. All of which would be futile were the metal component of the Gonemage sonic arsenal not up to scratch, but thankfully, Gaimgim's guitar work capably delivers a varied array of death metal riffs, many of which suggest a parallel universe in which Bal-Sagoth had discovered Nintendo and Polish death metal, deciding to focus their attempts at combining the two, rather than composing the six-part Hyperborean odyssey that is ultimately their legacy. Master Of Disgust is completely ingenious, and a discovery which potentially opens up a whole world of new music for this particular listener to discover.
Belushi Speed Ball - What, Us Worry?
Party Time! Belushi Speed Ball really surprised me with their second full-length album. With a song title like 'Ripping Off Municipal Waste' they hit me right in a special place in my heart. This is some humorous yet ass-kicking stuff that LandPhil and co. would surely give the seal of approval to.
What makes this so entertaining is the adventurous nature: Belushi Speed Ball throws in some classic metal riffs á la Priest or Maiden and some punk rock vibes (think Green Day or The Offsprin) into the songs, preventing the package from going stale like 90% of retro-thrash does. They're not afraid to throw whatever they come up with at the wall, but some of it misses the mark: 'Glass Bones And Paper Skin II' is more Voivodesque and doesn't really fit the jovial crossover thing. The other one is 'Belushi Speed Grind' where the guys try to play some brutal death metal stuff, which feels long, at 4 minutes since it's only a 28-minute album. They were bound to whiff a couple of times, though, and for the most part this is a load of fun and would be a great soundtrack to your next metal-themed party.
Abythic - Eden Of The Doomed
The German death-doom guys from Abythic are back with a brand new EP called Eden Of The Doomed. After their very ambitious and atmospheric full-length Dominion Of The Wicked from 2021 they have chosen a more rotten and foul stinking path to hell this time.
All the tracks creep forth out of the simplistic, time-tested death-doom formula structure, enriched with disgusting vocals. Anyone who likes music similar to Krypts, wants to hear Undergang but with even slower riffs, or oldschool Winter influences will find their stinking paradise with Eden Of The Doomed.
Darkened - The Black Winter
Edged Circle Productions
Darkened's first album was a humble slice of Bolt Thrower worship, and this ventures into a more melodic direction, seen in songs like 'Flayed' or 'Fearful Quandary'. Though there's more doom and more emotive riffing, this doesn't come at the expense of heaviness and shows how the musicians in Darkened are growing.
'Terminal Lucidity' is one of the best death metal tracks I have heard within the last two or three years. The breaks are awesome, and this all sounds like the bastard child of Winter and Bolt Thrower. Of course they haven't forgotten how to play faster and more brutal stuff, evidenced by 'Black Winter' and 'Swallowed by the World'.. The albums strikes a great balance between atmosphere and fury. A huge step forward for the band, I sincerely hope Darkened gets the attention they deserve for this one.
Encenathrakh - Ithate Thngth Oceate
Tech death can just stop right here, right now. The arms race has been won. It would not be possible for music to sound any more chaotic than this without it descending into realms of harsh noise. Encenathrakh already won this race unanimously in 2014 when they first hit the scene and they've spent the last 8 years putting an increasing amount of distance between themselves and their peers. It'd be like if Michael Jordan, in his prime, decided that he wasn't good enough and that his stats needed to be even more absurd than they already are.
Encenathrakh doesn't need you. It doesn't need anyone or anything. It is an endlessly circling void with no beginning, end, rhyme or reason. If you're brave enough to take the plunge, give this a go because it absolutely needs to be heard.
METALBITE'S TOP 10 ALBUMS OF THE MONTH
10: Morgue Supplier - Inevitability
Transcending Obscurity Records
Here's my obligatory Transcending Obscurity representation in this list, this time coming from Chicago-based deathgrind veterans. With roots going back to the 90s but just a small handful of releases scattered about the years, Morgue Supplier is the kind of deformed entity that lurches about with little rhyme or reason for the bouts of inspiration that magically manifest and result in new music - which itself is a haggard connection of broken half-ideas jammed together into something semi-cohesive. In other words, this is my kind of shit!
This has that loose, frenzied vibe that any good grind-influenced band should, with inhumanly fast programmed beats, despondent howling and manic tremolo abruptly moving into terse, minimal ambiance - and then back again within two seconds. The riffs almost feel made up on the spot, but they repeat motifs and seem to execute a certain brand of chaos with remarkable consistency, so it never crosses completely into boring entropy. The vocals are a particularly strong draw for me, as they have this unhinged, wailing tone to them that really underscores the whole affair and enhances the jarring element of surprise. You're probably not going to enjoy this album unless you're messed in the head, but then again, you wouldn't be here, scouring for new extreme metal if something wasn't a little bit off with you…perhaps you're in the right place after all.
MetalBite's Rating: 8.3/10
9: Haunter - Discarnate Ails
Profound Lore Records
This was one of my most-anticipated albums of the year, as Sacramental Death Qualia was arguably the best black metal album of 2019, and the band has only been growing and improving from there, with their hype slowly funneling them into bigger shows with better bands, eventually culminating in their first European tour (with another one of my favorite new bands in Suffering Hour) earlier this year.
Intitially starting as a more screamo/post-hardcore-rooted act, the band morphs into a different entity with each new release as their influences evolve and manifest in different ways. This is spearheaded by the uncommon sense of melodic phrasing guitarist Bradley Tiffin is inclined towards using, it's got that Opeth/Akercocke vibe, entering the realm where extreme metal and prog rock become indiscernible, with a bit more of a blackened leaning that shares some overall parallels with Debemur Morti-type black metal bands, even though the end results of the riffing are quite different. On their third full-length, they went further into the more involved, textured idiosyncrasies of their sound.
There's fewer extended forays into airy ambience, resulting in an album that is "meatier" but also has a wider range of motion and more variety in its expressions. There's moments in all the songs that get me going, but the linear, long-form arrangements also bring forth a few moments where there could be more repetition and less riff-hopping. It's a slight step down from SDQ in my eyes, but I imagine I'm in the minority with that opinion, as the growth of this project in the last three years is very obviously evident, and this is still worth your money regardless.
MetalBite's Rating: 8.3/10
8: Lord Belial - Rapture
14 years between albums changed little to nothing for this Swedish trio, who continue on with their trademark brand of melodic yet ferocious black metal, topped off with some nice little acoustic garnishes giving that time-tested 90s atmosphere. 'Destruction' is a highlight: speed, hateful vocals and typical Swedish black metal riffing. 'Lux Luciferi' is another standout with powerful drumming, massive riffs and a very interesting and melodic break. 'Evil Incarnate' is a nice mid-paced black metal stomper, one of the catchiest tracks on this album. 'Belie All Gods' has a very cool Gregorian choir in the background, as well as some clean guitar parts that give a certain epic majesty.
The album is varied, but not random - they maintained their formula to keep it easy to listen to, but they add little touches to tracks that will surprise even the experienced fans. Even Thomas' voice sounds as fresh and sinister as it did in the past. Maybe if I praise them enough, they'll reveal their secret Fountain of Youth to me that's allowed them to stay so young and full of energy!
MetalBite's Rating: 8.4/10
7: Ufomammut - Fenice
If you don't know about the gods of Italian psych doom yet, you better fuckin ask somebody. This is their tenth album now, with very few weak spots in a stunning discography that will take you to the heaviest and most vacuous edges of the musical cosmos.
Fenice is one that you'll have to adjust to if you're already a fan of the band, because with the new album comes Ufomammut's first ever lineup change in over 20 years of existence. Founding drummer Gianni Vitarelli (Vita) has left the fold, replaced with a younger, more spirited skisman in Alessandro Levrero (Levre). Previously a "fifth Beatle" of sorts who worked with the band as a sound and merch guy, he was already well connected with the band, so the choice was likely obvious on their end. Still, Vita's tribal drum patterns, ambitious yet minimal in nature, are hard to replicate - it's not something that countless hours of practice or honing of technical skill will allow you to achieve, you just need to have the right feel, man.
I must say that Levre did a great job, but not because he was a dead ringer for Vita. His more rock-based, slightly busier approach to being Ufomammut's backbone breathes fresh life into these songs, giving them a more fun, jammy vibe that the band only had a significant amount of way back in the Godlike Snake era. As someone who must have watched the band play live countless times, Levre probably realized the band was at their most engaging when they were just a heavier homage to Hawkwind, so there's more of that playfulness on Fenice. This is great background music that slowly draws you further into its vortex, and it's got me fully inspired to go on a month-long Ufomammut binge like my stoned ass used to do back in the day.
MetalBite's Rating: 8.4/10
6: Synteleia - The Last Secret Syllable
There's a ton of Greek and Norwegian vibes to be felt here. The arrangements and structures are reminiscent of early Rotting Christ and Varathron albums, but in some parts I also get the primitive, raw power of classic Darkthrone. The female vocals are quite similar to Goatlord (the album, not the band) and there's a touch of old Mayhem and what they did on 'The Last Secret Syllable' which has some Freezing Moon vibes too. Not all is just traditional blacked fury on The Last Secret Syllable, though. The haunting female vocals are more frequent than they were on the last album, and the band shows an affinity for classic heavy metal influences as well.
You can easily hear the classic influences on 'Emblem of Yith', a very atmospheric track with a great suspenseful build. Another track worth noting is 'Nymph of the Pyramids', a two-part piece. The first part is faster Hellenic black metal, part two is catchier with pulsing grooves and a thicker atmosphere.. 'Escaping Atheron' has pure 90s nostalgia dripping out of the keyboards and riffing.
Synteleia combines old with new in a pure, fresh painting. The Last Secret Syllable is a very unique and well thought-out album, proving once again that the Greek black metal scene is a deep and creative well.
MetalBite's Rating: 8.5/10
5: Sacrifizer - Le Diamant De Lucifer
Art of Propaganda
We're probably all guilty of over-intellectualising heavy metal from time to time, and the occasional reminder of the endlessly alluring charms of rampaging heavy metal that exists for no other reason than to forcibly bang the head that doesn't bang is therefore a cleansing necessity. Sacrifizer are exactly that reminder, and their debut Le Diamant De Lucifer offers an old-school blackened thrash thrill-ride, with enough nods to NWOBHM / true metal to keep the speed metal freaks happy until the next Iron Angel tour. A rough approximation would be Pleasure To Kill-era Kreator spliced with the first Bathory album, and if that descriptor is not enough to running in the direction of the Osmose webshop, it's possible that you just don't like metal. Absolutely nothing innovative is happening here – this is not a criticism, but a recommendation. Sacrifizer deal in the immediate gratification of lightning speed tremolo-picked thrashing madness, augmented by snatches of harmonised lead melodies, with frequent changes of tempo and feel keeping things interesting. If Midnight, Devil Master and Vampire all float your boat, you could do so much worse than picking up Sacrifizer's exhilarating debut, a record I will likely be spinning frequently for the rest of 2022.
MetalBite's Rating: 8.5/10
4: Demonical - Mass Destroyer
Mass Destroyer has all the trademarks of Swedish death metal, with the same concise punch as the heavy hitters we all know like Dismember and Entombed. However, don't take this to be a point of criticism, because Demonical are no second-generation copycats - they were there right from the beginning, with many current and former members in Demonical having ties to Centinex, who arguably should get more recognition for their own impact and influence on the Swedeath scene today. As such, Demonical has their own distinct sound and niche within their scene, and never intended to reinvent the wheel - only to continue rolling the original wheel forward.
Even on their seventh album, they're bringing the goods and showing no signs of recycling mediocre song ideas, which is a remarkable feat given the straightforward nature of their genre. 'Fallen Mountain' hits hard with its ultra-melodic chorus in a mid-tempo arrangement, and then there's 'Lifeslave' with its threatening riffing that descends on your ears like walls closing in. This band has the ability to send shivers down the spine in many ways. On the other hand there are some faster and more punkish songs like 'Wrathspawn') or the fantastic closer 'By Hatred Bound' with galloping drums and a wonderful pace. One of the best tracks to go running to I've heard in a while! If (old) Manowar was a death metal band, they would have sounded like this.
MetalBite's Rating: 8.5/10
3: Tomarum - Ash In Realms Of Stone Icons
Oh yeah, this is all sorts of tasty. Ash In Realms of Stone Icons has all the traits of an album made by Zoomers ready to unleash the visions upon the world they've been building up in their heads for years. It's got the big dick wankery that you love (or hate) in tech death, mixed with the uplifting, grandiose atmosphere of modern melodic black metal.
Sleek, crystalline tremolo riffs glide through your earholes like silk while the masterful precision of Inferi skinsman Spencer Moore blasts away with equally focused and smooth speed. The songs are massive behemoths of simple yet massive riffs that form the bulk, dotted with some occasional Artisan Era-styled solos that add an extra spice to keep you on your toes. It's full of vitality, ambition, and a larger-than-life sense of scope. Keep an eye on this group in the coming years because they are onto something bigger.
MetalBite's Rating: 8.6/10
2: Aparthiva Raktadhara - Adyapeeth Maranasamhita
Iron Bonehead Productions
It's always exciting when a nation not particularly well-known for its extreme metal throws up an interesting new band, who assimilate something of their cultural heritage into their music, and so it is with fevered anticipation that this listener approached the debut from Aparthiva Raktadhara, emanating from the depths of Kolkata, India. Such anticipation was well-placed, as Adyapeeth Maranasamhita is a compelling and spectacular slice of the kind of death metal that I will never not be a sucker for – an endless line of memorable but off-kilter riffs, warped melodies, and a general arcane weirdness that simply can't be convincingly faked. Considering that the band have no real history to speak of, with the exception an EP released in 2018, the fully-formed sound and dizzying complexity of every single track on a short album that never threatens to descend into even mild tedium is an astonishing achievement. The entire run time is devoted to the band's shape-shifting barrage of head-spinning technicality and rhythmic shifts, which showcases what must surely be a ferociously tight three-piece, the music enhanced by a wickedly dry production that reeks of Angelcorpse, Slayer and early Morbid Angel, the whole thing cocooned by intriguing lyrical themes relating to Indian spirituality and mythology. One or two more mainstream acts have so far monopolised India's contribution to heavy metal, but with the release of Adyapeeth Maranasamhita this seems set to change dramatically.
MetalBite's Rating: 8.9/10
1: Nechochwen - Kanawha Black
If you follow these articles to any degree (unlikely, but maybe there's a few of you out there), you'll notice that while I have an unnecessarily large boner for modern tech-death, the entries that end up closer to the top of my list tend to be more in the realm of Agalloch-styled folk/black. That's my true favorite style of music, one that I've loved since I was 14, and it continues to tickle my fancy in the unique way that only it can when a rare album of quality in the genre. There's maybe five bands in total that I follow religiously in this scene, and Nechochwen is one of them. They have the added bonus of being centered around Native American/Indigenous themes, which is an under-represented area of metal that has a well of rich literature and cool, metal-as-fuck concepts that haven't been done to death yet to draw from. Remember Pan-Amerikan Native Front? Nechochwen has literally been doing the same thing, for over 10 years, with better songwriting and musicianship. You need to hear this band if you haven't yet.
Turns out this might actually be the best album to start. The previous release Heart of Akamon was a great listen at the end of the day, but there were some kinks in the full-album flow and some awkward songwriting choices that prevented it from being as good as its incredible riff ideas suggested it could be. They kept the black metal and acoustic folk separate for the most part, which handicapped the overall material - that is no longer an issue here. Instead of cramming maelstroms of black metal riffing in, almost as a shoehorned way to balance out songs that were, up until that point, relying on the acoustic interlude, they let the intensity dance with the beauty, intertwining the two into smoother and more repetitious structures. This is the sound of Nechochwen realizing their full potential.
Not only that, they still have this incredible knack for writing tasty standalone guitar licks that repeatedly keep me coming back - that was what drew me to the band in the first place. That opening acoustic guitar harmonic thing in 'The Murky Deep' is seriously addictive and one of the single best things I've heard in 2022. This satisfied all my expectations and then some - Bindrune needs to release this as a standalone CD! (why only vinyl??)
MetalBite's Rating: 9/10
Thanks for stopping by! You can go back to trying to suck your own dick now.
Before you do, though, view all the past lists from this year here:
|Circle Of Silence|
|Michael Schenker Group|