MetalBite's Top 10 Albums of the Month - June 2022
Welcome back to MetalBite's Top 10 albums of the month. We're in the peak of release season and tons of great stuff is coming out in all genres across the board. It's a great time to be alive if you're a music fan, and a terrible time to be alive if you're a music fan's wallet. Let's give you some more reasons to drain your bank account!
Hypermass - Empyrean
It's not often something in the progressive metal sphere makes this listener's list of picks for the month in preference to the latest emanations from the black and death metal underground, but when the huge riffs and gleaming melodies of Hypermass's debut Empyrean caught the ear and refused to budge, it became impossible to deny the quality of a release that belies the Norwegians relative lack of previous metallic pedigree. Not a million miles away from the kind of thing Devin Townsend used to put out immediately following his exit from the peerless Strapping Young Lad, with a dash of the djent-adjacent juddering heft of latter-day Gojira, all wrapped up in conventional song structures, Hypermass's appeal is potentially broad, stretching from fans of the arena-bothering likes of Architects to tech-death fans with a soft spot for classic melodeath. Empyrean is somewhat front-loaded, its scintillating initial impact dulling a little as it becomes apparent that the band have developed something of a formula, but if they are able to build on their strengths, and break new ground next time round, they just might build the kind of fanbase enjoyed by the bands that have clearly inspired them.
Entrails - An Eternal Time Of Decay
Seventh album from that band that sounds like old Entombed, and to everyone's surprise, they sound like old Entombed. Full review from Michael here.
Khold - Svartsyn
Veteran second-string black metallers making another groovy, midpaced album. If a newer band attempted this kind of sound it would almost certainly suck, but because these are professionals who have been working together for 20+ years, they can get away with writing music as straightforward as this. The frequent Darkthrone-isms and lack of raw talent on display in Svartsyn is made up for through the chemistry between the band members and the charisma in their delivery. Gard's vocals on their own would not sound very good, yet somehow in the context of the music, he manages to be convincing. The drums and riffs grow on you in a similar way - not the most impressive thing you've heard, but they get the job done. The production is nice and bottom-heavy, boosting the rolling grooves.
Even though it sounds like there wasn't a ton of time spent in the writing room here, it still turned out pretty good? I guess that's the advantage of longevity, you get more efficient with your processes.
Kardashev - Liminal Rite
Metal Blade Records
I'm not as into this as a lot of folks seem to be, but I definitely get the hype. The riffs and arrangements have a grandiosity and aggression to them that post-black (or "deathgaze" as I guess they're trying to call it) has desperately needed for a long time to give it some life back, and the vocals are some Next Level Shit. Mark Garrett is fast on his way to becoming a household name with his combination of high shrieks and a somewhat nasally, yet still incredibly soulful and resonant clean voice.
Despite the abundance of ability on display, Liminal Rite sometimes struggles to contain the ridiculous amount of emotion it packs in, often losing momentum in its attempts to be all-encompassing… but I'm also just wondering if I haven't fully digested this yet, as this is not the type of thing you write off after a couple of listens. At the very least, check this out so you don't miss out on what is likely going to become the next big thing.
Vipère - Douleurs
Vipere changed their style a bit from their previous EP released last year, retaining their black metal base while adding some extra folk elements. Their black metal influences still range between industrial BM stuff and dissonant black metal á la DSO or Misþyrming, but it isn't quite the sheer madness of the debut. The folk parts add variety, giving the harsh, challenging and hectic music time to breathe, peaking with the chaos of songs like 'La Bourgade Et Le Dandy' or 'Choc Terminal'. All in all, a very interesting and entertaining black metal release that once again reveals the boundless creativity in the French black metal scene.
Enchantment - Cold Soul Embrace
Does anybody remember the British band Enchantment? They released a very nice death-doom album called Dance Of The Marble Naked in 1994 and unfortunately split-up after that. I was pretty surprised to see that they are back with a new album, and even more surprised to see they picked up where they left off. Still we can hear the death/doom of early My Dying Bride and Anathema, as well as Draconian – the opener 'As Greed As The Eye Beholds' is a trip back in time. The production sounds fuller and more powerful with the passage of time adding some more progressive (or maybe modern) elements to the sound. Some more acoustic guitars, piano, a little bit of pop sensibility (like the first minute of 'A Swanlike Duet') and even some classical vibes. This brings back the classic somber spirit of 90s UK death/doom and I hope this group will not split up for another 24 years after releasing this one.
Light Dweller - Lucid Offering
Total Dissonance Worship
I don't have many words to say about this because I need to give it more time, but for now I can offer two pieces of critique: 1) holy shit and 2) this fucks.
Inanimate Existence - The Masquerade
The Artisan Era
This is the band's sixth album and they still haven't managed to break out of the 7/10 "good but not great" mold. I've seen this band live, heard several of their albums, I even own one on CD, and they still have yet to move the needle to the point where I can call myself an outright fan. This is despite the fact that I can acknowledge Ron Casey and Cameron Porras are both exceptional at what they do - the former played on a Brain Drill album, for crying out loud.
Ironically enough, though, Inanimate Existence seems to have inherited Brain Drill's chronic inability to write a solid hook. There's tons of melodic licks a la Gorod and Obscura, maybe a bit more of a brutal death metal vibe than something like Inferi (while still keeping the sense of melody), but it never does anything to startle your expectations. A lot of the time it seems like the songs were written riff by riff without having a clear end goal in sight, which makes it feel like something is missing, even though it's consistently solid and enjoyable. Worth a listen if you know you dig it already, but if you're already familiar and haven't been convinced yet, this won't move the needle.
Origin - Chaosmos
One of the longest-running tech behemoths, and former holders of the Speed Crown when Antithesis was released almost 15 years ago (!!!) before Archspire (and perhaps Viscera Infest, to a lesser extent) dethroned them. They're still plugging along, with Chaosmos being album number 8. They took five years in between releases, which surprisingly enough is the longest gap between any two Origin albums (previously, they never went more than three years without dropping something).
Perhaps the extra time spent in the writing room helped, because this may be the strongest album from them since Antithesis itself. Their last couple of albums had a few too many songs that were essentially just John Longstreth warmup exercises with guitars and vocals recorded overtop - this band is really at their strongest when Paul Ryan adds a bit of diversity and flair as opposed to hyperspeed stutter grooves plodding through the entire track. There's a reason 'The Aftermath' and 'Finite' continue to be live staples and are the best moments on the 2008 album I keep continuously referring to. Songs like 'Ecophagy' and 'Panoptical' feature more of this contrasting melody, even using it in a bit more of a cold, calculated fashion, reminding one of an intergalactic battle that's occurring 200 years from now.
Ataraxy - The Last Mirror
Dark Descent / Me Saco Un Ojo
Spanish death/doom that straddles a line between the haunting, layered textures of Sepulcros and the riff-oriented force that Anatomia taps into. The vocals have a strained, hoarse tone to them that gives off Asphyx vibes if you pay close attention - I would be shocked if the Dutch band was not a huge influence on Ataraxy throughout their career. None of this is a surprise given the label choice and aesthetics of the band. They're in a genre that is saturated full of bands by now, but manage to retain some edge and distinctiveness by keeping a symphonic undertone during the riffs, not being afraid to try something a bit different like 'Under the Cypress Shadow' which feels more like Hellenic black metal than Spanish death/doom.
They balance this more involved, melodic component with trudging repetition, creating an album that is expensive and varied while still keeping a theme. It's much more than the sum of its parts, and the parts were already pretty cool to begin with.
METALBITE'S TOP 10 ALBUMS OF THE MONTH
10: Misgivings - Misgivings
Some more music made by a band with a drummer who spent way too many hours practicing blastbeats, curated by the hyperspeed lovers over at Dolorem Records that I like to rep a little bit. What can I say, I like to go fast on a level only rivaled by blue hedgehogs.
Despite never fully committing to being a fan of Angelcorpse, I always like bands that create a similar vibe but actually have memorable riffs - which was always the downfall of Pete Helmkamp and co., despite their pulverizing surface feel. However, even if that's not typically your jam, writing this French group off based on one influence they have would be lazy, not to mention incorrect. There's a few methods Misgivings use to grind your ears into pulp, and they add a surprising amount of dynamics to a rough, cutting surface - even with the guitars having a thin production, the groove can still be felt right in the gut, a side benefit of the strong thrash metal backbone heard in songs like 'Ancient Fear' and 'The Age of Christic Sorrow'.
The drummer also manages to keep the beats engaging when he isn't going at max speed, which is a common pitfall for blasturbation bands. Guilhem Auge's got a deceptive amount of texture and depth to his playing style, no doubt informed by his extensive resume with flamenco death metallers Impureza. He's not the only one coming into this with experience, either. Though this is the band's first full-length, they've been active for over 20 years with a scattered history of smaller releases. If you're expecting youthful energy and sloppiness, look elsewhere, because Misgivings are seasoned pros, sharpening their thrashy blackened death metal spears with this project to further focus and increase the potency of their ideas.
MetalBite's Rating: 8/10
9: Darkane - Inhuman Spirits
Look at me, giving large volumes of praise to a thrash band whose best years are almost certainly behind them - usually I leave it up to fellow MB contributor Michael to do that. That being said, Darkane's in a weird spot for their genre. They formed in 1998, long after thrash had its heyday, well after the mid-90s melodeath explosion, but also too early for the retro-thrash boom of the mid-late 00s. They started to make a style of music when it was arguably at its least popular or interesting, and despite this unique position - perhaps even because of it - they are one of the more uniquely gripping and nuanced thrash bands out there today.
The Gothenburg influences breathe fresh life into stale 80s arrangements, opening up new horizons for two genres that both suffer from how restrictive and specific they have to be to get it right. The melodic choices complements the Lamb of God-esque production on the guitars surprisingly well - in any other band, these would be some of the most boring riffs imaginable, but these Swedes have an uncanny ability to take those moments you've come to despise because you've heard them a million times and not only make them listenable, but genuinely captivating and entertaining.
One more underlooked aspect of this band is their lineup consistency. In over 20 years of existence, they have never had a drummer, guitarist or bassist leave the band, which is extremely rare. The only lineup change they've ever had is on vocals, and even then, the singer you hear on Inhuman Spirits, Lawrence Mackrory, was actually on their first album anyways, so essentially the founding core is completely intact. You can hear it in the execution - no idea is ever out of place, and the interplay between instruments during the fills, transitions into the choruses and interlude diversions really underline the band's excellent chemistry. You don't notice it at first - Darkane's a slow burn in that way. They don't jump out at you immediately because their surface aesthetic doesn't suggest they'll be much different than the countless melodeath/thrash/metalcore/groove/whatever local bands you've heard, but then three or four tracks in you realize they haven't actually had a bad riff yet.
MetalBite's Rating: 8.1/10
8: DeathFuckingCunt - Decadent Perversity
Brutal death metal that is speedy, jarring, incorporates pitch harmonics and constant rhythmic shifting, similar in execution to Deeds of Flesh or Severed Savior with an extra dollop of goregrind aesthetic - aside from the band name obviously turning a few heads, we've also got a treasure trove of song titles like 'Fisted Into Form' or 'Garroted by Frenulum' to make you cross your legs and cover your nuts.
At first glance it might seem like an immature joke project, but the music within is anything but - it's an overstimulating mass of anti-melody, lurching forward with the same sort of rhythmic intricacy and complexity as something like Desecravity, or Car Bomb with more 4/4 time signatures (worth noting the drummer played in Beyond Terror Beyond Grace, who are hella underrated). The only moment of relief you get is a sample where the dude talks about extermination as the ideal form of sterilizing the human race, and otherwise the album only seems to get denser, more punishing and more filled with notes as time goes on. You won't be recommending it to your grandmother, but Decadent Perversity easily holds its own and makes me wonder if these guys would be more of a fixture in BDM if not for the ridiculous name choice.
MetalBite's Rating: 8.2/10
7: Besieged - Violence Beyond All Reason
As the first chord of opening track 'Last Chance' fades in, and the compressed mid-range tone of the none-more-80s guitars reveals itself, this listener is desperate for the Canadian death/thrashers riffs to follow through on the promise of that initial burst of excitement. Thankfully, once again, the discerning people behind the excellent Unspeakable Axe have reinforced their reputation for fine judgement in all matters of thrash and death metal, as Besieged launch into a concise and exhilarating album that absolutely scratches the itch for anyone brought up on Sepultura, Anthrax and Coroner, who might be looking for a modern band putting out a similar brand of aggressive, speed-limit breaking, moderately technical thrashing death metal.
MetalBite's Rating: 8.2/10
6: Lunar Chalice - Transcendentia: The Shadow Pilgrimage
Considering their prolific release schedule, Iron Bonehead are unfailingly reliable when it comes to putting out high quality orthodox black metal, and Lunar Chalice's debut Transcendentia is no exception. Veterans of the German underground scene, Lunar Chalice follow a brace of EPs with a full length that, while unremittingly savage, shows enough touches of deft ingenuity to ensure that the album is not simply a jackhammer blastfest. Although the almost robotic, Mysticum-like, rhythm section (apparently occupied by humans in this instance) do keep the velocity dangerously high throughout much of the record, the ritualistic chanting of much of the vocals adds a creepy, twisted ecclesiastical feel that adds depth and sophistication to a fairly raw mix. It is not quite an innovation in a scene that is already well-populated by bands aiming to offer something more than standard black metal shrieks, but it is undeniably well-matched with the bands cold, scything walls of minor chords and tremolo runs, which at turns recalls Swiss masters Darkspace, as well as mid-period Mayhem and even Gorgoroth. Like those bands, Lunar Chalice further reinforce a genre that continues to deliver solid works of black art that demand your attention.
MetalBite's Rating: 8.3/10
5: Instigate - Unheeded Warnings Of Decay
Everlasting Spew Records
With all these speedfreak drummers coming out of the woodwork like parasites, Fleshgod Apoclaypse's Francesco Paoli needed to make a statement and remind everyone why he's the fucking man, so he hooked up with some regional comrades and Unheeded Warnings Of Decay was born. Misery Index came out with a new album this year, and I'd argue that Instigate beat them at their own game here. The key to making this style work is actually adding just the right amount of choppy stutter-riffing and melody to the blistering deathgrind in order to make it less of a blur. The way the verses on songs like 'Liturgy of Emptiness' and 'Seeds of Cain' power forward is kinetic, with the perfect groove within the speed giving you a huge surge of confident energy. The drums are surgically tight, as they should be from one of the country's most renowned kinsmen, but there's enough of a playful, rock-n-roll type bounce to make them feel natural, with a lot of skank beats to remind you that as juiced-up as this sounds, it's really just a heavier and more explosive version of late 80s Slayer and Napalm Death.
Very much a niche album, but it's a niche that I gravitate to frequently. When Everlasting Spew works with a band that's outside the death/doom realms they prefer, they tend to be more selective about who they represent, which is only further evidence to point to Instigate's quality.
MetalBite's Rating: 8.3/10
4: Moribund Dawn - Dark Mysteries Of Time & Eternity
A blue painting invites us to a frigid, icy trip, into a mysterious fortress high up on a hill. Atop the hill, you are led back to 1995 - the guys from Phoenix, Arizona play some old-school black metal that could come from some Swedish bands like Sacramentum, Dawn, or Ophthalamia. They offer a mixture of wintry, harsh black metal which is combined with atmospheric keyboard painting and melancholy doom-laden riffing. When I got the album, I had to double check to make sure they weren't Swedish and that Dan Swanö wasn't involved. Dark Mysteries Of Time & Eternity is an anachronistic album, and could have been a classic if only the group was 30 years older. Hopefully they get the recognition they deserve now for this. Now, to wait until winter, when the time is right for this, when BBQ is no longer in season (actually, forget that, there's never a bad time for BBQ).
MetalBite's Rating: 8.5/10
3: Artificial Brain - Artificial Brain
Profound Lore Records
The boys in Arty B have had me interested from the first day I heard them, but previous albums have fallen short of becoming regular listening staples. I love Will Smith's wet, subterranean purr, Dan Gargiulo has a feel to his playing you can't find anywhere else in dissodeath, the rest of the members seem to understand and complement the vision well, but they've always been more of a "moments" band than a "songs" band…like you listen to them more for the one riff you think is cool midway through the song than you do to experience the songs itself.
That is the biggest change I notice with their self-titled third album - the "full song" experience. I don't think there was a hidden factor at play or anything: there was no lineup change, no introduction of new influences and themes or anything like that. It's the same sound the band defined for themselves on their first two albums, but it's just…smoother. They maintain a vibe for a full track and go into it further, and the ethereal wandering that happens in the latter half of 'Tome of the Exiled Engineer' and 'Emblamed with Magma' around the midpoint is one of the most powerfully emotional segments the band has ever strung together. That it happens during the midpoint of the album, a section usually reserved for bands to get the non-crowd-pleasing deep cuts out, just shows how thoroughly incredible and immersive Artificial Brain can be when they click. It may have taken them 10 years to fully hit their stride, but I'm really glad they did. This shit rules.
MetalBite's Rating: 8.6/10
2: Am Himmel - As Eternal As The Starless Kingdom Of Sorrow
Burning World Records
The somewhat mysterious Am Himmel unleash their debut offering to the world this month, and it's a slow-burning work of dark ambient soundscapes, that at times is barely metal at all, even if the ghostly spectre cast over the music by the harsh vocals just about anchors the album into the genre. Not unlike its cousin, drone-doom, the concept of ambient black metal can be something that causes this listener to question whether the emperor is indeed wearing any clothes, but so compelling, and so affecting are Am Himmel's dirges, that no such accusation can be levelled at this Netherlands-based solo project. Underpinning each desolate hymn is impressively thick low-end, offset by spectral synths, suggesting shards of pale sunlight penetrating the depths of a ruined cathedral, offering a sense of despair, shot through with a glimmer of redemption. The lush and enveloping cocoon of the synths are reminiscent of very early Anathema, but the overall sensibility suggests the early 2000s US black metal scene of Xasthur and Leviathan, shorn of the blastbeats and serrated tremolo riffing, and although there are no real hooks in evidence, Ad Himmel impressively manage to maintain the listener's interest right to the bitter end.
MetalBite's Rating: 8.7/10
1: Soreption - Jord
Unique Leader Records
This arrived at the perfect time for me. I've just started really diving into Soreption's jutting, groovy style of tech-Swedeath, which carries the torch of the regional old guard such as Spawn of Possession - no small feat - infused with modern techniques popularized by The Faceless. Absurdly tight start-stop riffing with thick production forms the base as diminished high notes accent the melodies, and the band sounds so in sync with each other's ideas it's like they share a collective brain. They're one of the best new bands in the genre and are further proof of the time-tested fact: no matter how good you think the best band in any metal genre is, there's always a Swedish counterpart that can give them a run for their money.
There are no significant reinventions or changes on Jord - the group continues to polish their approach, making minor augmentations to the melodic sensibilities and song arrangements. There's a very faint symphonic undertone, but it's hardly even worth mentioning as 95% of this album is the same type of riffs Soreption is known for. Vocalist Frederik Soderberg is a bit more involved in the music, pushing his abilities further with fast, complex vocal lines, but other than that it's hard to identify any major changes. They give the old fans just enough extra stuff to keep things fresh, while still keeping all the qualities that they've become known for that will continue to draw new folks in. Tech death has cooled off a bit in the first half of 2022 after an absolutely stacked 2021 run, but this is the best of a really strong blast'n'sweep crop that came bursting out of the gate in June. It's hard to stay fresh and inventive with this kind of music, but Soreption has a style that immediately stands out, and it's really addicting once you get a feel for it.
MetalBite's Rating: 8.8/10
Thanks as always for stopping by! As an extra addendum, and to give you even more music to dig into, here's a short list of stuff I wanted to write about, but I didn't end up getting to because of time constraints (and because I want to give the appropriate amount of listens and digest albums properly instead of tearing through them in a review-fueled haze):
Seventh Wonder - The Testament
Denouncement Pyre - Forever Burning
Eggs of Gomorrh - Wombspreader
Tardigrada - Widrstand
Krallice - Psychagogue
Temple of Void - Summoning the Slayer
Grave Infestation - Persecution of the Living
Thanks for your support. If you like something you hear on this list: Tell your friends, tell your dog, get drunk, masturbate, punch something, throw up, burn stuff down, love yourself and stay metal. Not necessarily in that order. And, as always, here's the past lists to get caught up on the goods in 2022:
|Horns & Hooves|