MetalBite's Top 10 Albums of the Month - September 2022
MetalBite's Top 10 Albums of the Month returns! If August was a lighter for new releases, it's because it was the calm before the tidal wave that was September in metal. Holy fuck, there was a LOT of stuff out this month. Really good stuff, too. Check this out:
Razor - Cycle of Contempt
Firtan - Martyr
Vermin Womb - Retaliation
Reincarnated - Of Bootes Void Death Spell
Cainan Dawn - Lagu
Warforged - The Grove / Sundial
An Abstract Illusion - Woe
Dead Void - Volatile Forms
Cinis - Lies That Comfort Me
Writhing - Of Earth & Flesh
Acephalix - Theothanatology
Acausal Intrusion - Seeping Evocation
Cloud Rat - Threshold
…that's the September releases that DIDN'T make this list. Some of these were fantastic, too (Acephalix and Warforged were two I really wanted to get to) but none of us had enough verbal thoughts on them for a little hype paragraph. We simply don't have the person power. (this is my subtle, passive way of saying we need more people to contribute articles to this list. Apply within!)
Nevertheless, this is still appropriately massive - might even be our biggest Top 10 list yet. Let's not waste any more time.
Umbilicus - Path Of 1000 Suns
Listenable Insanity Records
Fun little side-project of Cannibal Corpse's Paul Mazurkiewicz (among others) that channels some classic Zeppelin and Sabbath influences into heavy, bluesy rock. Full review
Ensanguinate - Eldritch Anatomy
After years of near-total obscurity, the Slovenian extreme metal scene is starting to gain something of a foothold internationally, and the debut album from Ensanguinate will certainly not harm this nation's credibility, delivering a tight and surgically precise set of death metal songs that offers an effective update on the thrashing death metal sound of early Morbid Angel and Deicide. Although delivered with great skill and competence, at times, the slightly featureless nature of what many would consider a stellar production job robs the Slovenians of a certain amount of personality that could help to set them apart from the pack. Thankfully, where the album absolutely succeeds though, is in the riff department. Here, Ensanguinate display a fierce, but not alienating level of technical ability, and pulverise the listener in a variety of ways, switching tempo and feel with ease, while at all times ensuring that within each flurry of dizzying guitar interplay, there are plentiful memorable phrases and rhythmic ideas, all of which contribute to a debut that the band can be immensely proud of.
Revocation - Netherheaven
Metal Blade Records
As someone who subscribes to a lot of metal feeds and knows people who also listen to this kind of music...I've heard about this a lot. Revocation has that rare crossover appeal where entry level metalheads and more seasoned veterans alike all agree Double Dave has forgotten more riffs than you'll ever remember. In particular, The Outer Ones seemed to draw back in a lot of folks who might have previously lost the map on them.
Netherheaven is yet another chapter in this band's riff library, with more of a blitzing, thrashy tone to it than the previous full-length - though it still keeps the flirtations with modern dissonance its predecessor used to great effect, this album is a helpful reminder that Revocation has always been a thrash band at heart, despite all the frills and newer tricks.
My main issue with this (and why it didn't make the top 10 cut) is that it's…too professional, if that makes sense? My friend who saw them live recently (like, on the tour they're playing right now) said the same thing. Everything is crisp, clinically tight, and exactly where it needs to be, but the downside is that Netherheaven has no surprises. They already pulled a mid-career aesthetic augmentation with The Outer Ones, so where else do they go after that? Revocation has enough clout now to make bank touring off mediocre albums for the next 10-20 years…so I really hope that doesn't turn them into a comfortable, predictable band. Netherheaven isn't quite there yet, but it's going down that path, and I'm not gonna be praising their next album if they continue in this direction.
Bloodbath - Zombie Inferno
Uargh! After the very disappointing The Arrow Of Satan Is Drawn, it is refreshing to hear The Swedes (plus Nick Holmes on vocals) back to their old, ripping ways. On their 6th full-length album they offer us a lot of US-influenced death metal – you can pick out Death, Obituary and a lot of Morbid Angel influences in this album's dirty, rotten corners. Being seasoned pros, they effortlessly switch from fast, pummeling riffs to creepy, middling skin-crawlers with ease. 'No God Before Me' is the song Morbid Angel forgot to write before they decided to go into the realms of irrelevance with their "F"-album. Everything is perfectly curated to be decidedly old-school - art, production, and song titles. Malignant Maggot Therapy? Tales Of Melting Flesh? Hell yea.
Nick sounds pretty good here, he's particularly malignant on 'Zombie Inferno'. I wonder if part of it's just studio magic, as when I saw him with Paradise Lost in Essen last month he was…pretty disappointing. That being said, it seems like the addition of Lik's Tomas Åkvik motivated Bloodbath to go back to writing sick, crushing death metal instead, getting away from the black metal vibes that made Arrow such a snoozefest.
Last Retch - Sadism And Severed Heads
Here in Ontario, OSDM isn't as big of a thing. Sure, there's been a couple of breakout bands like Tomb Mold, but they seem to just randomly pop up in isolation every blue moon - there's not really a "scene" of similar bands around to put on shows together and generally just push the HM-2 chainsaw sound to the masses as much as possible.
The fellas over at CDN Records seem to be doing their best to rectify this, first with Michigan stalwarts Centenary last year, and now with one of the more promising bands to come out of the gritty industrial city of Hamilton: Last Retch, whose sound can best be approximated as 70% Dismember chainsaw tone and 30% Cannibal Corpse influence in the rhythmic groove. 'Cannibals of Tuma' very much has the same feel in the drums as 'Acidic Twilight Visions', my favorite Undeath track. I want a little bit more beef in the production, but that's something that can be rectified easily on later releases. All quibbles aside, Sadism And Severed Heads has a nasty groove to it and it's incredibly refreshing to hear this kind of sound coming out of my region. I've already harassed these guys to come to my city for a show at least once and I plan to persist until they eventually cave.
Megadeth - The Sick, The Dying And The Dead
Universal Music Group
The Sick, The Dying And The Dead may be the best album that Megadeth have released in the last 20 years. Dave's vocals sound fresh and aggressive, the guitar work is awesome (the solos in particular really kick ass here) and ol' Dave even has some more intricate songwriting. Dystopia had its moments, but was mostly mediocre mid-tempo stuff. This is not the case here. The title track has shades of Rust in Peace mixed with AC/DC's fun-loving nature, 'We'll Be Back' is the fastest song they composed since 1990, and my personal favorite track on this is 'Mission To Mars', a weird rock song with hooks, atmosphere and goofy lyrics ("Hello Ladies! Hello Moon Man!"). 'Dogs Of Chernobyl' kind of sucks, but for a band that's 40 years old on their sixteenth full length album, having one lame track out of 11 is impressive.
Gaerea - Mirage
Season of Mist
Fuuuuuck this band just keeps getting more and more comfortable in their sound as time goes on. They can consistently conjure up harrowing, despondent emotions without having to rely on melody, instead slowly building up energy in a post-rock style climax - but there's blasting and double-kicking going on the whole time. The band always had a tremendous amount of potential, but their previous release, Limbo, didn't capitalize, despite a couple fantastic songs. This has much more of a boundless, colorful feeling to it, and my cursory listens indicate there's tons of layers in these tracks that will reward repeated listening.
Blind Guardian - The God Machine
Nuclear Blast Records
It's a new Blind Guardian album, if that isn't enough to pique your interest just go back to listening to Pantera or whatever. Full review
Miscreance - Convergence
Unspeakable Axe Records
This is the kind of thrash that everyone should be able to get behind - lots of Atheist and Cynic vibes in that the bass has tons of room to wander and noodle (and oh, does it ever noodle). Tons of odd tangents and a certain off-kilter nature that brings to mind King Crimson if you gave them steroids and put a Martin van Drunen-esque feral madman behind the mic.
Seriously, what part of that description didn't you like? Plus the cover art is sick.
Ares Kingdom - In Darkness At Last
Nuclear War Now!
What even IS that guitar tone? I don't understand it, but Ares Kingdom gets a sound out of their melody that makes you want to pull the head off something. Their albums all have a different feel, but the production always manages to sear you right to your core.
This is obviously aided by the band being master songwriters, and in their veteran years the qualities of their craft age like wine - this group never forgets to pay tribute to the old masters, but simultaneously never remain stagnant and always find a clever and creative way to augment their core building blocks. You'll hear elements of death, black, thrash, speed, doom and whatever genre Motorhead is all fused into a hearty, seamlessly blended riff soup. It's heavy fucking metal, baby!
Tribal Gaze - The Nine Towers
I'm starting to realize that Maggot Stomp's shtick is just to add mutated steroids and brutal death metal aesthetics to hardcore, creating utterly simplistic, chug-focused, but nonetheless absolutely devastating music, and you know what? That's okay with me, especially if it results in music like this. This has an unhinged, but focused quality to it, like being in the vicinity of an unstable steroid addict who could snap at any moment and punch your face with MMA-level precision. There's also a passion and zeal to this music that's hard not to be infatuated by - even without visual references, you just kind of get the feeling these are a bunch of younger dudes who are absolutely stoked to be laying down heavy ass shit as they start to make their mark on the metal world. That's the kind of energy I want behind my riffs.
Kill Division - Peace Through Tyranny
Redefining Darkness Records
Jeramie Kling, Dirk Verbeuren, Gus Rios and Kyle Symons have a new band called Kill Division. That's a stacked and interesting lineup. If you are into old Terrorizer, Brutal Truth or Napalm Death this is the perfect piece of grindcore for you. This kicks your ass right from the beginning with plenty of blasting, hate, and no adherence to trends - only pure, late 80s-early 90s fury. They threw in a Terrorizer cover in Track 11 just to make sure you know their influences. It's a little less chaotic and has a bit more structure than grindheads might be used to, but nonetheless whizzes past in an entertaining 25-minute blur.
METALBITE'S TOP 10 ALBUMS OF THE MONTH
10: Gnipahålan - I Nordisk Vredeslusta
Purity Through Fire
A misty forest on the cover invites the listener to a mysterious, atmospheric trip through the Swedish landscape - a very good visual representation of the journey this album takes you on. I Nordisk Vredeslust evokes a powerful nostalgia with its keys and swirling blizzards of riffs. Simple pieces slowly cultivate a haunting atmosphere, the consistent keys in particular elevate the entire deal, with the ghoulish vocals underscoring the whole package. But beware – the album can feel taxing - aside from the intro and outro, the riffs are challenging and discordant because of their ferocious tempo and rawness. Once it sucks you in, though, it puts you in a certain meditative trance somewhere between Emperor, Vargrav and Abigor.
MetalBite's Rating: 8.2/10
9: Altars Ablaze - Life Desecration
I missed the boat on Beyond Mortal Dreams and got to the game a little bit late with Heaving Earth, so I haven't been as vocal about it as I should be, but Lavadome Productions has been on fucking point this year. Both of those albums crept their way into my top 10 of 2022 (so far) after giving them time to marinate, and Altars Ablaze is making a serious bid for that as well. There are some connections to Heaving Earth (they share a guitarist and have a couple other ex-members), which explains how they got in touch with their label, but where Heaving Earth is a sprawling fusion of Immolation and The Chasm with a slight black metal touch, Life Desecration is either a death metal-oriented version of Akhlys/Nightbringer, or a nuanced version of Angelcorpse, depending on your perspective. There's a similar turbulent blitz of blasting with a discordant bent, polished and stripped of its thrashy tendencies, but the real gold in this album is when the pace drops a bit and the band lets the little flashes of intricacy in the guitar swirl in the forefront. You can tell the group could have played far more complex material than this, but chose to focus their sound in the interest of a more cohesive sound and musical longevity.
MetalBite's Rating: 8.2/10
8: Fallujah - Empyrean
Despite the obvious display of tremendous talent on display with every album, Fallujah tends to be hit or miss for me. The Flesh Prevails? Excellent. Dreamless? Not as big of a fan. The key is if they channel their grandiosity and bombast into a song with flow, which Empyrean does as good as anything these Californians.
It's easy to forget that the founding members of this band are in their early 30s, despite being on the scene for what seems like forever and having five full lengths under their belt. You could argue the band is reaching their creative apex right now, with a sense of elegance and maturity to these compositions - typically that means the sound is more boring, but when the riffs hit on this one, they hit hard. They space it out with their trademark "ascend into the heavenly cosmos" atmosphere, but even those songs have some really smooth pickwork with chuggy motifs that dance in your head for weeks. A lot of heavyweight bands put out stuff worth checking out this month, but for whatever it's worth, this was the one I liked the most. Even the clean vocal sections in this are really cool, and I usually hate those!
MetalBite's Rating: 8.5/10
7: Epoch Of Unlight - At War With The Multiverse
I've been so saturated with noodle-happy Artisan Era-core these past few months that sometimes I forget it can actually go the other way - there can be "technical melodic death metal" bands that put the "melodic death" piece of that descriptor right at the front. It's easier to execute because the guitar parts seem like they can be played by normal humans, but it's more difficult to create a memorable album because you've got fewer garnishes to play with. A lot of Epoch Of Unlight's riffs still have those holdovers from the Slaughter of the Soul era, but there's just enough window dressing to keep it up to speed. Moreover, they drill songs in your head through clever song construction: they like to start songs off on a brisk, energetic note and then somehow find a way to kick up the intensity even more midway through.
They have this way of keeping their secrets until the end. They'll start by teasing you with a very good riff - not an amazing riff, just a very good one. It'll have just enough to keep you listening to the song, but also builds anticipation for the dank riff that you know is going to follow it. When the big kahuna does hit, the resulting power is usually enough to carry the momentum of the rest of the song. 'The Numbing Stillness' is a great example of the uptempo, lead-heavy yet still slow-burning style that this Memphis group is great at. Not bad at all for a group getting back into the swing of things, this being their first full-length in 17 years and first proper release since 2015.
At War With The Multiverse occupies that rare space of "proper" melodic death metal - you know, the kind that has tons of great licks but also doesn't forget the "death metal" part of the equation in the quest for the biggest earworm. They're in exclusive company: Vehemence, Be'lakor, and the first Arsis album are some of the very few examples I can think of that also successfully execute the style. Great shit that is hella underrated so far!
MetalBite's Rating: 8.5/10
6: Skare - Skare
Out of absolutely nowhere (well, Australia actually), comes Skare's startling self-titled debut, which is a strong challenger to Pestilential Hex's own first assault as this listener's black metal album of the year. If the underground has most frequently been championing either scratchy primitivism and dissonant churn in recent years, it appears that the worm is starting to turn, as bands such as Stormkeep and now Skare are rediscovering the ability to add a dash of triumphant melody to their otherwise coruscating torrent of blastbeats and tremolo riffs. It is a genuine thrill to hear another band running with the adventurous spirit of the 90s legends (Dawn, Emperor, Obtained Enslavement), without too closely aping any single one of them. As the neo-classical pianos augment incandescent guitar work, this listener is lost in the kind of reverie and nostalgic haze that usually only a visit to the sub-genres early classics is able to evoke. Skare's debut is an absolutely enthralling piece of work that perfectly balances ferocity and melodic flair in a way that should ensure its longevity for some time to come.
MetalBite's Rating: 8.7/10
5: Wolfheart - King Of The North
Melodic death metal such as this, with the emphasis firmly on the melody, may be derided by those more interested in sheer extremity, but when a band gets it as spectacularly right as Wolfheart do on their stellar new release King Of The North, even the most cynical detractor may find themselves sucked in by the propulsive galloping riffs and surging emotion of a band that are arguably releasing their definitive statement in 2022 at the sixth attempt, following a run of well-received records over the past decade. The songwriting throughout is first class, tracks such as 'The King' providing a true journey through mountainous peaks and valleys and weather foul and fair, with judiciously used synths adding to the atmosphere without dominating the guitars, and huge melodies maintaining the listener's close attention in the same way that Iotunn managed last year with one of 2021's standout releases. Just occasionally, the rhythm guitars threaten to get a little too close to metalcore in tone and groove, but this is a minor criticism that is forgotten as soon as the listener is assailed by another relentless syncopated riff, or the guitars unfurl one more soaring lead figure. Wolfheart are a timely reminder of why heavy metal appealed so much to this listener in the first place, and King Of The North is a headbanging joy from start to finish.
MetalBite's Rating: 8.9/10
4: Spiritus Mortis - The Great Seal
Although it wasn't a huge year for landmark doom metal releases, this may very well be Michael's AOTY for the genre (provided the new Candlemass album doesn't end up being even better). Nothing but pure, classic slow 'n' low goodness here from ex-members of Reverend Bizarre, among others. Full review
MetalBite's Rating: 8.9/10
3: Autopsy - Morbidity Triumphant
For seasoned death metal maniacs, the appearance of a new Autopsy album is always cause for grim celebration, and with the arrival of Morbidity Triumphant seven years on from their previous full-length, the anticipation this time around is especially fevered. As soon as the opening strains of the delightfully-titled 'Stab The Brain' rumble into view, the listener immediately relaxes into a familiar state of gleeful torment, as if stepping into a comfortable pair of old shoes, albeit shoes that are unlikely to console the wearer with an anaesthetic before painfully and violently amputating the feet that fill them. Despite their advancing years, and time already served in the extreme metal underground, Chris Reifert and co still play ugly, monstrous death metal as if their lives depend on every last blastbeat and down-pick, utterly authentic, utterly monumental, and utterly destroying all pretenders to their throne. Autopsy are masters at effortlessly cramming countless rusty hooks into each track, from the infernal (and sneakily technical) harmonised tremolos of 'Tapestry Of Scars' to the brutalising suckerpunch of 'Skin By Skin', on which Reifert's death rattle rasp is hauntingly terrifying. Like syphilis, Autopsy are both infectious, and disgusting. Morbidity Triumphant, a title which could almost be said to symbolise the ongoing and unlikely success of the genre itself, meets and exceeds expectations in style, and Autopsy once against sit at the top of the pile of slain corpses that represents the competition, watching the world burn, and spitting on its charred remnants in the knowledge that they will outlast us all.
MetalBite's Rating: 9/10
2: Slaughterday - Tyrants Of Doom
Slaughterday brings the pulverizing death metal, with an extra trad metal tinge that gives it a distinct edge. The best death metal album Michael's heard all year, which is saying something if you read these articles and know how much he loves his early 90s OSDM worship! Full review
MetalBite's Rating: 9/10
1: Mo'ynoq - A Place For Ash
For whatever reason, I haven't been as high on black metal this year. Most of my highest-ranked picks for these lists have been in the tech and dissodeath realms (Carrion Vael, Inanna, Immolation, Soreption, etc) - and even then, the albums I was keen on (Nechochwen and Silhouette) I have been keen on were higher in the lists because they were released in months that didn't have as many standouts. Anyways, if for whatever reason I was falling out of favor with black metal, A Place For Ash aggressively grabbed me by the collar and dragged me right back into its depths.
I've seen this get a bit of flak (mostly in Angry Metal Guy) for being too blast-heavy and not capitalizing on the band's obvious potential…but my question is, what exactly would replace that? You're basically saying to cut out the meat of this band completely, or just change entirely what they're meant to sound like. Maybe it's because I don't hear this in the context of their previous album as much (I know of it, and know it's good, I'm just not super familiar with it), so I don't see a band dialing back elements that made them good before, I just see a group that has gotten more comfortable writing songs together channeling their disparate influences into a powerful, compelling stream of black metal. It's repetitious, with incredible stamina from drummer Justin Valletta sustaining a spirited blast groove for nearly three minutes at a time, but the way the band shifts the feel of the tempo while still maintaining the groove is hypnotic, adding texture and variety without removing the stark, uncompromising atmosphere. All three guitarists contribute vocals at different times, each adding their own distinct, shrieky cadence to the ordeal.
I don't know exactly why, but A Place For Ash has a different lasting effect than most black metal I hear today. It's hard to make any sort of second-wave comparisons to this, as parallels to groups like Wolves in the Throne Room and Oathbreaker makes much more sense - this is thoroughly modern in that way, but they kept the songwriting tendencies from the 90s albums that made them lasting listens. Incredible stuff that had me dancing in my kitchen while I did the dishes multiple times over.
MetalBite's Rating: 9/10
Thanks again for checking our list out! If you still haven't got your fill of metal for today, here's our top 10s for 2022 so far to catch up:
|Licht Des Urteils|
|Science Of Disorder|
|Conor Brouwer's Call Of Eternity|