MetalBite's Top 10 Albums of the Month - November 2022
Welcome back to MetalBite's Top 10 Albums of the Month! We're just a few short weeks away from 2022 being a complete wrap, and of course, a bunch of dope shit came out in November just in time to fuck up your year-end list. Maybe we'll do a big Top 100 at the end of the year to celebrate. Maybe we won't. Maybe I'm just making things up as I go. Aren't we all?
Epidermal Veil - Psalms Of The Flayed
Iceland is known mostly for its black metal, but lately there's been an undercurrent of tech-death permeating the small but mighty nation - Beneath was the first death metal band out of there with any sort of recognition, and then Cult of Lillith and Ophidian I stepped up their respective games and established a "scene" of sorts for people to fall into. With a country of under 400,000 people, there's bound to be some scene incest, and sure enough, the vocalist you hear here, Ingólfur Ólafsson, performed on Ophidian I's debut album way back in 2014.
Epidermal Veil aren't quite in the top tier of Icelandic tech death with them yet - they're only a year old as a project, an apparent continuation of Devine Defilement, a deathcore-styled act 3 of the members were also in. This EP seems to be more of a teaser of where the band has the potential to go, and in that regard, it's got me pretty excited to hear how this group develops. They're off to a promising start: this has a lot of those hard-hitting, no-BS qualities that deathcore excels at, but it's supplemented with some interesting chord shapes (perhaps owing to the off-kilter sense of melody their country's black metal bands are known for) and an impressive amount of technical dexterity. There are a couple of breakdowns, but they're integrated well and aren't a shoehorned excuse to round out a song. Tasty!
Karg - Resignation
Art Of Propaganda
I've never given this project the same love I give to Harakiri for the Sky, this being vocalist J.J.'s solo venture where he's the primary songcrafter and visionary. There's a lot of overlap between the two, with Karg being more of a vessel for the midpaced post-rock and flittering ambiance that garnishes H4TS, with the black metal influence betting more of a residual, adjacent thing. The differences are hairsplitting, and while I do feel like Harakiri reaches loftier emotional climaxes thanks to the riffy black metal parts, Resignation feels more natural and smooth in its composition and the atmosphere that comes out of it feels richer and more lush.
Also, the vocals have this weird cadence that…doesn't gel? It works fine in Harakiri's stuff, but for whatever reason it's just not clicking here.
Carnal Savagery - Worm Eaten
I was confused when the Worm Eaten promo popped up in my mailbox because I thought Carnal Savagery already released an album this year. So, I double checked – this is, in fact, the second full-length this year for this prolific group, after Scent Of Death in 2022. Not much has changed in their sound since April - 11 more classic HM-2 Swedish old school death metal tracks crawling like maggots into your ears and drilling into your brain. Some rotten Autopsy vibes give the album a stinking, rancid touch ('Baptized In Mutilated Innards' or 'Edible Cranium') and they clean up the smell like a pine tree air freshener dangling in your car with some more "friendly" tunes that have that familiar Entombed/Dismember feel. More sophisticated songwriting makes this a more convincing album than the previous one. Good ol' Dan Swano's at the helm in the studio for this one, leaving no further questions as to what Carnal Savagery wanted this to sound like.
Houkago Grind Time - Houkago Grind Time 2: The Second Raid
Goregrind from the Ripped to Shreds guy. This riffs harder than anything you will ever hear. What else is there to know?
Vanandir - Beneath The Mold
Black Lion Records
I literally just heard this for the first time as I write this now. I was intending on using this space to write about the new Second to Sun, because I eagerly follow the Syosev brothers' work and loved the Grima album from earlier this year, but after several spins of Nocturnal Philosophy, I struggled to identify any moments that grabbed me. Then, as I desperately searched for things to say about it, Vananidr popped up on my youtube auto-play and it took all of maybe two minutes before I decided to write about it instead. I don't even care that it came out in October, we missed it last month and I'm breaking the rules so you can all hear this dope ass black metal album. (Plus Benjamin features Ultar later in this list, so we still give Gleb and Max some love.)
This isn't an experimental, unusual album. It's maybe a little on the melodic and atmospheric side, but this is a genre chock full of that stuff anyways, so really, Beneath The Mold is about as generic as they come. That being said…it doesn't need to be anything more than it is. The riffs have just what they need to be effective, the rise-and-fall in the songs is silky smooth, and overall it feels like this group of Swedes can just effortlessly write great black metal and have been doing so for decades.
Turns out they actually HAVE been making music for decades. The two guitarists have musical credits to their name going as far back as the late 90s, and their drummer is most notable for having a 15-year stint with some super-obscure band called…Amon Amarth. Yeah, these guys definitely know what they're doing.
Cryptae - Capsule
Sentient Ruin Laboratories
While I haven't found a ton of material coming out of Oakland-based Sentient Ruin Laboratories that stands out past the swirling layers of murky dissonance, Cryptae are a stark and notable exception to this rule. They have much more of a distinct, unique identity, and this would have been the case no matter who put their albums out.
This Dutch group has an approach that's as thorough and cohesive as it is unusual. Though primarily existing in the death/doom genre space as drawn-out ambience mixes with choppy, quick riffing, There's a very mechanical groove to it that feels more like it draws from Throbbing Gristle or some kind of odd post-punk/industrial music. Godflesh is another good comparable, but rawer, and with an unhinged intensity still permeating through the very precise and calculated rhythms. There's a monotonous vibe, with more details in the texture than the taste of the melody, but at the same time' it's not repetitious - they switch up motifs and add layers pretty quickly/consistently. They could have easily added some sort of breakcore influence or just made this something along the lines of The Berzerker, but instead they opted to make a cold, unfeeling sound as organic as possible.
Weirder isn't always better, but fortunately, in pursuit of their novel identity, Cryptae did not forget to make their second full-length engaging to listen to. They've fattened up their sound and added more ideas (though none that are any less strange), and even with all the bizarro traits this does have, it's surprisingly easy to wrap your head around and groove to, owing a lot to the simple sense of melody and the fact that the drums are actually being played by a human.
Fliege - One Day They'll Wonder What Happened Here
My homeboy Austyn (who I hope to get to write for these articles soon, wink wink nudge nudge) turned me on to this band, who uses black metal as a base for concept albums based on movies and then throws a whole whack of other shit in there to get the story across. There's tons of genre-bending weirdness that all has a certain rough, amateurish charm to it, and if you're a fan of The Thing, there will be even more to appreciate. Full review by Austyn here
Disillusion - Ayam
This has always been melodeath for people who don't listen to melodeath. Back to Times of Splendour, which holds a sort of forgotten-classic status for the genre, is rife with long-form song-structures, atmospheric repetition, and clean vocals that aren't focused on delivering chorus hooks. It's a prog album that build more bridges and long build-up passages than it does rock the fuck out, although this is far from devoid of more involved guitarwork. Their music is very deliberate, detailed even during moments of sparsity, and has a tremendous, layered sense of scope - like all good prog, they put out incredible albums when they do, but they also take really fucking long to write new stuff, so having the time and space for new things over the pandemic probably really benefitted this group.
Encryptment - Dödens Födsel
Nuclear Winter Records
One of the filthiest extreme metal releases of the year. It does so with a heaping of d-beats, some blackened tremolo and a discordant edge to supplement the crunchy Swedeath and an intuitive sense of which riffs keep the song driving forward and make you headbang harder. It's an album of very carefully balanced elements delivered in a way that repeatedly punishes you. Heavy, fast, with low-key really intelligent song structuring and progressions. Simply put, this shit riffs hard, and who doesn't love a fun yet nuanced dose of blackened deathpunk?
METALBITE'S TOP 10 ALBUMS OF THE MONTH
10: Ultar - At The Gates Of Dusk
If it is rather unsurprising that the crucible of icy second-wave black metal was the frosty fjords and forests of Norway, it is equally logical that the freezing Siberian tundra would produce a band such as Ultar, whose excellent third album At The Gates Of Dusk is as good as soundtrack as one could hope to find to the windswept wastelands of the east, albeit a soundtrack that is filtered through the slightly less obviously Russian lens of unabashed Lovecraft worship. The author that brought the world Chthulhu is not a novel inspiration for metal, but when it is imbued with the kind of conviction and relentless savagery exhibited by Ultar, it matters not. The band are utterly adept at combining the kind of mournful atmosphere and stilted melodies of Mgla, or even Wolves In The Throne Room, with the unrelenting and muscular aggression of early Immortal and Dissection, and as such, At The Gates Of Dusk is an excellent and well-rounded album that acts as an excellent reflection of where the genre is today, taking the best elements of the various tangential paths that others have walked and consolidating into a sound that forges ahead without casting off any of the genre's history altogether.
MetalBite's Rating: 8.2/10
9: Lamentations - Passion Of Depression
Willowtip has seemed more partial to winding, convoluted dissonance lately, so this came as a surprise, feeling more like a subdued Inferi album with all the techy melodeath nods and prog rock-esque bombast in the compositions. Every idea on this lands, though - it feels larger than life while maintaining a buttery smooth ebb-and-flow, and the delicate acoustic passages that dot most of the track are so wispy and emotional it feels like they're taking cues from DSBM. It's a mid-era Opeth album that uses Inferi references to add even more elaborate twists, never feeling too overstimulating or sparse all the while. Passion Of Depression has that immediacy to it that keeps you coming back after the first go-around, and the songwriting intricacy gives you more than enough cute diversions and garnishes to keep you entertained several times over. Forget Wilderun, bump these dudes instead.
MetalBite's Rating: 8.4/10
8: Candlemass - Sweet Evil Sun
With The Door To Doom, Swedish superstars Candlemass achieved their biggest success so far: (a nomination for the US American Grammys) and to top it off, they had a very prominent guest appearance by the legendary Tony Iommi. Now they are back with their 13th album Sweet Evil Sun. One may be superstitious about the unlucky number but if you have a look at other bands and their 13th release the Rolling Stones were pretty successful with "Goats Head Soup", AC/DC had "Stiff Upper Lip" and also Black Sabbath did a great album with "The Eternal Idol" (okay this one may just be my opinion). So there's a good chance they still have some juice left.
Starting with a doom stomper featuring all the Candlemass trademark gets your hyped for the rest, although they sorta rip themselves off with the guitar solo which sounds similar to one on Death Magic Doom ('Demon Of The Deep'). The title track is a highlight, featuring a fantastic atmosphere via some 70s-styled Hammond organ sounds - very catchy, with some really bitter and sarcastic lyrics. Another favorite of mine is 'Scandinavian Gods'. It has some doomy Manowar influences and may be the next hymn where everybody can join singing at the concerts. Two faster songs on the album are 'Devil Voodoo' where Jonas shows off a more melodic vocal style and 'Angel Battle' with its hammering, aggressive riffs and sophisticated songwriting full of tempo changes and breaks.
With Sweet Evil Sun, Candlemass once again rolls out a very good album which is an easier listen than The Door To Doom because of the catchier and simpler structure. Candlemass seldom venture out of their comfort zone (although they do have a few forays, such as "When Death Sighs") but if you liked the last few albums you will for sure like Sweet Evil Sun. A little bit more progression would have been interesting and would have perhaps brought some fresh energy into the fold, but what we have here is a very classic , back-to-basics doom metal album and that's a hard thing to complain about.
MetalBite's Rating: 8.5/10
7: Jade - The Pacification Of Death
Apparently this band made a few waves with their demo, but I missed it - this is the first time I'm hearing of them, but they have a powerful sound that needs to be heard by any fans of layered, atmospheric extreme metal. Equal parts Bolzer and The Ruins of Beverast with a touch of Agallochy influences in the leads, this occupies that rare space in between melodic, atmospheric, riffy and heavy masterfully. The guitar tone is smooth but thick, the drums have that rolling double-kick groove, the vocals are a wet rasp with the occasional triumphant shout, and the songs slowly pack on layers until you're completely mesmerized by the groove and overwhelmed by its force.
They're one of the few bands I've seen in the genre with the genre "atmospheric death metal" on metal-archives. I can't think of a better way to describe it in three words. If the rare few bands that are in this sub-style are this good, it definitely needs to be more of a thing!
MetalBite's Rating: 8.6/10
6: SubOrbital - Planetary Disruption
War Anthem Records
Say what you will about the Germans, but man, they know how to fuckin' riff. SubOrbital is not by any means a genre heavyweight, being a newer act, but that's not to say the musicians lack experience - they all look around middle age and each have a handful of contributions to scattered mid-range metal projects ranging from Gloryful to Night in Gales. For whatever reason, every single German band I stumble across in my musical journey is just, like…good. Leagues better than second and third-tier bands from other countries. Profanity? Golem? Cryptic Brood? Chapel of Disease? Sulphur Aeon? Not a lick of mediocrity to be found anywhere.
There's always a healthy amount of oldschool influences present to satiate the old guard, and SubOrbital is no exception: This is tech-death, for sure, but there isn't a trace of new-school influence to be found. Much of the fretwork and progressions is directly comparable to early Cynic and Nocturnus - with a helping of mid-era Death in there, as is the standard. The vocals have that feral, John Tardy feel, and even though it's musically impressive, it still feels like you can easily follow what the guitars are doing…but that's somehow not detrimental to a tech album. Planetary Disruption just has this way of sticking with you, never ceasing to throw in little twists to keep you on your toes while you follow the yellow riff road.
MetalBite's Rating: 8.6/10
5: Detherous - Unrelenting Malevolence
Redefining Darkness Records
As I've established in past write-ups, I'm a picky thrash listener. There are basically two kinds of thrash that will get me to stick around: roided-up prog a la Miscreance, Voivod, Obsolete and Watchtower, or balls-to-the-wall death/thrash that can compete with modern extreme metal's unbridled intensity and seething aggression.
Detherous is definitely the latter. Skeletal Remains and Demolition Hammer are the obvious influences at play here, but perhaps more subtle are the Deicide and Morbid Angel cues that sneak into some of the groovier break riffs. Though these Albertan youngsters ooze the pure essence of thrash, they understand that you don't need to remain within the confines of the genre nowadays to riff like a motherfucker. It's focused and sharp while still having enough additional influences dotting the riffs to prevent the haymaker of skank beats and gritty tremolo from feeling samey. Damon MacDonald's shrieky, strained high brings to mind a more feral and less defined Morbid Saint (another good comparable as far as overall sound goes), and it sounds even more crisp and piercing in a live setting. I appreciate that the production has more of an analog, old-school vibe to it - the low end is a bit muffled, but it creates this chainsaw-type aesthetic without having to throw an HM-2 pedal on there.
Great band, great dudes that work their ass off. Definitely catch them live if you get the chance. I don't care if you have to work tomorrow. Call in sick or something.
Are you ready for some brutal old school thrash with death metal influences? Straight from the beginning the tunes blow you away and hit you straight in the face. Unrelenting Malevolence takes major influence from bands like Skeletal Remains (whose vocalist Chris Monroe has a guest appearance in 'Reek Of The Decayed') or Demolition Hammer (including a very faithful cover of 'Skull Fracturing Nightmare'). "Slow" is not in this band's vocabulary. There's a hint of melody to keep you interested, but the song structures are bone-breaking. The drums, guitars and lyrical themes all have a healthy dose of gory death metal in them - titles like 'Gruesome Tools Of Torture' or 'Encased In Gore' don't leave much to the imagination. So if you like "Tortured Existence", "Spectrum Of Death" (especially the vocals) or some older Skeletal Remains this is your perfect stocking stuffer this holiday season.
MetalBite's Rating: 8.6/10
4: Dream Unending - Song Of Salvation
20 Buck Spin
It's like funeral doom, but…faster? I didn't get it on the first album, which had some cool ideas swirling around, but failed to execute them or do much with a hypothetically neat sound. Song of Salvation shows this Tomb Mold / Innumerable Forms collab side project as being more comfortable in its own skin, playing around more with their building blocks to create arrangements that actually sound cool, instead of parts that just feel like they could have sounded cool.
Surprisingly, Skepticism isn't listed as a "similar artist" for this band on metal-archives, even though I think Dream Unending's keyboard presence mixed with a certain uplifting undercurrent parallels the delivery of the Finnish legends. I hear Thergothon influence in here too, but without the stark and uncompromising nature those fellas had. There are solos here, and the songs dwell on riffs less. The end result is like Worm's Foreverglade with an extra helping of color (and mushrooms).
The band is definitely a lot better at being soft and delicate than they are big'n'thick, which is why I find it hard to compare this to weightier atmospheric doom bands like Mournful Congregation and Evoken. Usually a metal album that isn't good at the heavy parts kind of sucks, but if you get into this the same way you would a band like Kayo Dot, where the ambient is actually the main course, it turns into a pretty solid listen. The glistening, drifting clean guitars create this lush ethereality that feels very relaxing and comforting to dwell in for a bit. "Dream doom" is a good descriptor, because this sits adjacent to a lot of atmospheric doomy styles, but it's hard to lump this group in with an already-established subgenre. It somehow managed to find some negative space somewhere between Ahab and Swallow the Sun and wrote an album in it. Since this is a project between already-established artists and it's on 20 Buck Spin, I imagine there won't be a shortage of press hype surrounding it, but at least in this case it's somewhat deserved because Dream Unending has caught on to a novel sound and went even further with it here.
MetalBite's Rating: 8.7/10
3: 16 - Into Dust
For so long have 16 operated under the radar, despite a long relationship with a label that are better than most at propelling deserving bands towards mainstream success, that one has to imagine the chances of a more significant breakthrough at this point in their career is minimal. This is a great shame, as their eighth album Into Dust is yet another superlative slice of Southern sludge that has obvious crossover appeal to fans of Down, Mastodon and Crowbar, as well as the many people of discerning taste who mourn the untimely loss of Acid Bath to this day. At its best, sludge is the decayed, rotten cousin of classic metal, dipping sonorous Sabbathian riffs in a foetid pool of despondent doom and crusty hardcore, and 16 absolutely embody this incestuous union, with an album that paradoxically combines grim despair with rampaging vitality and energy. On tracks such as the majestic 'Ash In The Hourglass', as the honeyed clean vocals of Bobby Ferry float effortlessly above the COC-style twin leads, before the chugging riffs propel the song forward again on a wave of disgust, one marvels at their ability to package their wide-ranging sound into such a taut and well-rounded track, a trick that they repeat again and again, as this listener's grim smile of riff-induced ecstasy threatens to widen far enough to suggest some kind of actual happiness is still possible in this world. If all we are left with when the polar ice caps melt is an uninhabitable hellscape and this album, it might just be an acceptable trade.
MetalBite's Rating: 8.9/10
2: Drudkh - All Belong To The Night
Season Of Mist
Death, taxes and Drudkh putting out genre-defining atmo-black - the only certainties in this world. A lot of people stopped listening to these guys after Handful Of Stars, which I sorta get, but that also means you've missed out on some amazing moments, particularly on A Furrow Cut Short, which I hold right up there with Autumn Aurora and Microcosmos as one of the band's crowning achievements. Nowadays, the band has settled into a slightly melodic, midpaced atmo-black style, with less Burzum worship and more refining of the "signature Drudkh" parts.
The one knock I have about this album is the kick drum sound - it's got a very wooden, pitter-patter kind of tone with the steady, rolling beats that you need to get used to, and it stands out in a weird way if you hone in on it enough. The upside of choosing to amplify the low-end, though, is that the bass lines get underscored more, and that's always been one of Drudkh's more underrated draws. Bassist/keyboardist Krechet, who's been with them since Estrangement, always seems to know the perfect time to throw a divinely inspired lick into a long stream of hypnotic tremolo. Check out the middle point of 'The Nocturnal One' for an example of what I mean.
MetalBite's Rating: 8.9/10
1: Crown Of Ascension - Transmission Errors
Listeners of a certain vintage might recall the shock and awe of experiencing Anaal Nathrakh's now legendary The Codex Necro for the first time. While this listener is not necessarily suggesting that Crown Of Ascension's debut is quite as good as that, this UK band are in possession of a similarly overpowering aura, and have created a frankly terrifying miasma of cosmic black metal in the outstanding Transmission Errors. As a mechanical drum battery pushes the velocity beyond (all too) human limitations, guitars and synths merge almost into a single dissonant swirl that envelops the listener in an inescapable psychedelic vortex. This is not to say that Crown Of Ascension make totally freeform noise – while their music is incredibly dense and layers, the vapour trails of aggressive riffs and chord progressions are discernible, as are the ghosts of haunting melodies, but the primary force of their ceaseless assault comes from the textural impact of the harsh noise, augmented by A White's reverb-laden rasp. The nearest reference points would be Axis Of Perdition, Darkspace, and Blut Aus Nord's most obtuse albums, but Transmission Errors is sufficiently individual to transcend simple comparisons. This is black metal heard from beyond the event horizon, and a convincing impression of the sound of what might lie on the other side.
MetalBite's Rating: 9.3/10
Thanks as always for coming here to check out new music! Remember to buy music and merch from all of them. Yes, literally all of them. Make yourself broke and destitute in the name of heavy metal. Then do it all again by checking out the rest of this past year's lists!
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