MetalBite's Top 10 Albums of the Month - April 2023
Welcome back! After I made a promise this month's list would come earlier, I…took even longer to put to together this month. We're now at the point where May's list should be coming out. In my defense, I lost about two weeks' worth of time because I got an incredible offer to perform live with a band I am a huge fan of mid-April. Bonus points if you can guess who it is - they were by #1 album of the month in an AOTM list from 2022, that's the only hint I'll give.
Anyways, shame me all you want in the comments. Here's some new music to make up for my continued tardiness.
Heretic Plague - Context Is A Stumbling Corpse
A side-project of sorts from Tom Bradfield, the guitarist/vocalist of Twitch of the Death Nerve. It's got a rumbling low-end but with a grindcore approach to songwriting in that it jumps between jagged low-end riffs that use jarring tempos to create quick push-and-pulls. It turns on a dime from a slam to a tremolo run and there always seems to be another twist coming in the songs. I don't have a ton to say this, it's a cute little thing that sits in a nice midpont between brutal, frantic and fun.
Devangelic - Xul
It sounds like a brutal-er Nile. Nile is good. This is good too. Check it out.
Overkill - Scorched
Nuclear Blast Records
Since From The Underground And Below (which in retrospect isn't as shitty as I remember) Overkill is back to putting out killer albums. They've evolved over the years. Focusing more on groovy thrash with a lot of melodic hooks in their modern era. So you know what to expect when a new Overkill album is going to be released, but in a good way. Songs like 'Bag O Bones' or 'Know Her Name' have the typical Overkill trademarks and there's some pleasant surprises for seasoned fans, like 'Wicked Place' with its aggressive gloomy atmosphere or 'Harder They Fall' with its uptempo riffing.
Overkill has been around releasing albums for so many years and nothing seems to be stopping them. Although the musical template in every Overkill album for the past ten years has been the same, nonetheless they are still rocking out and I think that Scorched proves the point that they're just as angry as always. Metallica's 72 Seasons was in my opinion "scorched" the same day when the thrash metal world got to hear Overkill's new album. After all these years, they're still mean and green.
Decipher - Arcane Paths To Resurrection
Greek black metal is simultaneously underrated and overrated. They've got some of the most known names in the style like Rotting Christ, and you know a Greek BM band when you hear them because the epic melodic sense in the riffing is very distinct. It's not as popular as Sweden, Norway, or even Italy and Poland despite a lot of the formative bands pre-dating the second wave when black metal's tropes were really solidified, and as such Greece kinda has that underdog vibe. Coupled with an easily recognizable sonic identity, it's perfect nerd fodder.
Decipher hold their own in a strong style - anyone who likes the Greek vibe will dig this, and their execution is well-rounded enough to draw in some visitors from the broader black metal. I really like the legato arpeggios, ever so slightly wonky and discordant, that form the meat of 'Lost In Obscurity', and appreciate the way they keep you on your toes while still having a very steady and focused riff attack - varied just enough to keep it interesting while still rigidly adhering to their theme.
Holy Moses - Invisible Queen
With Invisible Queen the Queen of Thrash, Sabina Classen, says goodbye to her fans. But she doesn't whisper it gently, instead flipping the bird at everyone with anger. The album is hard to digest because of its bulkiness and dissonant Voivodesque tunes 'Cult Of The Machine'. Still great thrash, just takes some time to settle. but there are also songs that are almost too easy to listen to. 'Alternative Reality' is an example, impressing with some cool guitar solos and a catchy rhythm. 'Visions In Red' is a pretty brutal song, almost death metal in parts, especially with deeper growls from Sabina. In 'Forces Great And Hidden' Sabina showcases her entire vocal range towards the end of a worthy farewell for the great Holy Moses.
Putrid Yell - Consuming Aberrationn
On their debut full-length, Consuming Aberration, Chile's appallingly-named Putrid Yell offer for the listener's delectation 37 minutes of completely unoriginal death metal. And what a fantastic 37 minutes it is. The band play as if they have heard exactly zero death metal released after Left Hand Path, the guitars sound like an endless series of HM-2 pedals, and the whole foetid mess is delivered at a pitch that never falls below utterly frenzied. It is perhaps a shame that the phrase 'Stockholm Syndrome' has found another use in common English, as there is perhaps little better name for the loyal cadre of bands that continue to fly the flag for everything that Nihilist, Entombed, Carnage, and Dismember created thirty years ago. Dig a tiny bit further into the Grave though, and Putrid Yell's South American heritage is just about discernible amid the buzzsaw riffs and sinister lead melodies, with the filthy thrash of the booming Chilean scene, together with their Brazilian predecessors adding an adrenalized velocity to the Swedish tones. Like many of the best bands in this small subset of death metal, the exhilaration that one can find in Putrid Yell comes from marvelling at the way in which the entire album seems to be careening out of control, on the brink of dissolution at all times, like an out of control minecart in an Indiana Jones action scene, the rhythm section seemingly fighting to keep pace with the guitars, but just about holding things together, even as nuts, bolts and wheels are torn asunder around them. We just about make it to the end in one piece, trailing blood and guts in our wake, and with the sure knowledge that these guys must undoubtedly slay live.
Austere - Corrosion Of Hearts
I almost knew this was going to disappoint me a little bit. The previous album by this Aussie duo, To Lay Like Old Ashes, is flagship DSBM release that I consider one of the finest pieces of music the genre has to offer, and it was going to be a tough act to follow even without a 14-year wait slowly building the "will they return" hype.
I'm a little let down by the vocals in particular - their older material had these bloodcurdling shrieks that you'll only find in the most raw and emotive DSBM bands. They were polarizing for the same reasons Dani Filth and Silencer get flak, but I was very firmly on the "I love it" side of that pole. Very, very occasionally we get a trace of that shriek on Corrosion Of Hearts, but they must have realized that screaming your fuckin' ass off using wildly incorrect vocal technique is not sustainable long-term, because a majority of the vocals on this new album are aged, breathy traditional black metal rasps that have about a tenth of the power the old stuff did. They're passable for what they are, and you could suggest they are "mature", but I don't listen to DSBM to feel intelligent and cultured, I listen to it when I masochistically want to go back to a time when I didn't want to be alive anymore and just sit in that empty, hollow vibe for a few minutes. It's nice to get some perspective sometimes.
Weak vocal performance aside, Tim Yatras is still a fantastic drummer: his steady pocket grooves single-handedly make this a passable listen, and the band still has an excellent sense of pacing which helps them to properly develop minimal, long-form songs that keep you paying attention even when they're right in the middle of a big repeat and you can't remember when they begun. The less you compare this more to their earlier work, the more it stands on its own as an album worth listening to. Instead of constantly having to note the parts of the album that recapture the good ol' days to convince myself a reunion album is good (I'm looking at you, thrash bands that reformed and released an album after 2008), I find myself more and more impressed with this when I take it on its own terms. Austere has evolved, and they're not depressive black metal anymore - they've gone into a cocoon for a decade and a half and come out a vibrant, ethereal atmospheric black metal band.
Witte Wieven - Dwaalicht
Babylon Doom Cult Records
Witte Wieven managed to put out an album which is haunting and beautiful at the same time, expressing black metal in a very ambient style. I would say that their music seems heavily inspired by their local dutch folklore, especially that of the white women which represent spirits of deceased wise women that roam freely around nature. That's exactly how I experienced this album, and I think you will too.
Voidceremony - Threads Of Unknowing
20 Buck Spin
In case you haven't checked this out already (Really??? Come on) I'm going to simply quote the resumes of the members involved that aren't mainman Garrett Johnson. An an aside, that guy seems to have this uncanny ability to pull some of the biggest names in underground extreme metal):
Charlie Koryn, who in addition to lending writing talents to Ascended Dead, Decrepisy and Funebrarum, has also played drums live for Hulder, Skeletal Remains (!!), Incantation (!!!) and Morbid Angel (are you fucking kidding me).
Phil Tougas, who has played with Christian Muenzner in Eternity's End and is arguably the most skilled and prolific guitarist in Canada today with nearly a dozen projects ranging from old-school Finnish-style death metal, funeral doom, neoclassical tech death and disembowelment worship with extra solos.
Damon Good, who is simply put the most underrated bassist in extreme metal. His style immediately jumps out at you - layered, technical but with a real appreciation for melody and restraint - and it shows in every project he's in, which includes heavy hitters like Stargazer, Cauldron Black Ram and Mournful Congregation. When a bassist stands out in his prog-death metal band AND his atmospheric funeral doom band, you know that's good.
…in case you're more familiar with sports than you are with extreme metal (lol why are you here), this is basically the equivalent of Jordan, Lebron and Kobe, all in their prime, playing on the same team. Like it's unfair how stacked this band is.
Despite being a supergroup in every sense of the word, too, this has none of that feel - that's the beauty of having the guitarist who isn't in 10 other bands pulling the strings. He's molded the incredible talents of his hired guns to fit his very specific vision. Wandering bass lines and a prominent presence, riffs that make you wonder how the fuck they even thought them up, let alone be able to play them on a guitar, and a sense of novelty and artistic expansion that holds over from the debut. Every metal media outlet worth their salt has already covered this, and there's a reason. It's fuckin good!
METALBITE'S TOP 10 ALBUMS OF THE MONTH
10: Dawn Of Ouroboros - Velvet Incandescence
This has a mix of different musical elements, many related to black metal and some more adjacent to it - perhaps along the lines of modern Enslaved or Ne Obliviscaris with some more modern post-black influence. I first caught wind of their name when they were touring with Tomarum, another band I actively follow, and I can see why, because their approach is remarkably similar - larger than life atmo-black with a myriad of influence and loads of theme shifts woven into massive songs with grandiose emotional climaxes.
It's easy to be critical of it if you're just in the mood for a quick fix, as I find the album has the kind of vibe you really have to settle into and you only really start locking in by the third track. Once it does click, it gets really fun, and each riff seems to have something that makes it engaging. Two things about this album really stand out: the drumwork, which manages to fit so many different textures and grooves into a smoothly integrated song, and the vocals, which range from strained mid rasps, shrieks and hollow lows to angelic and powerful clean singing that is featured at perfect times. I thought they had a guest vocalist come in but it turns out Chelsea Murphy does the cleans and the harsh vocals? Impressive.
MetalBite's Rating: 8.3/10
9: Infecting The Swarm - Pulsing Coalescence
Lacerated Enemy Records
Can you tell I've been on a brutal death kick lately? For whatever reason, my appetite for constant blastbeats and palm-muted riffs that never go past the 5th fret is more…ravenous than usual, let's say. It's often hard to find bands in this niche that really stand out and can hold your attention for more than a few minutes without getting boring, but Infecting the Swarm seem to have stumbled upon the right mix of elements to make a memorable album. There are two main reasons for this:
1) it's German, and as such has a healthy amount of Defeated Sanity influence which is NEVER a bad thing
2) Robin Stone is the session drummer
That last point should be enough to really get you going - I could spend endless waking hours just scrolling Stone's little video clips of him blasting away in that tiny little storage container. This kind of speedy brutal death is the perfect venue for his to really showcase his chops and the sense of danceability this guy brings to an oppressively heavy atmosphere. The guitarwork and that sickly, gurgly low are enough to keep you coming back, and then getting one of the best session drummers in the game right now just seals this as a must-hear for brutal death metal fans.
MetalBite's Rating: 8.4/10
8: Descent Into Maelstrom - Dei Consentes
Club Inferno Ent.
Descent Into Maestrom claim to play 'Dodecaphonic Metal', apparently based on a classical technique popularised by Schoenberg, in which musical notation is approached in a different way from conventional scales, meaning that their music cannot be said to operate in any particular key. This may or may not be true, this particular listener possessing not the requisite theoretical knowledge to confirm, although the melodies that the band use certainly sound unusual enough to suggest that the tag might have a little more to it than the gimmick that it initially appears. What is abundantly true, however, is that the Italians offer a mind-bendingly off-kilter approach to progressive death metal, which is at least as entertaining as it is baffling, and as such, is a required listen for anyone drawn to the more technical side of the genre. Lightning flurries of finger-tapped legato runs sit comfortably alongside warp-speed blasts of angular death metal, while a synthetic sounding bass frequently adopts an almost-overpowering counterpoint that gives the band a truly oddball edge, as if Spheres-era Pestilence were asked to approximate a death-grind version of Krallice, without ever hearing either that band, or indeed any death-grind. Across such a dizzying album, unsurprisingly not everything sticks, but the elements that do are magnificent, and intriguing enough to keep the listener attempting to decrypt its many charms.
MetalBite's Rating: 8.4/10
7: Elvenking - Reader Of The Runes - Rapture
As someone who is completely unfamiliar with Elvenking and their status within the music industry, I actually decided to give this album a chance and see what will happen. Luckily, I did not regret my decision, not by a longshot. The album was an epic venture from start to finish which expressed such epic and melodic elements. I wouldn't go too far to call this album a masterpiece, but it is definitely a worthy listen.
MetalBite's Rating: 8.4/10
6: Enforced - War Remains
Century Media Records
Enforced are back with their third full-length album and this one is a real brutal ass-kicking killer. On War Remains there are so many Slayer references you almost wonder if they're trying to be the officially sanctioned follow-up. As an example check 'Hanged By My Hand'. Vocalist Will Wagstaff sounds rougher than Tom, but it gives them their own dirty, hardcorish vibe. The death metal influences are abundant as well - if you want to listen to the best of modern thrashl, look no further than Enforced!
MetalBite's Rating: 8.5/10
5: Thysia - Islands In Cosmic Darkness
Something is stirring in the nation of Italy at the moment. While they have, outside of a few notable outliers, been known primarily for its contribution to power metal, Thysia continue the strong contribution of their compatriots Descent Into Maelstrom this month, albeit with a totally different sound. Messa were one of 2022's biggest successes, and their drummer Rocco Toaldo is clearly a man of discerning taste, lending his percussive skills to this superb black metal debut, hot on the heels of his main band's magical Close last year. Thysia play a satisfyingly organic-sounding brand of black metal, operating primarily at a riffy mid-tempo clatter, rather than the hyperactive velocities that one often associates with the sub-genre. There is a grime-encrusted, rock 'n' roll edge to much of their composition, which roots the band in an almost classic metal setting, and they plough a furrow not dissimilar to Carpathian Forest, Khold, and even a tinge of Necrophobic, their abrasive and roiling clangour brought together by Mrak's cavernous Nocturno Culto-style rasp. It is frequently a sign of good sequencing, together with a deep faith in a band's material when the final track is the jewel in a record's crown, and that is absolutely the case here, the title track adding woozy Celtic Frost doom to the mix to powerful effect. Thysia may be playing a brand of black metal that is a little too far removed from current trends to make a huge impact, but it doesn't for a moment lessen the quality of an authentically diabolical work of black magic.
MetalBite's Rating: 8.5/10
4: Smoulder - Violent Creed Of Vengeance
Cruz Del Sur
Canadian epic heavy/doom metal band Smoulder and their second full-length album Violent Creed Of Vengeance really surprised me once I got the chance to hear it, especially since the album featured two legends that shaped the world of fantasy and heavy metal music, Michael Moorcock and Michael Whelan. The album should be described as nothing more than a heavy, catchy, epic and enjoyable listening experience, especially if you're actively following the New Wave of Traditional Heavy Metal and all the bands that constantly pop up.
MetalBite's Rating: 8.6/10
3: Sintage - Paralyzing Chains
High Roller Records
Sintage from Germany gave us a loud and heavy masterpiece of a debut album called Paralyzing Chains, which can be described as both a love letter and time travel to the 80's. So many wild and powerful songs on this one, especially the first track 'Midnight Evil' which crawled under my skin the second I heard it for the first time. One shouldn't stop there, because even though the first track promises so much, the rest of the album also managed to deliver the action which is full of wild and dangerous rock 'n' roll. I highly suggest that you check this one out because it is a banger!
MetalBite's Rating: 8.7/10
2: Molested Divinity - The Primordial
New Standard Elite
I'm in a bit of a love affair with Turkish bands lately: Gore Dimension, Devoured Elyisum and anything Mustafa Gürcalioğlu's in all hit that specific area of my brain that makes me wanna DROP some fuckin HAMMERS. It mostly seems to have to do with the signature mid-heavy guitar tone that cuts you more like a lightsaber than a chainsaw - the prickle of the guitar tone isn't there the same way it would be for something like, i dunno, Dismember - but it's so big and powerful it goes through you like you're butter. It's…smooth. Smooth and heavy as balls.
Molested Divinity is the next addition to my growing harem of Turkish death metal, as you might have guessed. Their key characteristic is the unrelenting, snaking guitarwork that throws 20 5-second grooves at you per song without a single moment that lets up. Atmospheric diversions? Carefully layered transitions? Fuck all that shit, just blast more. Is the blast you're using getting tired? Do a quick fill and then blast a different way! There isn't a problem on this album that more blastbeats doesn't solve. The rare time this does go below 240 BPM, the sheer amount of buildup in the 10 minutes beforehand makes it the most monumental slam you've ever heard.
Though on initial listens The Primordial can sound like a convoluted mess, after a few more spins to let it sink in it…still sounds like a convoluted mess, but it's always a beautiful mess that you enjoy every second of. You don't fully understand what's going on, but everything is so overwhelming you just have to see where the next moment takes you. It's that rare combination where savage and feral expression meets intellectual, intricate composition - you wanna bang your head as much as you want to carefully dissect each riff and make note of if they re-use it in a song (I'm still trying to figure out if any parts repeat). There's just enough structure to make it something you want to come back to, and just enough "wtf is going on" to make you curious enough to re-start it from the beginning. It's amazing how fast half an hour passes by when this is on.
MetalBite's Rating: 8.8/10
1: Dødheimsgard - Black Medium Current
Honestly, has anything else been said over the past few weeks about this album other than the fact that it's weird and great at the same time? Dødheimsgard is without a doubt one of the most unique, experimental and avant-garde black metal bands out there, and their new album Black Medium Current just proves the point that they know how to take their music to the next level. There are so many psychedelic, avant-garde and even industrial moments on this album that are mesmerizing to behold, which is exactly what you'd expect from a one in a lifetime band such as Dødheimsgard. People that keep saying how Tool is the most unusual, psychedelic, avant-garde and weird band, should probably check out DHG and see the real definition of the words weird and avant-garde.
MetalBite's Rating: 9/10
Thanks for stopping by! View all the previous lists for this year here:
|Rites Of Regress