MetalBite's Top 10 Albums of the Month - May 2023
Welcome back to MetalBite's Top 10 Albums of the Month! Finally we're back on schedule…or at least, this isn't coming out egregiously late like last month's list. Yay for marginal improvements.
Good thing, too, because we've got a fat stack of May releases you best be gettin' in your ears if you haven't already. The big names came out swinging this month, and there's a bevy of underground up-and-comers chomping at the bit tryna get their piece of the pie. We've got it all, right here at good ol' MetalBite.
This is prime time for new album releases, so clean your ears and empty your wallet, here we go!
Vomitheist - Nekrofuneral
This has that crunchy HM-2 death metal vibe, but unlike a lot of comparable bands, they eschew the overly melodic Swedish-style riffing for a focus on pure d-beat savagery and a visceral, hardcore-lined intensity. I usually love what that extra dollop of harmony adds, but it's refreshing to hear the style approached from a slightly different perspective. As always, Kunal and Transcending Obscurity are hard at work diggin' up little diamonds in the rough for our listening pleasure.
RUIM - Black Royal Spiritism - I - O Sino Da Igreya
It is probably fair to say that a new band featuring a musician as prominent as Mayhem's Blasphemer needs little help from the MetalBite machine, but it would also be a disservice not to bring RUIM's excellent debut to the attention of those who might otherwise ignore it based on their existing views of the Norwegian icons. While Black Royal Spiritism… is not a huge departure from A Grand Declaration Of War-era Mayhem, there are enough differences between RUIM and the six-stringer's day job to ensure that the newer entity more than stands on it's own two feet, far from the irritating younger sibling that it could so easily have been. Sounding possibly more focussed than Mayhem's recent output, RUIM are quite the tonic for devotees of the early 21st century Moonfog output, their frequently dissonant churn variously recalling Thorns and Dodheimsgard, shot through with a dash of early 1349, and some newer influences ensuring that the propulsively rhythmic maelstrom doesn't get too stuck in retro mode. RUIM's debut has enough variety and dynamics to ensure that it holds the attention right to the grim conclusion of quasi-title track 'O Sino Da Igreya', and one hopes that the band endures as more than an ephemeral 'project', as there is much potential for the band to actualise in the coming years.
Pronostic - Chaotic Upheaval
Melodic noodling with that Inferi/Beyond Creation flavour. It's not pushing boundaries and very much feels like everything is within the confines of the Artisan Era paradigm with some Quebecois leanings (obviously), kind of like early First Fragment material - Pronostic knows not to overstep, instead playing to their strengths - catchy, techy verse riffs and ethereal diversions with lots of wandering bass lines. The saxophone is a nice touch too. It makes sense that these guys had Nicholas Wells (First Fragment's current drummer) for over a decade…and used the session drummer FF had on Dasein for this album.
Chaotic Upheaval is a niche release, but if you fall into the niche that's obsessed with fast melodeath riffs and active bass presence in tech, you're almost certainly going to enjoy this. It's hard to say this is the flagship band of their regional scene because, well, Phil Tougas lives in Quebec too - but this just goes to show you how incredibly deep Quebec metal is. Even the third-tier bands coming out of there are this good!
Ghost - Phantomime
Loma Vista Recordings
I know it might be unexpected to see this here since I never really considered myself to be a Ghost fan, even though I have been enjoying their music for some time. Their new EP Phantomime, consisted solely of cover songs, just shows what an incredible array of ideas Tobias Forge has in mind when covering his all-time favorite childhood hits in the style of Ghost. 'Jesus He Knows Me' obviously still remains the biggest hit on this record, but other covers such as 'Hanging Around', 'Phantom Of The Opera' and 'We Don't Need Another Hero' also deserve a mention for each track doing a great job of their own. Since the queen of music Tina Turner sadly passed away recently, the cover of her song will now serve as a great tribute to both her and her undying legacy. Rest in Peace Tina.
Impetuous Ritual - Iniquitous Barbaric Synthesis
Profound Lore Records
While not having pure entropy at the level of their sister band Portal, you can at least consider Impetuous Ritual as part of the same ballpark (which is rare enough already - how many Portal clones can you think of?). Iniquitous Barbarik Synthesis has that same swirling density, several layers of clouded murk, and a staunch commitment to pushing death metal further into realms of chaos and extremity, but with Impetuous you get more a steady stream of cluttered intensity as opposed to Portal's winding, convulsing songwriting that occasionally sounds like a band dropping all their gear down a flight of stairs during load-in. It's a bit more digestible (not like anyone who listens to this kind of music cares about that anyways).
Haunt - Golden Arm
Iron Grip Records
US heavy metal band Haunt is always pushing strong with each new album and there is obviously no sleep for the crazed oldschool maniacs such as them. Their new album Golden Arm is quite short but also very simplistic and catchy experience, providing some great tunes that will make it worth the 27 minute of total length.
Ascended Dead - Evenfall Of The Apocalypse
20 Buck Spin
Portland's got the trendy, burgeoning extreme metal scene right now: Aenigmatum, Decrepisy, Autophagy, Uada, Vitriol…that's already a stacked evening for a festival. Ascended Dead has always felt like ubiquitous drummer Charlie Koryn's main band - it's the one he's been in the longest according to metal-archives, and in the music you hear the most of what is becoming his signature style - undoubtedly rooted in the oldschool with the organic drum production that avoids excessive triggering or sampling. Really gives you that feeling right there with them in the studio.
The guitars replicate that A-C era Morbid Angel style of thin, atonal chaos - you can see why Trey Azagthoth tapped Koryn to be their live drummer. At times it lacks distinction, and the riffs drift past you in a bit of a blur, but the moments where they add a bit more color and groove like 'Inverted Ascension' hit you like a hammer coming at you from six different angles. If you can't really tell what's going on with the guitars, you can just pay more attention to the drums and let Charlie's dense fills and shapeshifting snare placements fill in the blanks - chances are he's doing something cool.
METALBITE'S TOP 10 ALBUMS OF THE MONTH
10: Vomitory - All Heads Are Gonna Roll
Metal Blade Records
Swedish death metal legends Vomitory return with a bloody slasher of an album known as All Heads Are Gonna Roll. Their flesh-ripping death metal with d-beat and thrash influences certainly knows how to nail an axe or a machette to some poor bastard's face. More than 30 years and this band is still going strong, which proves that they aren't bullshitting. For all those wannabes who just talk the talk, Vomitory will walk the walk.
MetalBite's Rating: 8.3/10
9: Olkoth - At The Eye Of Chaos
Ah, another landmark release from one of my favorite labels in the scene today. The tenacious, hardworking Italians that run the Spew have an ear for a few different niche sounds, such as monstrous, monolithic death/doom (Burial, Venomous Skeleton, Fossilization) and unique tech death that doesn't forget how to riff (Serocs, Fractal Generator, Goratory). My opinion, however, is that the label is at their best when they're backing the type of music Olkoth plays: atmospheric without that being a focus, riffy songs that give things the chance to breathe, and influences both oldschool and modern that span a period of over 30 years. Just pure, high-quality death metal along the lines of Maze of Sothoth, Altars, Nothingness and Ritual Necromancy.
MetalBite's Rating: 8.3/10
8: Frozen Soul - Glacial Domination
A significant development from their popular and polarizing debut album. In particular, the guitar solos are much more melodic and no longer remind me of early works of Bolt Thrower, but rather of "The IVth Crusade", where the UK group made things more epic and grandiose themselves. This does not mean that Frozen Soul are less aggressive - just more imaginative and varied…
Full review by Michael here.
MetalBite's Rating: 8.5/10
7: Magick Touch - Cakes & Coffins
Classic-sounding, hard-rock tinged heavy metal is not natural territory for this particular listener, but the excellence of Magick Touch's fourth full-length means that one must overlook the off-putting and comical nature of the album's title, as the music within is far from a joke. Exuding in bucketloads the kind of airtight cohesion that many power trios aim for, but never quite attain, Cakes & Coffins is nothing short of a revelation, teaming fuzzed-up NWOBHM riffage with absurdly catchy choruses, and deft musicianship to great effect throughout ten glorious tracks. If your head has been turned in recent years by Night Flight Orchestra's knowing cock rock, or Haunt's earnest brand of melodic metal, Magick Touch might just scratch the same itch, all while applying the soothing balm of their classy vocal harmonies. On standout tracks 'The Judas Cross' and 'M.I.N.A.', the palm-muted arpeggios and thrusting vocal lines are enough to evoke the ever-welcome spectre of prime W.A.S.P., albeit with enough of a grimy rock 'n' roll edge to suggest a working knowledge of early Kvelertak and Turbonegro. With the mainstream metal scene saturated with the kind of glossy pop-metal bands that pay the Napalm Records bills, it is a shame that a band such as Magick Touch, who have the song-writing nous and sparkling songs to reach a similar audience tend to fly under the radar a little, but perhaps Cakes & Coffins will be the album that changes that.
MetalBite's Rating: 8.6/10
6: Kostnateni - Upal
I've been following the creator behind Kostnateni for a good minute now, ever since he was honing his craft with Glass Shrine and working his way into metal's collective conscious with intriguing, dissonant ideas and approaching extreme metal from new angles, all while slowly collaborating with known names to build his cred. A guest spot with Serpent Column here, some production assistance from Mare Cognitum and Ripped to Shreds mainmen there - D. L. is nothing if not dedicated to his craft. Watching his work get more and more noticed, and subsequently picked up by one of my all-time favorite labels in Willowtip for this release gives me reverse schadenfreude - seeing this project blossom and succeed fills me with vicarious glee.
Never one to repeat the same idea twice, Upal once again reinvents the Kostnateni sound, adding a whole array of influences while still maintaining the same feel that makes this group such a unique go in the first place. There's some off-kilter folk metal vibes, which might have felt danceable if they weren't full of warped note bending and sudden frayed, angular guitarwork. This definitely takes black metal influence - if anything, this is truer to the spirit of black metal - pushing the envelope, boundless experimentation, inversion of traditional musical tropes - than any dime-a-dozen Dissection worship bands.
You might need a few listens before it really starts to stick - these aren't your daddy's riffs, even someone who normally vibes with harsh and weird music is still going to need time to wrap their head around what he's going for. The vocals seem a little too murky and buried at first, and it's more subdued, with more of an ebb and flow than the monolith tribute to death anxiety that was Hrůza Zvítězí - but for someone that's been observing the evolution of D.L. as a guitarist, this seems to be the album where he's found his sound. Hrůza Zvítězí worked because of its incredibly singular focus, but a second album like that would have fallen flat - Upal breathes and ventures into a lot of strange realms most black metal can't even touch, and creates a lot of little tangents that the project can go down to explore on future releases.
Time (and album sales) will tell if this is the true breakout for this Minnesota-based project, but it certainly feels like it from where I'm sitting - this does everything right and pushes a groundbreaking sound that will hopefully get noticed by an even wider audience.
MetalBite's Rating: 8.6/10
5: Immortal - War Against All
Just when you thought that Spring was coming to an end and Summer is finally around the corner, Immortal brings back the Winter with their new blizzard beast of an album War Against All. Although Horgh got fired from the band after the fiasco regarding the legal dispute over the band's name, Demonaz still managed to take on this challenge and make another album, with a help from guest musicians Ice Dale and Kevin Kvåle. It certainly shows that Demonaz still has his heart of winter within, proving that nothing can stop Immortal and that the band will live on despite the trouble. The album does have some filler moments here and there in certain songs, but if you manage to look past them, it's a banger and powerful album from start to finish.
Full reviews by Michael and Vlad here.
MetalBite's Rating: 8.7/10
4: Extermination Dismemberment - Dehumanization Protocol
Unique Leader Records
Some albums, you can describe really well with your words. Some albums elude description beyond HNNNNNN BIG CHUNGUS SLAM GO JUN JUN JUN FUCK DIS GOOD
This is definitely the latter.
When it comes to pure slammin' brutal death, Extermination Dismemberment has no equal. Highly recommended listening for right before you lift weights, punch a baby, or tell your boss to fuck off as you quit your job in spectacular fashion.
MetalBite's Rating: 8.7/10
3: Thulcandra - Hail The Abyss
German melodic black/death metal band Thulcandra and their fifth album Hail The Abyss delivers everything you love about the band on every level possible. It is a melodic, heavy and well-written album that doesn't need an introduction, it jumps straight to the point and reaps the souls of the living. If you're a fan od Swedish melodic black/death metal bands, but you didn't have the chance to give Thulcandra a listen, I think that their new album Hail The Abyss is your best opportunity.
MetalBite's Rating: 8.9/10
2: Strahor – Gde Vukovi Zavijaju
I almost forgot about this one, which is blasphemous of me since I was one of many people who were patiently waiting for the release of Strahor's third album Gde Vukovi Zavijaju. Strahor manages yet again to come out with an amazing album with simple yet very effective songwriting, providing some cold pagan black metal hits like 'Gde Vukovi Zavijaju', 'For Those Who Follow The Heart', 'Vampyric Sorrows', 'Izvor Krvi', 'Age Of Beast' and 'Kletva', each of them dominating on this album. The previous EP Zverovanje promised a lot for the future of Strahor, yet the album does so much more than live up to our expectations. Gde Vukovi Zavijaju represents a new dawn for the lone wolf's saga.
MetalBite's Rating: 9.2/10
1: Enforcer - Nostalgia
Enforcer managed once again to triumph with their new album Nostalgia, which is pure oldschool heavy metal magic. The album name says it all, it reminds you of the classics that got you into heavy metal and it can certainly please a metalhead's heart with a sense of nostalgia. I don't know what else needs to be said other than it's a great album which definitely deserves to be among the top 5 albums of this year.
MetalBite's Rating: 9.6/10
As always, we love to see you stop by. Thanks for reading, make sure to let us know what your favorite album was and/or what we missed!
Check out all our past articles as well in the links below. If you go to January, you'll get a link at the bottom of that to all of 2022's lists, so have fun with a never-ending rabbit hole of sick albums.
|The Zenith Passage|