MetalBite's Top 10 Albums of the Month - June 2023
Welcome back to MetalBite's Top 10 Albums of the Month! Took us a bit to get caught up because there were a boatload of incredible albums in June this year. Let's get right into it.
The Arcane Order - Distortions From Cosmogony
Black Lion Records
This was a band I dabbled with in my teen years. My gateway genre into metal was mid-00s melodic death metal and metalcore, and by the time I was a 15-year-old I wanted to avoid anything with pop hooks like the plague as a result. This was very much my idea of what "more mature music" sounded like at the time. The Arcane Order is melodic death/thrash metal that avoids the pitfalls and tropes of both of those genres, while still holding enough tendencies from them to seem familiar. There's consistently high tempos without breakdowns or clean singing, and they avoid easily-digestible verse/chorus alternating in place of long-form songwriting approaches, all while still feeling very much like a modern melodic death metal album. You're not going to find a lot of hooks here - the goal is more an unrelenting assault that still retains a sense of coherence and melody, giving a more grandiose, epic build feel similar to that of a band like Iotunn (with a bit less range of motion).
Great album to check out if you're a melodic death metal fan growing sick of the typical At the Gates worship stuff and want to try something with a slightly different flavor, or fast death metal connoisseur looking for something with more nuance and restraint.
Apocalypse - Retaliation
MiMo Sound Records & Publishing
Italian one-man metal band Apocalypse, which many know as a Bathory tribute project formed by Erymanthon Seth, has made a major shift in style and sound for the new album Retaliation. This album introduced some intense death/thrashing riffs with very destructive and misathropic lyrics of anti-social and rebellious themes. I described this album as an equivalent to Bathory's Requiem in terms of execution and style, but that doesn't mean that it's entirely similar judging by the music and the band's logo that does in a way resemble that of Bathory from 1994. Although I prefer his earlier epic metal works such as Odes and Pedemontium, I did like this one a lot, especially because it's heavier and faster than the third album Collapse. Retaliation may be a major shift in sound, but nevertheless it is a good album and I highly recommend that you check this one out, especially if you're a Bathory fan.
Algol - The Foreshadows Of Unholy Anger
Not many people are familiar with Bratislav Algol, but I was lucky to come across his YouTube channel and discover his black metal project Algol. Algol started out as an instrumental black metal, but the second album The Foreshadows Of Unholy Anger changes everything by adding vocals for the first time, performed by Mateusz Sibila. The instrumental work is very dynamic, combining some interesting elements that lean towards heavy metal and even metalcore, with some lyrical themes that have a very occult Lovecraftian style. If you like a very unusual and different kind of black metal, I suggest you check this one out.
Anubis Gate - Interference
No Dust Records
I'm not a huge power/prog guy. Not to say I don't appreciate it, it's just one of those styles where I like certain albums and don't listen to the genre at all outside of those. One that seems to stay in active memory is The Detached by Anubis Gate. Maybe it's just nostalgia value (I did hear it for the first time when I was 14-15) but that was a great mix of strong chorus hooks (underlined by their ridiculously talented and immediately recognizable vocalist), just enough complexity to keep things from getting trite and stale, and just enough heavy chugs in the guitars to retain the grit us metalheads need.
When I saw this Danish group putting out their first album in 8 years, I thought it warranted a quick check, even though I haven't listened to this band in over a decade (for whatever reason The Detached didn't inspire a discography dive, despite its quality). I did this even though some preliminary reviews of Interference were lukewarm. Longtime Anubis Gate fans seem to see this as the continuation of a steady drop in quality that began around the 2010s.
For someone who's coming into this with a fresh perspective, though - this sounds fine! The vocals are still just as quality as ever (seriously I love this guy's voice, even though he has a cadence and range i don't typically vibe with) and the songs do well to stay grounded while offering enough songwriting diversions, odd timings and off-kilter transitions to make it sufficiently proggy. The balance between the two is akin to Seventh Wonder, another rare favorite of mine from the powerprog pantheon. I probably still have some more digging to do with this band, but this is still a solid pickup.
Wormreign - Abyssus
Ontario black metal always gets overlooked in favor of our Quebecois neighbors, and from what I've heard there's a little bit of tension/rivalry between the two scenes…so when an Ontario band comes out that's actually doing the right things, it's imperative they get talked about as much as possible. We definitely don't have the volume of artists that other regions can boast, but what little does come out of here - Panzerfaust, Idol of Fear, Woods of Ypres, Thantifaxath, Sortilegia - is almost undoubtedly prime.
Wormreign's primary function is streamlined Deathspell Omega influence mixed with the meaty discordance and slow churn of Icelandic black metal a la Svartidaudi and Wormlust. Not a common style to begin with, even more surprising for a band to come out of nowhere and pull it off with aplomb. I'll be keeping an eye on this band.
Passeisme - Alternance
I fell in love with this group's debut - it had a joyous, bright atmosphere packed full of vibrant melodic back metal riffing, with a flavor inspired by French decadence (despite being a Russian band) - it was a cool and unique angle. I believe it just barely cracked my top 10 albums of 2021.
Fast-forward to now, and they've already got a new one out in relatively little time. It's a slight step down in my ears - they leaned more into their decadent side, creating more detailed guitar lines that lose some of the energy of the previous record in exchange for elegance. A lot of it might be the production on Alternance, which has comparatively less prickle. However, it is a more varied piece and ventures down some avenues they didn't on the last record, so it's entirely possible this will grow on me. I don't think this will ever top Eminence but this is still very much worth a listen, especially if you're not already familiar with this cool-as-fuck project.
KHNVM - Visions Of A Plague Ridden Sky
Visions Of A Plague Ridden Sky is the perfect title for the third full-length album of this German-Bangladeshi collaboration. Gloomy, sinister death-doom that can also step on the gas pedal (such as in the title track). The riffing never falls into chaos, but lingers around the infinitely black abyss. The short and very entertaining 'Hourglass Of Decadence I', gives the album a slightly exotic touch and 'Grand Evisceration' captivates with its entrancing, repetitive melodies. 'Awakening Of The Inner Alchemy II' comes full circle, alternating between tough, monolithic riffs and fast death metal blasting. Very entertaining album, suitable for all who like Necros Christos / Sijjiin and similar bands.
Tsjuder - Helvegr
Season Of Mist
Nice to see these guys back with their formula of fast, aggressive black metal riffs mixed with a few slow, aggressive black metal riffs. Seriously, I mean that in the best way possible.
Mortuary Hearse - The Cosmic Urn
Even though I am personally not into stoner/doom metal, I was actually very interested to check out this new act Mortuary Hearse from my country Serbia, especially since I realized that the two members are Maledictor and Pakost from Aura Mortis, but performing under different pseudonyms, H.W.Dn. Paulus and H.nB.Pr. Alexandros. The band's debut EP The Cosmic Urn doesn't provide anything new to the table, but rather provides some very enjoyable songs that possess the genre's simple, catchy and groovy nature. I would really love to hear more from this band because this EP shows that both lads did an excellent job with their newfound project, and I would hate to see Mortuary Hearse go to waste. So far these two geniouses haven't let me down with any of their past works and I can't wait to hear more from them.
METALBITE'S TOP 10 ALBUMS OF THE MONTH
10: Trepas - Les Ombres Malades
There is a glut of high quality Canadian releases hitting the stores and streaming services in June, not least the superb new Sacrenoir album, but the best of the lot in this writer's opinion is Trepas's second full-length, Les Ombres Malades. Across seven excellent tracks, the band alternate effectively between atmospheric and propulsive Winterfylleth-style melodic black metal, and the gothic grandeur of their mid-tempo moments, which combine pastoral acoustic guitars, with the kind of chiming arpeggios that litter the discographies of Katatonia and Green Carnation. Outside of Goliatt's coruscating vocal performance, which adds ferocious bite to the band's earthy sound, it's fair to say that Trepas occupy the less extreme end of black metal. In fact, much of the album, not least stand-out track 'Alterite', sees the five-piece produce a gorgeously layered arrangement that has more in common with post-metal than the frostbitten Scandinavian hordes. Such sophistication should not be held against Trepas though, and their seamless blend of bleak resignation and possible redemption creates a constant and compelling tension, which renders Les Ombres Malades a rich and satisfying album with a wide appeal.
MetalBite's Rating: 8.2/10
9: Paroxysm Unit - Fragmentation // Stratagem
New Standard Elite
New Standard Elite has been reminding everyone they're the kings of stupefying brutality, with killer stuff from Molested Divinity, Nithing, and now the already-lauded Paroxysm Unit coming out in the past couple months. This Features ex-7H Target members Konstantin Korolev and Vladislav Vorotshov uniting with the ubiquitous Colin Marston to create what should have been the follow-up to 0.00 Apocalypse. The new 7H was fine, I even featurd it in these articles if I remember correctly - but this has a lot more punch, novelty and staying power, and does so without resorting to hamfisted non-metal influences. Futuristic death metal that shapeshifts on a dime into different forms of cold, unfeeling riffwork. There's a certain visceral weight to everything (no doubt a byproduct of having one of the best producers in the game on guitars) while calculated precision lines the chaotic arrangements.
MetalBite's Rating: 8.3/10
8: None - Inevitable
Hypnotic Dirge Records
Let's face it, DSBM is dead. Remember that "One Man Metal" Vice documentary? Striborg is synthwave now, Jef Whitehead seems content to ride Leviathan's clout into oblivion while not doing much new with the project, and Xasthur makes weird folk music (kinda cool) and writes incel poetry on the internet (much less cool). These are three cornerstones of the genre, and for the most part they don't even want to be associated with the music they helped create.
It's not totally a mystery why they stopped - you gaze into the void for long enough, you're not gonna like what you see on the other side. There's only so much of it you can take before you have to give in, which is why it's repeatedly stunning to watch None take unflinching jumps right into the cold arms of the chasm of lifelessness - each time bringing a small piece back for us to bear witness.
The style of these Portland nobodies is a very pure and specific tenet of black metal - the only semblance of speed is in the mid-paced grooves that serves as emotionally charged waves to break up the drudging, Burzum-esque monotony. Repetition is a must. What makes this group especially compelling, though, is their use of silence. The acoustic interludes will sit in their space until it feels genuinely uncomfortable, with every legato strum drifting into your soul like a mountain range drifts into your field of view - at first you see a faint trace of it, and then boom - it's there, an incredibly powerful monument that seems to have everything in its grasp. The production qualities are spot-on - distant, washed-out vocals, a thin, prickly guitar near the forefront to the point of being blown out, and a lot of echo and reverb on the drum tones. Every single strum is felt in your core, with every note choice feeling meticulous and intentional. There's no "jamming it out" with a band like this - the songwriting process is likely a careful, torturous process of making sure every note hangs exactly as long as it needs to and not a second longer.
What amazes me time and time again is how None can use the simplest to sounds to create the most powerful of emotions. There's a certain special something that makes the pain unbearably beautiful. It's mood music, but if you're in the mood, this hits like nothing else.
MetalBite's Rating: 8.5/10
7: Grafvitnir - Into The Outer Wilderness
Starting with a huge homage to Edvard Grieg, the Swedes of Grafvitnir spew forth their 9th unholy abomination. What has changed in comparison to the predecessor Tunes Of Sitra Ahra? Well, to be honest, not too much. Fortunately, this is a compliment. The only major change is the logo, the rest is business as usual: Frosty, fast tremolo riffs that have great power behind them, thundering drums and half-whispered, half-screamed vocals of their vocalist. Surely this is a formula we can all get behind? Well, why is this so underrated then?
MetalBite's Rating: 8.5/10
6: Depressivesunday - Unending Autumn Funeral
I'll be honest right off the bat, I don't like DSBM and I never managed to get into it, but this album is actually an exception which I quite liked for what it is. Depressivesunday is a one-man black metal band from Argentina, formed by an anonymous individual Ojos Funéreos and he released the band's debut album Unending Autumn Funeral. This is a very melancholic and depressive album with such dynamic array of emotions from start to finish, which is a resulf of great and creative songwriting. Aside from the standard depressive black metal riffing, there are also moments that resemble pieces of classical music influenced by Frederic Chopin, performed on both piano and guitars. I was actually quite amazed that I really liked this album a lot and that I actually enjoyed it, even though I am not a fan of DSBM.
MetalBite's Rating: 8.6/10
5: Thantifaxath - Hive Mind Narcosis
Dark Descent Records
The Thanti boys got their hands on some REALLY fucking good psychedelics. They already had a sound all their own with their debut, and the evolution into even more interesting, compelling, dissonant textures is remarkable to witness. They took their core sound and increased their range of motion, and somehow managed to do this (to a significant degree) without in any way compromising what they are about. It's one of those situations where even though the first album was great, the second album is still better in every conceivable way.
I could elucidate with several paragraphs why this is so good, but chances are you know already and have heard this because this band had mastered the art of "less is more" when it comes to promotion, preferring to let their music speak for itself. It makes sense, because Thantifaxath expresses emotions that aren't even in most artists' vocabulary - even within extreme metal spheres.
MetalBite's Rating: 8.6/10
4: Aodon - Portraits
Willowtip seems to be branching more into atmo-black these days with recent releases from bands such as Liminal Shroud, Katharos and Kostnateni. Aodon is my favorite of the bunch on a visceral emotional level. All three of the bands I just mentioned are great in their own ways, but only Aodon grabs a hold of me on the first riff and refuses to let go until I start to feel sad. The steady double-kick patterns are seriously fuckin' groovy, and the sense of melody in the guitar lines is phenomenally gripping - very reminiscent of October Falls with a slightly discordant touch that shows signs of the French BM lineage. It maintains a steady vibe, but there's still enough variance in the rhythms and patterns to keep you interested throughout, constantly satisfying that craving for rich melody while simultaneously building up a climax into the next riff.
MetalBite's Rating: 8.6/10
3: To Descend - Mindless Birth
Horror Pain Gore Death Productions
This fucking kills!! Brutal, fast, neck breaking old school death metal, just the way I like it. No trendy shit, just pure underground in the style of old US heroes like Banished or Morta Skuld - exxcept To Descend are Swedish. It's not very innovative but who cares? It's an entertaining fist to the face. The five short tracks are peppered with a shitload of blast beats and occasional references to classics like "Tragedy Strikes" or other early 90s death-thrash mixtures. If you didn't have time for your morning coffee, this might be a suitable alternative.
MetalBite's Rating: 8.7/10
2: Paroxysmal - Force Feeder
The fairly low-key opening track of Paroxysmal's Force Feeder, which only gradually builds into the kind of technical death metal onslaught that is the album's default setting for the majority of its run-time only provides the most cryptic of initial clues to the seasoned and sceptical death metal fan. The band positively explode, however, on the monumental second track 'Ageless / Deathless', and as the unconventional harmonies and off-kilter rhythms start to find their target with unerring regularity, the sceptic is immediately converted into passionate advocate. Although Paroxysmal seem content to be tarred with the somewhat monochrome Brutal Death Metal brush, the second half of the aforementioned track reveals a higher degree of musical enlightenment than one might otherwise expect, as the band map out the kind of jaw-dropping labyrinth of accessible complexity that first brought the likes of Arsis and Necrophagist to the attention of the masses, all without sacrificing the aggression and heft needed to satisfy the most knuckle-dragging death metal maniac. Paroxysmal variously recall the dizzying fretwork of the much-missed Swedes Anata, the weird noise of Pyrrhon, and even Covenant-era Morbid Angel. Lofty comparisons for sure, but Paroxysmal are not flattered by such company, and Force Feeder is a death metal album that no listener should mind being compelled to consume.
MetalBite's Rating: 8.7/10
1: Nithing - Agonal Hymns
New Standard Elite
It has been a while since an album succeeded so well at singularly focusing on being absurdly brutal. This becomes even more impressive when you realize it's a solo project and this guy is playing the inhumanly fast drumbeats that are chaotic and layered, yet so absurd and tight that you think they must be programmed…but nope, there's a playthrough video of this on youtube. Go check it out, it's ridiculous.
Back? Alright, now you can see why this is worth paying attention to. It's not overly flashy on the surface, just another run of the mill brutal album on a brutal label, but when you start to poke in a little deeper the intricacies start to reveal themselves and it is stunning how deep this is when examined - little harmonics on the guitar, subtle odd timings and detailed fretwork that is only revealed through snaking pitch changes, and my GOD those fucking drums are overwhelming. The cherry on top is the vocals, which sound like a group of kids nearing the bottom of their Slurpees.
If Matt Kilner isn't a household name after this, I don't know what's gonna get him over that hump because this dude oozes talent and is doing EVERYTHING right - as a one man show, no less.
MetalBite's Rating: 8.8/10
Thanks for stopping by! Check out this year's past lists here:
|Rites Of Regress