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MetalBite's Top 10 Albums of the Month - February 2024

Welcome back to MetalBite's Top 10 Albums of the Month!
February was comparatively a lighter month, but there were still a handful of landmark albums by some of the bigger names in the "mainstream underground". Like always, though, we've got a handpicked list of the goods. Let's cut the shit and get to it because the end of March is already around the corner!

-Nate

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Kolac - Kolac
Pest Records

After 10 years, the Serbian black metal band Kolac returns with their third self-titled album Kolac with plenty of awesome, catchy and blasphemous bangers filled with raw energy and aggression. The songs on the new album have a lot of heavy and thrash metal influences mixed in with black metal, while also switching their lyrical themes from blasphemy to the dark ages and various methods of medieval torture. It's got everything that I expected to get from their new album and then some, which in my eyes is a very solid work of black metal that surpasses its predecessors and strikes harder than ever before.
-Vlad


 

Atoll - Inhuman Implants
Unique Leader

Didn't this band just put out an album? Yep, just checked - this came out only six months after its predecessor, which was also an honorable mention. That's impressive on its own, and it's equally as impressive that this Phoenix, AZ -based group continues to sculpt their identity of pummeling, slammy brutal death metal. There's no drastic overhauls in their sound, but the refinement of what's already there is noticeable. The slams sound even thicker, the rare traces of melody even more confounding and intricate, and the squealing vocals even more beastly and viscous. There's a jovial bounce that permeates through, and titles like 'Gay For God' and 'Missionary Opposition' hint at a tongue-in-cheek vibe that's common in the genre. Atoll is quickly rising up the ranks of brutal death metal workhorses and it's about time you take notice!
-Nate


 

Night Slasher - Night Slasher
Sliptrick Records

Lithuanian black/thrash/speed metal band Night Slasher released their self-titled debut album that just slashes all the way through and completely annihilates every dead man walking. It's got a very strong post-apocalyptic feel to it that is certainly amped up with the band's intense and heavy performance, with such skull-crushing bangers that are like jackhammers and bulldozers. As I've said before, if you are into bands like Midnight and Hellripper, you really need to check this one out because it is one bad motherfucker from the Baltic region.
-Vlad


 

METALBITE'S TOP 10 ALBUMS OF THE MONTH

 

Chapel Of Disease - Echoes Of Light

10: Chapel Of Disease - Echoes Of Light
Pathologically Explicit Recordings

Huh, well this is definitely different. On the one hand, it's nice to see Chapel Of Disease is back, as their distinct brand of vaguely proggy death/thrash was sorely missed, but on the other hand you can barely consider this the same band. The tendencies they had are still kind of there, but only in occasional whispers, and the majority of this has been replaced with occult rock in the vein of The Devil's Blood and Year of the Goat - although the snarling harsh vocals are still there. It makes me wonder if this is partially why the band split up in the first place - perhaps the band was tired of their old approach and wanted to try a new direction, or maybe a couple of the guys were undecided at first and then came around in time.

They do sound at home in the new approach, and there is a certain cathartic satisfaction in this music - perhaps this is what they wanted to be all along, and never felt fully comfortable in their own skin until now.
-Nate

MetalBite's Rating: 8/10


 

Spectral Voice - Sparagmos

9: Spectral Voice - Sparagmos
Dark Descent

More of a "slow burn" kind of release, but if death/doom is your thing this will undoubtedly be high up the AOTY list. One thing I've always appreciated about Paul Riedl's projects, whether or not I completely vibe with them, is the attention to detail. Every single aspect of them, whether it's the presentation and aesthetic (apparently the album cover for this is a photo of a model painstakingly crafted through an incredibly obfuscating and complex process), carefully tailored influences (I hear a lot of Evoken, Esoteric and Disembowelment on this in particular) or even just the way the songs slowly unfold into more immersing and cathartic riffwork as the album drags on.

Eroded Corridors Of Unbeing was an incredible album, and though it much more immediately stuck to me than Sparagmos, this is an album that you process in layers over a period of months. If you're a fan of death/doom, you've probably already checked this out - but you should probably familiarize yourself regardless so you can have the inside scoop before it inevitably ends up on everyone's year-end list.
-Nate

MetalBite's Rating: 8/10 (for now)


 

Sentry - Sentry

8: Sentry - Sentry
High Roller

If you are unaware of the importance and impact of Manilla Road on heavy metal, it almost goes without saying that an extraordinary world of epic and esoteric work awaits your discovery, and this writer would suggest that you peruse at least some of their discography, before returning to find out whether Sentry are suitable bearers of the eternal flame lit by Mark Shelton so many years ago. Sentry are three quarters of the final line-up of that legendary band, a band which sadly died with its founder on his untimely passing in 2018, and they take the epic-doom and thrash-adjacent chugging of Manilla Road's later output as their basis, albeit with a slightly more modern sheen burnishing the production, together with more conventional vocals than Shelton's off the wall shriek. With tracks such as the insistent 'The Haunting', Sentry will comfortably fit into the current traditional metal scene, somewhere between Candlemass and Doomsword, and it is easy to imagine them occupying the early evening slot at the kind of German and Greek festivals that drop their headliner budgets in the direction of The Atlantean Codex and Grave Digger (old school set). Sentry are at their most compelling when they stretch out a little, the seven minute 'Valkyries (Raise The Hammers)' being a prime example – the main riff displays the pounding qualities of Black Album-era Metallica, but as the track progresses through a more sophisticated instrumental section which adds classic metal guitar harmonies, it is clear pleasing to hear Sentry push their capabilities a little harder. Finishing with an almost too faithful Candlemass cover, this self-titled effort is both a strong start for Sentry, and an affectionate tribute to a band that continue to burn in the hearts of metal fans the world over.
-Benjamin

MetalBite's Rating: 8.1/10


 

Farsot - Life Promised Death

7: Farsot - Life Promised Death
Lupus Lounge

One of the longer-running acts of the Prophecy Productions sub-label, this has a very gradually revealing character. The transitions are smooth, the motifs are repetitive, and the atmosphere is fed to you via a slow breadcrumb trail that barely feels like it exists, but then halfway through you realize you've been locked in for several minutes. The drumming on this is great - a steady stream of rolling double kick and snare placement that feels like it's taking more from rock beats than it is metal (not unlike mid-era, pre-Dekker Agalloch), and it seals you into the riffs easily. There's a lingering discordance to the melodies, never fully diving into the post-black pool but also remaining firmly entrenched in a modern ethos. It's not reinventing the wheel, but it's exploring a very specific tenet of black metal in a thorough and well-composed manner.

Aaand of course this band is German. I've said it before and I'll say it again - most consistent regional scene in extreme metal. Anything I hear out of there, whether a fully established band, a smaller up-and-comer, or something in between - has something about it worth listening to.
-Nate

Life Promised Death is the German black-metallers first album in seven years, and befitting the band's professed grunge influences, it is a bleak listen. With the exception of a few passages, Farsot eschew the out-and-out velocity of some of their peers, favouring a mid-paced churn that recalls a less black 'n' roll Volcano-era Satyricon, with shades of Krallice creeping in at the edges. If the promise of a black metal album indebted to the Seattle scene seems a little gauche, fear not, this record sounds nothing like Nevermind. Farsot have, however, ingested the misery and harmonic structures of grunge, and are able to effectively integrate the downbeat melodicisme of that era into their more extreme sound without replicating the sonics wholesale. The most obvious touchpoints are the Alice In Chains EPs, Jar Of Flies and Sap, and the excellent 'Buoyant Flames' makes good use of finger-picked acoustics and the kind of ghostly harmonies that Layne Staley and Jerry Cantrell made such a signature of that band's sound. With Life Promised Death, Farsot reward the listener with a singular, and intriguing take on black metal, which should appeal to those that have come under the spell of the more recent Shining albums, and it is a deft achievement indeed to create something so coherent from a combination of sounds that in the hands of many simply wouldn't work.
-Benjamin

MetalBite's Rating: 8.4/10


 

Eternal Storm - A Giant Bound To Fall

6: Eternal Storm - A Giant Bound To Fall
Transcending Obscurity

Anything that gives me Insomnium vibes is bound to hook me - the amount of hours I spent listening to their albums on walks as a moody and depressed teenager was a foundational experience in my musical development. Eternal Storm packs plenty of those somber yet oh so delicious melodies into this album, while also writing songs with an expansive range of motion not unlike Swallow the Sun. Be'lakor is a good comparison too, as there's a good mix of active, riffy sections and drawn out ambiance.

It's rare that you find a band so capable of packing entrancing and accessible moments in without resorting to ham-fisted poppiness, or one that has such careful attention to detail couched in a grandiose sense of scope. Eternal Storm has both in spades, with tons of memorable moments woven throughout the over-an-hour runtime. That length is usually a deterrent, but in this case it serves as a selling point. There's even more tasty riffs to consume!
-Nate

MetalBite's Rating: 8.5/10


 

Hulder - Verses In Oath

5: Hulder - Verses In Oath
20 Buck Spin

For whatever reason, it took me until this album to dive into Hulder, despite them getting a lot of praise from a lot of different sources, but Verses In Oath hit me straight to the dome. It's rare that black metal can genuinely evoke the spirit of the 90s while still being a viable and interesting listen in its own right, and this checks both those boxes with aplomb. The feral, tonal rasps have a naturally appealing quality and are immediately recognizable, the washed-out keyboards and synths sound mystical and divine (reminiscent of Blut Aus Nord's debut album), and the songs have a natural groove supplemented by one of the best session dudes in the biz right now (Charlie Koryn). The title track gets stuck in my head as soon as I think about it - love the vocal rhythms on that one in particular.

This is an album (and a band) that understands exactly what classic black metal needs to be effective in 2024, reminding me of Nachtlich - more in spirit than style, as they're far more stripped down and raw, while Hulder is elegant and fantastical in the early Satyricon/Emperor sort of vein, with a slight undercurrent of grit.
-Nate

MetalBite's Rating: 8.7/10


 

Borknagar - Fall

4: Borknagar - Fall
Century Media Records

These Norwegian superstars never slow down, as is evidenced by both Vlad and Michael's glowing reviews of their twelfth album. Do I really need to recommend Borknagar to you? You're browsing an underground metal site, if you haven't heard of them yet I don't really know what to tell you.
-Nate

MetalBite's Rating: 9/10


 

Iron Curtain - Savage Dawn

3: Iron Curtain - Savage Dawn
Dying Victims Productions

Speed metal is a thing of the past?! Speed metal is dinosaur rock?! Real speed metal is not around in the 21st century?! BULLSHIT! Spanish band Iron Curtain made a triumphant return with their fifth album Savage Dawn, that is in my opinion the best living proof that speaks in high volumes "SPEED METAL IS NOT DEAD!" Coming from someone who grew up listening to classic and influential bands such as Tank, Raven, Accept, Anvil, Razor, Whiplash, Slayer, Running Wild, Iron Maiden, Grave Digger, Exciter and Destructor among others, Savage Dawn possesses everything that revives the magic of oldschool 80's metal with all the heart and soul put into their music which resulted in a majestic output that breaks all the chains and crushes the skull of those who oppose. So many songs shine with elements of heavy, thrash and speed metal that it is just so unreal, especially when a modern-day band actually managed to create something so effective and outstanding that it gives me the chills. After listening to this album on repeat, I started feeling like I was 15 again and that I never lost all that enthusiasm which made me the man who I am today. Iron Curtain is back heavier than ever, hungrier than ever, and Savage Dawn is their new weapon of ultimate destruction!
-Vlad

MetalBite's Rating: 9/10


 

Job For A Cowboy - Moon Healer

2: Job For A Cowboy - Moon Healer
Metal Blade Records

Ten years to let the prog-death angle marinate was exactly what Job For A Cowboy needed to make the masterpiece everyone wished Sun Eater was. Perhaps the band just needed to take a break from the Big Boy Tour Circuit and breathe for a bit, maybe the more expansive, multifaceted approach is something that should be handled by more "mature" individuals, but whatever it was, it was the recipe they needed to write their best album yet. Though a groundbreaking band that enjoyed an overwhelming, rapid explosion in popularity in the MySpace era for basically single-handedly creating deathcore, you always got the sense that even by their first full-length album the band wanted to move away from the very sound they helped get huge.

Sun Eater was the moment they finally took the bold step into the music they wanted to create for themselves, but it came with a fair share of flaws - the guitars were too muffled, the vocals were way too loud (a recurring problem throughout their early career) and overall it felt like though the potential was there, it just didn't quite hit the mark. Moon Healer takes all of those qualities and goes "yep, we get it, here's the album you were looking for". It almost feels like a long con to get more people to buy into the prog approach.

The bass lines were still nasty on that one, and here they're even better. Navene Koperweis is hands down the best drummer JFAC has ever had - not to say the previous guys weren't skilled, but something about the way Koperweis plays just fits, especially with the more progressive leanings of their later direction. Instead of songs trying and bunch of things and going nowhere, he supplements them with tasteful fills and just the right amount of off-beat snare placement and speedy blastwork that underscore all of the ideas the way they were meant to. This guy is making a name for himself, and adds to an impressive resume that includes Entheos and Animosity. Each song is full with tasty little moments and a more even balance between the instruments - and lo and behold, Jonny Davy is actually mixed well and not dominating the fuck out of everything! They always mixed him like a deathcore vocalist - which, I mean, fair, he has an immediately recognizable voice and set the template for the mix of low growls and accent highs that most modern vocalists in the style employ, but now that he's actually a little bit more sifted in, everything can flow and breathe so much better - and Alan Glassman actually gets some time to be showcased, after years of being perennially underrated.

In summation, this is hands down Job For A Cowboy's best album and after years of somehow being simultaneously overrated and underrated, they've finally come into their own and are getting the proper recognition they deserve - not for accidentally inventing deathcore, but by establishing themselves as one of the finest veteran death metal bands making the rounds.
-Nate

MetalBite's Rating: 9/10


 

Necrowretch - Swords Of Dajjal

1: Necrowretch - Swords Of Dajjal
Season Of Mist

Swords Of Dajjal was an album that I accidentally came across and UNHOLY SHIT, I was not ready for what awaits me. By far one of the most intense and extreme albums in the black/death metal branch that can be described by one of their songs, TOTAL OBLITERATION! Swords Of Dajjal delivers with every track until the very last one, without ever catching a break or dropping its balls, just constantly bashing the non-believers in the face like a very merciless and violent beast that is. This album is a great example that showcases what extreme metal should be like and you will see for yourselves that there is plenty to be found here. What really got me hooked about this album is the fact that despite its consistent style and songwriting, it actually manages to get even heavier as it progresses from one track to another, and it's absolutely magnificent. Fans of bands such as Trivax, Xalpen and Necrophobic to name a few, should definitely check out this insane son of a bitch that is Swords Of Dajjal.
-Vlad

MetalBite's Rating: 9.5/10


Thanks as always for stopping by. Be sure to check out January's list so you can stay on top of 2024 releases while it's still manageable. Spring tends to be when the floodgates open!

January 2024

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Entered: 3/17/2024 2:57:21 PM
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