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

Welcome back to MetalBite's Top 10 Albums of the Month! This is typically the time of year where more stuff comes out than we can even keep track of, and sure enough, our writers had a lot to say in this one. Take a gander.



Winter Eternal - Echoes Of Primordial Gnosis
Hells Headbangers

Winter Eternal may be a slightly generic name, but with the Greek's fourth LP emerging on Hells Headbangers, one has certain expectations, sonic and qualitative, for the band to meet, and hopefully exceed. Sure enough, grim and windswept black metal is exactly what the listener gets, albeit with a tantalisingly melodic core allowing rays of sunlight to play at the edges of the permafrost. Essentially the work of one man, Soulreaper, the biggest surprise to be found here is that Winter Eternal do not hail from Sweden, eschewing, as they do, the familiar traits of Hellenic extremity in favour of a regal onslaught that pulls much more from Sacramentum, Dawn, and Dissection, than it does from Rotting Christ or Necromantia. Birth certificates be damned though, as Soulreaper is clearly playing to his strengths, each track demonstrating a true commitment to the old ways, with memorable melodies meeting deft arrangements (the female choral vocal running through 'The Serpent's Curse', for example) and producing a concise record of resolutely high quality. At times, almost symphonic in scope, despite only limited synth abuse, the album concludes with its best track, the furious 'The Keeper Of Sorrows', leaving the listener certain that, in a small part of Mediterranean Greece, it is indeed forever winter.


Antiflesh - Hosanna
Theogonia Records

With any Polish black metal band there are inevitably going to be some Mgla comparisons - they didn't pioneer the style, but they set the bar for quality that any other band in the realm is going to have to clear. The low-end, prickly shouting combined with a despondent melodic approach are a couple of parallels you can hear on this album. They explore a bit more of the discordant side of the style and, fortunately, aren't at the level of Groza or early Uada in terms of imitation.

I do find myself wanting a bit more of a booming, thunderous drum production - the drummer here is fairly skilled and doing cool things, and I want that stuff at the forefront. That being said, this is still an effective album - it finds its own niche within the style without being too derivative. The songwriting isn't too risky, but there's still enough expansion and variety to keep you interested throughout the 50-minute runtime.


Severe Torture - Torn From The Jaws Of Death
Season Of Mist

You always know what you're getting with Severe Torture, and this is no exception, even after a 14-year hiatus between full-lengths. Is this the most mindblowingly original thing you've heard? Hell no. Does it need to be? Also hell no. This is no-bullshit death metal for people who know what they want and don't want any surprises from a band that's been around for almost 30 years now. FFO Blood Red Throne, Cannibal Corpse and Illdisposed.


Hail Spirit Noir - Fossil Gardens
Agonia Records

I've been a casual fan of this band since Oi Magoi - they keep to the Greek tradition of rich, melodic black metal riffing, but add a ton of proggy psych-rock infusions that call to mind Dodheimsgard, Oranssi Pazuzu and Enslaved, which is a difficult style to pull off convincingly - so they get brownie points for that. You never quite know when the next twist is coming, and the musicianship is strong enough that neither the psych rock nor the extreme metal leanings feel ham-fisted.

Apparently the last release was a lot more rock-based and barely had any metal at all (I didn't bother to check it out myself) and it was met with some backlash, which makes sense because the magic of this band lies in how they're able to smoothly fuse disparate styles. Fossil Gardens feels like a bit of an apology letter to the fanbase with the amount that they hearken back to Rotting Christ-esque triumphant meloblack. They haven't abandoned their metal roots after all, and they should win a lot of their old fans back with this one - perhaps roping in a few new ones along the way.


Portrait - The Host
Metal Blade Records

I like Mercyful Fate and King Diamond, without being a connoisseur, more from afar. I always liked what I heard. I say this because it's the first comparison made when talking about Sweden's heavy metal band portrait. However, Portrait are much more than an homage band! It's heavy metal with so much variety and influences. On this album, you'll traverse through: power, speed, thrash, NWOBHM, prog and even blackened influences. (Is that short blast beats!? Incredible.) Without losing one bit of cohesiveness, they put everything together in such a great package. Heavy metal is alive and strong in 2024, I just wish they made it a bit shorter; I mean 1h15min! Come on guys!

As someone who worships Mercyful Fate and King Diamond, it's no wonder that the bands like Attic and Portrait, which were heavily influenced by them, are going to be just as interesting. After the release of Attic's incredible "Return Of The Witchfinder", I was patiently waiting for the next release in this series, and it's finally here.

Starting off slow and steady with the ominous intro track 'Hoc Est Corpus Meum', and proceeding immediately into 'The Blood Covenant', the journey to the blood-soaked world of Portrait is a turbulent thrill-ride full of delights. It's what you expect - some evil and wicked heavy metal with dark atmosphere and eerie storytelling, solid rocking riffs, double-bass drumming, occasional synths and epic singing vocals with high-pitched falsettos, all of which come from their Mercyful Fate & King Diamond influenced background. There is plenty of heaviness and catchiness, ranging from galloping riffs to slow melodies, but along the way you notice that there is also a lot of progression, with this strong sense of dynamics and fluid song transitions. It's not all about fast heavy metal with evil and dark subjects, because you also get one nice ballad 'One Last Kiss', a nice change of pace that still keeps the flow of The Host.

This album is full of surprises both in the riffing and general song execution, but something that really stands out is the borderline black metal influences, expressed through tremolo picking riffs with faster drumming and even blast beats. This may not come as a surprise if you are generally familiar with Portrait's discography, but the biggest highlight about this is that the album is filled with so much tension and suspense that these sudden changes come off as unexpected yet incredibly welcome. Whichever way you manage to experience the magic and the course of this album, it takes you to so many places and you can't possibly be unimpressed - even during the second half that gradually builds up to the grand climax of the album with 'The Passions Of Sophia'.

Portrait's songwriting has always been dynamic and varied, and The Host is definitely no exception in that regard. It is rich, powerful and consistently engaging. Besides the guitarwork, this album also wins a lot of points with its amazing vocal performance by Per Lengstedt, as well as the fun dynamic moving bass lines by Fredrik Petersson, giving an extra touch to the already brilliant musicianship. One thing that really surprised me about this album is the incredibly gruesome and gory album cover by Niklas Webjörn, which is still very fitting alongside the previous album covers that also had this canvas painting style to them, however this one is more explicit and unsettling. Nevertheless, he did a great job at capturing the album's essence.

In the end, The Host has shown itself as another fine result of Portrait's capability to craft something that is equally fantastic and imaginative. Their songwriting has always been very interesting and never let me down, it just became more interesting and was further expanded into different territories worth exploring. Great album that checks all my boxes.


Apes - Pentinence

Nasty blackened grind from Quebec City. Getting Young and in the Way vibes with more low end and burly aggression. There's a certain energy that bands in this cross-section of subgenres hit that you can't really find anywhere else. FFO Nails, the more aggressive moments of Oathbreaker, Pig Destroyer etc.


Crypt Sermon - The Stygian Rose
Dark Descent Records

Although I am very familiar with this US-based epic doom group, it is a cardinal sin to admit that I have never taken the time to properly check out their discography, despite them being held in high regard. This, their third full-length album, provides a perfect opportunity to correct that mistake. With 'Glimmers In The Underworld', you witness the gates open in front of you, while immediately transcending into the beauty and majesty of The Stygian Rose.

From the get-go, you realize that you are in for a ride. A journey where you go 'Down in The Hollow', and embrace the darkness that awaits on the other side. Crypt Sermon delivers with its use of melodic heavy riffing, mid-tempo drumming and epic vocals of Brooks Wilson, all of which provide this dark atmosphere that creates powerful images in your mind. If you expected more than your usual epic doom and gloom, you get it on 'Heavy Is the Crown Of Bone', with its surprising, odd-tempo progressive breakdown that fits impeccably well into this album's themes. There are some tender moments, such as the clean guitar chords on the fifth track 'Scrying Orb', akin to early 90's Solitude Aeternus mixed with a bit of King Diamond. Just when you think it can't possibly get any better, you behold the grand majesty of the epic closing title track. In its eleven minutes and ten seconds of runtime, it encompasses everything great you have witnessed on your long journey, and it gives this incredible sense of closure. Crypt Sermon are excellent songwriters, with dynamic yet simple ideas, never adding too much or too little to a song. It's hard to tell exactly where The Stygian Rose won me over, but I can definitely highlight the gloomy atmosphere, melodies and consistency.

The album still leaves enough space to introduce some nice surprises. Whenever people say that doom metal is plagued with one-dimensional, repetitive and lazy songwriting, it mostly comes from their own lack of focus and not giving proper attention to the music. In the case of a band such as Crypt Sermon, they do the exact opposite and will catch the attention of even the most casual listeners. The closing title track is my favorite song - you rarely get an album with a very lengthy track that keeps your attention all the way through. It closes the gates to the world on the other side, as the screen slowly shifts to black with the end credits rolling.

The album cover,designed by the vocalist Brooks Wilson, is a nice retro-style piece that looks like something that could be seen framed in an old haunted house, capturing that essence of Crypt Sermon's musical output. Epic doom metal can be a niche style and is not for everyone, but I personally enjoyed The Stygian Rose's powerful songwriting and generally strong performance. It is a journey worth experiencing, especially if you let go of your inhibition and just let the album play with your mind. The result can be easily summarized with the second track 'Thunder (Perfect Mind)'. I think I'll be revisiting this one when autumn comes, to fully experience it in a very authentic and melancholic doom and gloom.


Interceptor - Tales Of Mayhem
Motorpunk Records

In recent years, there is an explosion of extreme youth in the world of heavy metal, with so many new awesome bands coming out like a bolt of lightning. One of those bands is the US black/speed/heavy metal band Interceptor from Charleston, South Carolina, who have been constantly defiling and poisoning with extreme metal violence since 2022. Along the way, they have released some singles, demos and one compilation as well, but it was really a matter of time when the turn will come for a full-length album - and now that time is here.

Kicking things off with the self-titled track 'Interceptor', we are welcomed to hell with intense raw energy and bastardly heavy/speed metal, screaming from the speakers like a maniac. You can hear that Interceptor is all about first wave black metal and NeWOBHM, with lots of early Venom worship. Some of these traits include Bulldozer Arenvurst incorporating Cronos' signature vocal style and overdriven bass guitar, Mantas influenced riffing and guitar solos, and Abaddon-like drumming, but you can also hear elements from bands like Tank, Atomkraft and Warfare, some hardcore punk like GBH and Discharge, and some Motörhead just for good measure. Although some may say that Interceptor is a Venom clone, it is nonetheless a very authentic and faithful one, so spot on it's like it's 1981/1982 again, with all the dirty, occult and barbaric qualities.

There are plenty of heavy bangers that display the primitive musicianship and savage performance, destroying all in its path while sacrificing a virgin or two. Early singles such as 'Into The Hellmouth', 'Witch's Dance' and 'Hatred' teased the bestial devastation of Interceptor's highly anticipated full-length, and the rest of the tracks follow nicely, well worth the wait. Once the maniacal journey concludes with the final track 'No Mercy', you feel it was all worth the while - no mercy from start to finish. The straightforward songwriting is furiously hellish rock and roll overdrive from beginning to end, and the execution is on point. Interceptor feels like a love letter to the years when extreme metal was beginning to take shape, growing out of hardcore punk and NWOBHM.

Tales Of Mayhem never feels boring or generic, even when you come across some slower moments like on '50 Megatons' because it still maintains that heaviness and darkness in the music. When bands take a simplistic approach, you'd better get it right, and Interceptor does that - it's stripped down, but not dumbed down. You'll lose track of time listening to this, it feels much shorter than its 40-minute runtime, especially when Interceptor speeds it up towards the end of the last track 'No Mercy'.

I guess that's the magic of the album - it holds your attention and you can't believe it's over when it is, and you'll want to go back to the beginning and listen again (and again). This album brings back the pissed off teenager within me, taking me back to the years when I first heard Venom and dove headfirst into the first wave of black metal. Tales Of Mayhem is made for hardcore fans of Venom and the dirtier bands in the NWOBHM movement, from the evil rock and roll to the ugly sound production. Interceptor successfully brought it all together with all the powers of hell. People who have been following these guys for a while, have already expressed their absolute satisfaction with this album, and I look forward to what they will come up with next, because this is like a punch in the gut that makes you vomit blood while your room is on fire.


Hardened - Pale Eternal Fog

Hailing from Drummondville, Quebec, these metalers play an aggressive style of Death/Doom that goes in a stoner/sludge territory, all with expert song writing. It is so fucking heavy; I just wish it was longer!


Lucifer's Hammer - Be And Exist
Dying Victims Productions

It is undeniable that heavy metal has a strong influence on the rebellious and enthusiastic youth in a lot of South American countries, and with that comes a plethora of eye-catching bands. One of such is the Chilean band Lucifer's Hammer, which has recently returned with their fourth full-length album. The longer I gazed at the cover, the more I was lured to give it a go.

Our prelude to this starlight express journey is an instrumental intro track 'Cosmovision', slowly opening the gateway to the dimension which lies beyond this mortal plane of existence, and when you witness 'Real Nightmares' and one 'Glorious Night', you realize that something otherworldly and alien is waiting you on the other side. This cosmic experience is met with some progressive heavy metal with tons of entertaining guitar riffs and melodies, backed up by dynamic bass lines and drums, and amped up with clean singing with occasional high pitched falsettos. Along the way you feel the magic flow within you with, but perhaps the strongest moment on the album where you truly feel that magical essence is on the track 'Son Of Earth'. It's an incredible and transcendental tune that takes you on a complete wormhole trip from start to finish.

What you will undoubtedly notice from the very get-go is that this album has tons of Iron Maiden influences, coming predominantly from their classic 80's discography. 'The Fear Of Anubis' hearkens back to 'Losfer Words (Big 'Orra)' from Powerslave. You'll hear elements from bands such as Glacier, Angel Witch and early Queensryche, which blend into this massive pile of all things sacred. The songwriting has some dynamics, but overall it's what you would come to expect from a traditional heavy metal album. The influences from the aforementioned bands really work well together, keeping you entertained on a moderate level without losing interest in what is going on. The Maidenesque galloping riffs, melodies and arrangements, although noticeable in many places, don't really bother me at all, because at least they change up chord arrangements, and their performance is tight and natural.

The instrumental work and the progression of 'Son Of Earth' has such a nice drive to it that you just can't help it but get instantly hooked to it, and it is definitely the strongest track on the album. Overall, Be And Exist is enjoyable and worthwhile, providing pleasure and entertainment from start to finish. Lucifer's Hammer did a solid job at creating some nice heavy metal tunes with nostalgic twists. If you wish to transcend through time and space, you should definitely give it a try.


Anvil - One And Only
AFM Records

When I was still fresh going into the various subgenres of heavy metal, discovering amazing bands from every angle, I still recall that wonderful moment of coming across Anvil. Hearing Forged In Fire for the first time ever in 2013, and then discovering more headbanging tunes from the Metal On Metal album in the video game Brutal Legend, really got me hooked. I still recall covering the title track 'Metal On Metal' on my first rehearsal ever with my longtime friend and bandmate, where both of us were practically drooling and going crazy at their heavy sound. Their documentary gave me a new perspective as well. Come 2024, what many consider the year of oldschool heavy metal revival with titans like Saxon, Judas Priest and Bruce Dickinson releasing their albums, Anvil join the party with their twentieth full-length album One And Only. If you came to hear some good old Anvil with plenty of speed, catchiness and Canadian heavy metal, and you are in the mood to have some fun, then you are in for a ride.

The album kicks off with flaming hot rocking action with simplistic yet solid riffing, proudly stating that despite the modern difficulties of originality, Anvil is still "One and Only". The album provides moderate heaviness while maintaining a nice balance between old and new, with tracks like 'Dead Man Shoes' and 'Blind Rage' giving a throwback to the fast songs from the band's discography in the early 80's. What stood out to me is that Anvil is going for a slightly more AC/DC influenced direction with that oldschool rock 'n roll, for example in the title track 'One And Only' and 'Truth Is Dying', with some bluesy flirtations in 'Rocking The World'. Anyone who is generally familiar with Anvil knows what to expect, this album is by no means an exception. It has entertaining bangers and uplifting choruses with powerful statements - simple yet effective, without a desperate attempt to reinvent the wheel.

I had no initial expectations before hearing what this album has to offer, - just that it was a fun listen - it successfully accomplishes this task. 'Fight For Your Rights' and 'Blind Rage' gave me some nostalgic throwbacks to my early teen years when I was getting into metal music and discovering Anvil for the first time, so I have to highly compliment that. I respect the fact that Anvil are doing their best possible, and while listening to this album, I didn't feel like the band was doing anything but staying true to themselves.


Neaera - All Is Dust
Metal Blade Records

German melodeath/metalcore band with similarities to fellow countrymen, Heaven Shall Burn or Caliban, this record is 48 min long and yet, you will only find bangers after bangers! They truly mastered the art of creating brutal but super catchy songs.


Limbonic Art - Opus Daemoniacal
Kyrck Productions & Armour

If you are someone who adores symphonic black metal bands with themes of stars and magic, you'll love Limbonic Art. It's impossible to ignore their mesmerizing quality and cosmic energy, and now they return with Opus Daemonical, their first album in seven years.

Their style has not changed much since their acclaimed mid-90s releases such as Moon In The Scorpio - strong emphasis on melodic guitar work with symphonic elements, double-bass/blast beat drums and harsh vocals. However, they always evolve a bit with each new album, and that trend continues here. There is a demonic and draconic aura with its general otherworldliness and grandiose epicness, while every song feels like it slowly progresses towards even more unusual realms of the deep cosmos. The album becomes increasingly heavier from the third track 'Consigned To The Flames' and moves onwards to even more demonical territories with 'Vir Triumphalis'.

Something that always stood out to me about Limbonic Art was that they were always surrounded with this uniquely enchanting dark magic, and here it's heavily pronounced through the riff work and symphonics, like a horror story with a Lovecraftian twist. It's got a strong psychological factor to it, affecting you in such a way that it lets your imagination flow, creating powerful images in your head. The songwriting is as rich and dynamic as ever, with frequent tempo changes and a variety of riffs. The progression, complexity and musicianship raises the bar even higher.

When it comes to the style and direction of the band, Daemon always seemed to stick to one established musical template that he follows on from one song to another, while adding pieces to make songs stand out. Sometimes the songs feel formulaic as such, but 'The Wrath Of Storms' is a standout piece in this regard. Twists like that help to keep this from feeling monotone, especially the final twelve-minute track 'Ars Diavoli' which is like a symphonic black metal odyssey.

Opus Daemoniacal is a very solid work that successfully encompasses everything that you would expect from a Limbonic Art album, providing fresh takes while staying true to the band's roots. Although not as good as some of its predecessors like Moon In The Scorpio and Epitome Of Illusions, the band still goes strong 3 decades later, and with every album you are always in for a nice thrill ride that will take you to a world beyond. This keeps the stars in the sky shining and makes the northern skies darker.


Pepel - Lord Of The Abyss

From the ashes of the gloomy Varaždin, and the haunting depths of Zagreb, comes the black metal band by the name of Pepel, formed by two highly controversial and prolific figures in Croatian extreme metal, Mephistopheles and Inkvizitor. As the new dawn finally approaches, they have released their independent debut album, to call upon the dark one and spread their unholy traditions.

Kicking things off with 'A Small Crack In The Walls Of Hell, Through Which I See The Rays Of Heaven', church bells and the solemn melancholy of acoustic guitars builds up the arrival of the Lord Of The Abyss. This is raw and melancholic black metal, consisting of harsh shouting vocals and cold riffs that have a catchy familiarity to them. Alongside all this primitive rawness and aggression, you also have some strong atmospheric and melodic moments on 'Behold An Infernal Throne'. The album maintains that even flow of heaviness that is established from the second track 'Misanthropy And Sorrow'. The instrumental track 'Serpentine Waltz' with its classical music styled piano playing and marching drums in the background, is a nice inclusion and it comes with no surprise considering that Mephistopheles (to many known as Grof Vragovzov) has always had strong influences from composers such as Beethoven, Chopin and Samuel Barber.

The album ends with a dark ambient track 'Transcending The Glaze Of Eternal Hellfire' which is very gothic horror styled and it nicely sums up this devilish journey. The songwriting mostly follows one formulaic song structure with its G minor chord progressions. It's a mixed bag, because there are moments when I can really feel the intensity and the emotions of the riffs, but sometimes I really feel like it's rather shallow and empty, often feeling like one song being played multiple times. It does make sense, since Pepel is a band that ridicules black metal stereotypes with its generic and long song titles about satanism, darkness, death and such, along with their inverted cross logo, so it's quite normal that they would actually make something along that line just for the sake of reminding us how overblown and predictable black metal became. Ironically, even though it's delivered as a bit of a joke, the music is still convincing, unlike Detsörgsekälf and Vegan Black Metal Chef which do it in a much more obvious fashion.

Overall, Lord Of The Abyss doesn't have anything outstanding about it, but it is clever with its way of its presentation of black metal stereotypesl. It loses me a bit during the back half, but is still better than most bands that take themselves way too seriously and try their hardest to make their albums as best as they possibly can, only to end up miserably failing.


Fractal Generator - Convergence
Everlasting Spew Records

I have been eagerly awaiting the follow-up to Macrocosmos, which was one of my top 10 albums of 2021. There's not many other bands out there taking a Hate Eternal/Zyklon styled sound - fusing churning, industrial death metal with a cosmic touch, a combination of man and machine that feels downright alien when experienced. It's creative, the clamoring racket sticks in your head, and there's a certain immersiveness to this specific brand of heavy that is difficult to obtain from most other sources, even within the death metal and industrial realms.

Convergence is maybe a little bit less riffy, but the exchange is that it's got a more expansive, realized atmosphere, which is a fine trade-off.

Ontarian weird, experimental and absolutely savage mix of everything from tech death, experimental black and even some grindcore elements, all to create the most aggressive, chaotic and yet, super precise and calculated noise ever. Here is what their bancamp says: "A suspected glitch in the universal simulation causes new planets to appear in our solar system. 'Convergence' is an album that attempts to capture the essence of this cosmic upheaval, exploring these new planets into journeys of chaos, song by song." Perfect description of what the album sounds like!


Al-Namrood - Al Aqrab
Shaytan Productions

Middle Eastern Folk infused Black, from Saudi-Arabia. The folk elements are incorporated, not only with the use of keyboards and traditional percussion, but in the riffs themselves, using middle eastern modes! These guys have been doing music since 2008, in a country with severe restrictions on speech and on criticism of religion, so,making metal is a revolutionary act in itself! They are so extremely metal! Respect \m/


Slave To Sirens - Echoes Of Silence

The Lebanese sirens are back and boy, I'm happy they are! I've loved them since the incredible 2018, Terminal Leeches - EP. I was already enamored by their chants. I would gladly guide my ship, crashing into a riff, just to get a chance to catch a glimpse at what marvelous creatures produce such exquisite sounds! Kidding aside, they play a relatively straightforward death/thrash, packed with riffs and fast tempos but, the dynamic nature of the album is what stands out! Each song is unique and so well composed, sometimes with aethereal clean singing and sometimes with bone crushing heaviness, but it never feels like you're drowning in chaos for too long. You certainly can feel the raw emotional charge and rage expressed within their music, it's everywhere, from the demon screams and even in the quieter parts, you can still feel the pain/rage. Like on Beyond Control, where it seems like she's crying, but the cries turn into powerful screams. Anyway, being from Lebanon and being women, I imagine they have lots more to say, especially in these incredibly dark times… I hope they have all the success they clearly deserve!


Hyperdontia - Harvest Of Malevolence
Dark Descent Records

The Turkish/Danish teeth fetishists are back with their third full-length album Harvest Of Malevolence. Having a look at the cover I would ask "what shall we do with the drunken sailor who brought us to this unpleasant nudist beach area?". Once again the cover artwork is fantastic stuff and the music follows suit. Sick death metal with many jazzy Autopsy-like leads, and a lot of classic metal influences lurk in every corner to chop your ears off. The vocals are guttural and sick - this album feels like the result of a malevolent harvest. Brutal, relentless and ferocious, this is another step forward in the discography of Hyperdontia.

There's something enormously reassuring about the continued presence of bands such as the Danish / Turkish crew Hyperdontia in the death metal scene. Of course metal needs to evolve and innovate to retain interest, but there is also plenty of satisfaction to be derived from a more orthodox take on the genre, rooted in the classics, and this is exactly what Hyperdontia deliver. An album like Harvest Of Malevolence stands and falls on the quality of its riffs and songs, and, like Mary Poppins drawing impossible items from her bag, the band seemingly have access to an unending store of savage, pummelling riffs, adorned with squealing harmonics, punctuated by passages of chunky downstrokes, and occasionally super-charged by blasting tremolo runs. Perhaps emboldened by the sheer brilliance of their own music this time round, Hyperdontia seem to have lost some of the cavernous murk that previously saw them compared with Dead Congregation, or Undergang. Instead, they opt for a clear mix that sees the guitars front and centre, finding room for soaring guitar leads, and Slayer-esque divebombs, when they occasionally remove the pedal from the mangled metal. By the time the brilliant one-two punch of 'Defame Flesh' and 'Servant To A Cripple God' have delivered the final, killing blow, Hyperdontia have re-established themselves as one of modern death metal's most vital and violent proponents.


Ernte - Weltenzerstörer
Vendetta Records

Switzerlands Ernte are back with their third album Weltenzerstörer, where icy and harsh black metal prevails. The production is rough and unclean which gives the whole thing an anachronistic flair. The vocals are high-pitched and full of hatred with a lot of tremolo-picking, always good for a nice evil black metal record. It's reminiscent of Filosofem-era Burzum. Ernte don't go on warp ten with Weltenzerstörer sticking to a nice mid-tempo that keeps it brutal. The acoustic parts like the intro of 'We Wonder The Winter Forest' are a nice atmospheric touch. The acoustic middle part from 'Trip To A Solitary Moon' as an intro to 'Vessels Of Sacrifice' is another cool idea but this you probably only notice if you listen carefully to the album. Lots of nice little gimmicks that can be found here on this hateful and depressive work.




Malignancy - …Discontinued

10: Malignancy - …Discontinued
Willowtip Records

Some tech-death has a certain crossover appeal to it - there's a bit more catchiness and restraint spliced in so that it's got some allure for people who normally turn their noses up at excessive wankery. Often bands will make a few concessions with their absurd musicianship so that your average metal layperson can appreciate it.

Malignancy is not one of those bands. If you can't understand the overly convoluted riff salad that is …Discontinued, y'all can just go fuck yourself. This is tech music for tech fans and no one else, and makes zero efforts to appeal to anyone besides the niche fanbase the band has created for themselves. Pinch harmonics are in abundance as per usual, riffs are fused into other riffs with little regard for flowing transitions, as if the most heady and challenging moments of Suffocation had an extra bit of speed and mathcore thrown in.

Speaking of speed…Mike Heller does not get enough credit for the absurd amount of drum hits and tempo shifts he's able to pack into a simple song, simultaneously adding an extra layer of complexity while giving the songs something to latch onto. Apparently the drums were entirely recorded off the floor as well, which makes it even more ridiculous. Not that anyone besides super nitpicky audio engineers is going to notice - but still, that's absolutely bonkers.

This is one of those bands that somehow always manages to remain in the tech-death zeitgeist even without a ton of activity - a festival appearance here or there, an album drop every seven years or so, give or take a few - but every time they do something, it's met with rabid acclaim from a fanbase that hungers for some of the most contorted, feral and intricate sounds the genre has managed to produce. Get on board or go back to listening to something that feels safe and comfortable - Malignancy didn't need you before, and they certainly don't need you now.

MetalBite's Rating: 8.8/10


Darkened - Defilers Of The Light

9: Darkened - Defilers Of The Light
Edged Circle Productions

Even though I rarely take a look at new death metal bands that were formed in the past couple of years, I do actually make a couple of exceptions, and so far, I have come across some very good ones and some incredibly excellent ones too. Among those incredibly excellent ones is the international band Darkened, formed by members of the Swedish and Canadian extreme metal scene, which had recently released their third full-length album Defilers Of The Light on June 14th, 2024 via Edged Circle Productions, marking another year that is doomed to be drenched in impurity and sickness. After launching the 'Waves Of Desolation', the gateway opens to welcome the 'Defilers Of The Light', who have come to unleash chaos upon the world and poison the youth with plague-infested morbid death metal. The overall band performance expresses such intensity and madness through those sick riffs, blast beat drums and guttural shouting vocals, but even more so, they manage to create such a great head start with their first couple of tracks that it gradually builds up towards an even darker and stronger direction. As everything progresses, more brutality and headbanging tunes echo from the shadows, where even more wicked and vile death metal comes to play their grand part in this horrific storyline, while becoming more invested in the album when songs like 'Just Close Your Eyes' get their turn. There is a nice transition from one half of the album to another, with the instrumental track 'Echoes Of Solitude' that is essentially an intermission or the bridge that fills the gap, but once that is over, things get really interesting and bat-shit crazy from here on out. The seventh track 'On We Slaughter' is possibly the most outstanding and extreme of the bunch, due to being slowly built from the ground up with such musical suspense, introducing some epic and melodic moments on the song which blend in perfectly with the maniacal death-thrashing. Another example that provides some nice and welcoming surprises is the eight track 'Dead Inside', thanks to its use of emotional piano parts and melodic guitar work which goes beyond this world, but executed so intelligently and carefully to the point where you are just without words. Ironically speaking, Darkened's performance on Defilers Of The Light does become incredibly "darkened" with its atmosphere and musicality, because the deeper you go the more hellish it gets, and it doesn't get any weaker during the second half, it is just the calm before the storm, especially 'As Apocalypse Dawns'. This proved itself to be such an incredible journey all the way through, because there was not a single second on the album where I didn't feel engaged with such anticipation, and it pays off very nicely with the final outro track 'Final Sanctuary' that gives this death metal massacre a grand closure. Songwriting-wise, it is essentially standard in terms of what you would expect from death metal in the musical sense, but it is nonetheless very dynamic and rich with its variety of ideas that go from rhythm changes to all sorts of riffs and melodies. All the ideas that were incorporated on the album turned out to be very effective and well-placed, with each transition being so nicely executed to the point you can't find a single flaw in the band's logic. Darkened is a prime example of death metal done right, a seldom seen nowadays, and their overall output is a very solid balance between oldschool and more contemporary style. Truly the title Defilers Of The Light really lives up to its name, because it does provide that unholy and morbid kind of death metal that you rarely find nowadays, which is like nailing a priest to the wall or spitting blood and fire at the face of your enemies. Aside from the amazing output, what stands out on this album is the cover art by the Spanish artist Juanjo Castellano who had worked on all their previous released from their first EP Into The Blackness and onwards, and yet again he gave us an awesome album cover that is very true in style to all the other ones he had done before, but it also perfectly fits the title and the musical essence of Darkened. Overall, Defilers Of The Light is a beast of an album that is very true to itself and highly successful in delivering the most horrific and death-defying output. Darkened really knows how to do business around here, and it certainly shows with this album that it will definitely crush all the non-believers, while standing high on its pedestal. Honestly, is there anything else I could say about it that I haven't already said? If you are curious to check it out, make sure you do so, because you are guaranteed to have one hell of a time.

MetalBite's Rating: 8.9/10


Gjendød - Livskramper

8: Gjendød - Livskramper
Osmose Productions

Gjendød have been knocking around in the Nidrossian underground for some time now, releasing a swathe of demos, and four full-lengths across the last decade, without making the impact that some of their fellow Trondheim bands have in that same period – Whoredom Rife, and Djevel, for example. With the might of the Osmose marketing machine behind them, and a superb fifth album in the can, this migeht be about to change. Livskramper is, in the best possible way, a weird album, full of dense passages of discordant tremolo, bubbling bass work, and complex rhythms, all balanced precariously on a foundation of orthodox second-wave black metal. The band's unconventional arrangements feel like the product of a natural, and restless inclination towards the road less travelled, rather than calculated decision-making, and this lends tracks such as the fantastic 'Skumringsliv' a fluency and flow that draws the listener in, striving to break the band's impenetrable codex. The final track, 'I Nattens Land' is utterly outstanding, rivalling countrymen Vemod for the title of 'Best Black Metal Epic of 2024', the spiralling lead guitars recalling the fluent lead work of recent Chapel Of Disease albums, leading the album into a final, ecstatic conclusion. Livskramper surprises at every turn, while also delivering the visceral savagery that one wants from black metal – an unexpected triumph.

MetalBite's Rating: 8.9/10


Zørza - Hellven

7: Zørza - Hellven
Godz Ov War Productions

Polish Zørza debut with Hellven and this one is a hell of a debut. Hateful yet depressive black metal that combines characteristics from various regions (I would call it European black metal) can be found here, and this mixture turns out very well. Although the music is pretty traditional with its tremolo picks and blast beats, the production is very modern, clear but also harsh. The vocals sound frantic and savage and this pronounces the bitterness and desperation. Don't get me wrong, this isn't any lame DSBM - more full speed black metal for really bad days.

MetalBite's Rating: 9/10


Vrazorth - Emergence

6: Vrazorth - Emergence

Together with Zørza, Vrazorth is the biggest surprise for me this month. Fortunately I stumbled over them when Avantgarde Records posted this album on Facebook. Hopefully they will get a record deal with them soon so that we can get this gem on CD and not just on bandcamp (which was a bargain price at 1€). Anyways, on to the music. If you like Mysticum you will be satisfied here. The drums are exactly what these sickos did back in '96 with their groundbreaking "In The Streams Of The Inferno" (the show for this album in Essen was incredible - wow I am so old!) but there are some more spacey parts in their music, like Darkspace - but I much prefer Vrazorth. The keyboards are fantastic and make you feel like you're travelling through space and time. With the nebula on the cover, this is a fantastic thing to let your imagination flow or read a cool sci-fi book. This might be the next hot thing in black metal!

MetalBite's Rating: 9/10


Sarke - Endo Feight

5: Sarke - Endo Feight
Soulseller Records

During this year, we already had plenty of great albums in the Norwegian metal branch with bands like Coffin Storm, Khold and Darkthrone popping up to call down the thunder and make the non-believers reap the whirlwind. Another great addition to that strong unity is the band Sarke, returning with their eighth full-length album Endo Feight. Out of all the albums I had previously checked out and reviewed, I was very excited and had high expectations for this one.

The opening track 'Phantom Recluse', gives a nice preview of the rollercoaster ride. Interesting progressive rock influences and black/heavy metal mix with Nocturno Culto's signature dry harsh vocals, while great keyboard work by Anders Hunstad switches between a very authentic trumpet sound and kind of progressive rock/metal style. Aside from the primarily blackened heavy metal style which Sarke is known for, the riff work on the album is very rock and roll driven, with Rush-esque moments, particularly noticeable on the second track 'Death Construction'.You also get Pink Floyd-styled psych rock on songs like 'Lost', 'Abyssal Echoes' and 'I Destroyed The Cosmos'. Just in case you were looking for some evil and wicked mid-tempo rock and roll, with a bit of skank beat drumming and good old Norwegian black metal, altogether filled with mystery and atmosphere, don't worry, because you will get all of that in the fifth track 'Old Town Sinner', which kicks absolute ass, bringing you down to the ground like an prolific undertaker.

In case this wasn't enough for you, and you just happen to be looking for some doom and gloom on this album, that's where tracks 'I Destroyed The Cosmos' and 'Macabre Embrace' come in, disrupting the balance of the universe with their pure heaviness and darkness that flows throughout. Don't worry, you will also get more Norwegian black metal on 'In Total Allegiance', in case you felt like you were missing that, but it's got more punch to it this time than ever before. Everything on Endo Feight is so incredibly interesting from the very get-go, but the more the album progresses, the more entertaining it gets, while also managing to successfully engage the listener in this unusual and transcendental experience. On top of their amazing riff and dynamic keyboard work, they throw in a lot other bits like acoustic guitar, clean guitar chords and tremolo bars, David Guilmore type guitar solos, and with all the stuff that you get it's impossible to not feel entertained or moved by the excellent musicianship of the band. The general flow of the album is very strong and constant from start to finish, but once it comes to the conclusion with the final track 'Macabre Embrace', ending on sounds of church bell chiming and rainfall, it brings down the curtains to this hellish stage play.

Sarke did a fantastic job by giving us such dynamic songwriting with various ideas coming from all angles, which were wonderfully mixed in like a nice refreshing cocktail. Considering how everything is so onpoint and tight from beginning to end, it's no wonder I listened to this album three times in a row just to make sure I didn't miss any other nice details that they put in their music, but I think that's the real magic of it, the fact that it's got such a nice comeback factor to it that it makes you want to repeat the whole thing without ever losing interest. Everything on this album is so nicely arranged and layered, presenting an incredibly wonderful mastercraft that brings out the best of every band member, with everyone contributing a piece of themselves without wasting time or energy. Endo Feight really is a "Death Construction" in itself, because you can clearly hear from which background everyone in the band comes from, while also giving a bit of everything that everyone can like about it, without staying strictly inside a safezone of template based songwriting or being trapped in the realm of mediocrity and generic musicality. There is no denying that this is a surprisingly ambitious work which stands out in its own right for a multitude of reasons, by successfully expanding their work and broadening the horizon for Sarke. The biggest highlight of this album is the fact that it keeps the attention constant and makes the suspense everlasting, by having the listeners be on the edge of their seats curious to what will come next and how further this journey goes. There is a great human factor to the album itself, and it maintains the musical tension throughout the entire thing apart from the established black metal elements, it's pretty much like an Alfred Hitchcock or Roman Polanski film direction in a musical sense. Honestly though, is there really anything I don't like about this album? It would very hard to go that deep to find any fatal flaw, but I guess that the only thing that I didn't like about Endo Feight was the fact that it wasn't longer, because it's almost 37 minutes long with a total of 8 tracks, and once it ends it really kind of leaves me on a position where I am craving for more, while also being so satisfied to the point that I just decide to repeat the whole thing. I guess it's not a flaw at all, but I guess that it's just a matter of me being so invested into this album until I suddenly realize that I am near the end, which is like a pure psychological effect that it had on me. In the end, what is there to say about this album that hasn't already been said? It's a brilliant album that is a real deal of progressive and experimental sort of black/heavy metal, with a rock and roll type of energy and an Iron Fist. And here I thought that things couldn't possibly get any better with the previously released albums such as Arcana Rising, Du dømmes til død and It Beckons Us All which came out before, but then comes in Endo Feight to prove me wrong and then leave me without words, almost like a mushroom induced experience that made me feel so pleased and relieved. There was always a sense of simplicity and originality about the music of Sarke, but this album really takes it to a whole new level with its unique approach and rich musicianship. All I can say is, congratulations to these experienced Norwegian metal veterans that keep on delivering the goods, because the final result of this one really got everything right, checking all the marks and leaving no cross unturned.

MetalBite's Rating: 9/10


Sear Bliss - Heavenly Down

4: Sear Bliss - Heavenly Down
Hammerheart Records

Now here's something different, the Hungarian black metal band, Sear Bliss. Their new album, Heavenly Down, is atmospheric, epic and full of melody and aggressivity. This band's unique sound comes, in part, from the prominent use of a trombone, making things incredibly grandiose. It gives you this gut sinking feeling of standing on top of a hill, watching the valley below and preparing for an epic battle against a rival army. (I actually did not experience this exact situation… but I imagine this is what it feels like.)

...And full Vlad's review of the album can be found here.

MetalBite's Rating: 9.5/10


Kvaen - The Formless Fires

3: Kvaen - The Formless Fires
Metal Blade Records

Jacob Björnfot has slightly changed his formula for Kvaen on his third studio album which you can sum up as "folk - speed + melodies + atmosphere". This turned out very well and is (although I already adored the first two Kvaen albums) another huge step forward. Really amazing compositions that ooze a lot of melancholy and depression, and sometimes anger. Although all of the eight songs are really top notch, my favorite one is the last one 'The Wings Of Death'. This is a huge nod to Quorthon when he put on his Viking clothes, and also to the classic heavy metal of the 80s. Don't know how Jacob will top this on the next album but he'll find a way!

Impeccable melodic black/viking. The production is super clean, without going the over-produced route many modern bands take, it's super catchy, has plenty of melodic leads, but still has a good dose of extremity. Overall, a highly interesting, modern viking metal release.

MetalBite's Rating: 9.5/10


Ulcerate - Cutting The Throat Of God

2: Ulcerate - Cutting The Throat Of God
Debemur Morti

Providing my take on this album is a redundant endeavor at this point, because if you're reading this, you've probably already heard it. Ulcerate slowly grew from an underrated flagship of modern death metal to one of the biggest bands in the style formed after the year 2000, and in the age where the opinions of internet music nerds can often dictate the success of an album, Ulcerate thrives because they've got the right mix of artistry and accessibility to appeal to a wide range of metal folks.

You know how I really know that Ulcerate is too big for their britches, though? They're starting to get hype backlash. It's no longer cool to like Ulcerate's latest album, as is evidenced by the amount of people I've seen who are dunking on this. Granted, there is a shift in musical direction on this album, which is bound to receive a bit of criticism. I've seen a lot of comments noting how Ulcerate has apparently "gone soft" and is no longer dissodeath, but rather "melodic atmospheric death metal" or something to that effect. I understand not everyone is going to like the shift, but people should have seen this coming from Stare Into Death And Be Still. It was clear by Shrines Of Paralysis that they have done everything they could within that realm of sound, and any further releases in that realm would have just been an uninspired rehash. I also don't think it's realistic to think that they would have ventured into the Of Fracture And Failure days - they're just too far removed from their inspirations.

This is clearly the music they feel the most comfortable creating, and I think that shines through in the naturally flowing compositions. This has some of the smoothest transitions i've heard in death metal, and every moment, even with the enhanced melodiousness, feels like pure Ulcerate. Jamie Saint Merat is further cementing his case as one of extreme metal's best and most distinct drummers - what has always made him so captivating is the amount of atmosphere his rhythms are able to inject into the slower, stripped down moments. He can blast like the best of 'em with his own groove in the more energetic sections as well, but it's the details during the sparse moments that really set him ahead of the pack.

Is this my favorite Ulcerate album ever? Probably not…that's a high bar to clear. It's way too early to determine that anyways. What I do know is that this can at the very least stand alongside the rest of their discography, and even a bad Ulcerate album is better than the best work of 90% of metal bands. Long story short: it's worth your time.

Continuing where Stare Into Death And Be Still left off, their signature dissonance and technicality, enveloped in mesmerizing atmospheres, are still very much present, but this time, with a dash of melody, peeking out of this hypnotizing miasma of sounds. Sit back, press play and get ready to have the experience of being pummeled by pure brutality whilst feeling in trance and surprisingly calm. Plus, you will be blown away by the technicality in this masterpiece of an album. Ulcerate's music is an alternate reality, strange, brutal, complex but, at times, beautiful. Another dimension that perfectly reflects our fucked-up reality.

MetalBite's Rating: 9.5/10


Alcest - Les Chants De L'Aurore

1: Alcest - Les Chants De L'Aurore
Metal Blade Records

Now this! This is the record that captures perfectly the universe of sounds that Alcest creates! The guitars pop out of the mix, just enough, with the perfect tone. Bright, with just the right amount of distortion, they pair perfectly with Neige's angelic voice. When they signed with Nuclear Blast, for 2019 Spiritual Instinct, they got a huge boost, production wise, but they chose a lower tone for the guitars, which made their sound distinctively heavier! Not to say it was bad, far from it, but for me, Alcest's music is all about warm atmospheres and melodies that heal the soul but with a touch of extremity. Provided by Neige's powerful, howling screams and occasional blackened blast beats. Speaking of drums, they've never sounded so good! They sound organic and they're quite the forefront for a blackgaze band but it just highlights the masterful performance by drummer Winterhalter!

MetalBite's Rating: 9.7/10

Thanks for stopping by. View all the previous year's lists here:

May 2024

April 2024

March 2024

February 2024

January 2024

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Entered: 7/9/2024 5:49:27 PM