Sunday, December 29, 2013

As you may have figured out by now, I've been taking an end-of-the-year break. I'll be back in the new year.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Top 13 Albums of 2013

My Dad Always Used To Say, "Because I Said So"

It's the end of another year, blah blah blah. I don't need to introduce this concept.

What marks 2013 to my mind is that it's the year death metal returned. Not a single death metal album made my list last year, not even the honorable mentions. That's changed. We're past all the fads, we're over technical death metal, "modern" death metal is now a misnomer, and even the "new wave of old school death metal" has run its course, leaving behind a few stragglers who are, for the most part, the cream of that crop. Now, fad free, death metal is thriving again.

The other themes you might pick up on with this list are dark Americana, and anything female-fronted, heavy, and smooth. I'm really digging those right now.

As a warning, not everything on this list is metal. In fact, a lot of it isn't. Also, these albums don't necessarily place consistently with the scores I initially gave them. That was then, this is now, even if then was just a few weeks ago.

One last warning before I get to it: This list is going to be slanted towards the PR folks, label reps, and band members who give me access to promos. Not because it's a bribe, but because I simply didn't listen to much else. And, to those people--notably Nathan T. Birk, Chris Bruni of Profound Lore, EarsplitPR, Relapse, Joel Costa, and plenty of others--I give a big thanks.

13. Kylesa: Ultraviolet

Female-fronted, heavy, and smooth. Kylesa are one of the most interesting metal bands out there right now. I do believe their primary source material these days is outside my knowledge, but that doesn't matter. Ultraviolet speaks to me.

12. Shitfucker: Suck Cocks in Hell

A few of you suggested that I rated Nekrofilth's record too low. After listening a few more times, I agree. "Junkie Cunt" is too damn good to ignore. But I also rated another one too low. Out of all the ugly, idiotic records from Hells Headbangers (and similar) in 2013, Shitfucker's Suck Cocks in Hell just stands out. They are having way too much fun.

11. Vorum: Poisoned Void

Vorum's Poisoned Void came out at the beginning of the year, to little fanfare. It's not generating much conversation at the end of the year, and that's unjust. Fantastic production and great hooks make this pure death metal gold that even my toddler can get into.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Dollhouse: Complete

I completed work on my daughter's dollhouse. You can see it here. Now work begins on the end-of-year list.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Hexer: Hexer (2013)

Top Shelf

Earlier this year, Gilead Media introduced me to Fell Voices. The band's Regnum Saturni doesn't seem like anything special--not intellectually, anyway. You can't point to anything and say, "Here, this is why it's so compelling." But for some reason I kept coming back to it again and again. Its tendrils had wormed their way deep into my brain stem.

Well, the label managed to do something very similar with Hexer. Hexer is a remastered compilation of both of the band's 2011 cassette EPs, which were distributed locally in Philadelphia. And once again, I have trouble pointing to anything specific, but I keep coming back.

Death Metal Briefs: More of 2013

How Dead Can You Get?

Armagedon: Thanatology (2013)
3 out of 5 stars

It seems like every Polish death metal band is good. Armagedon [sic] is no exception. It also seems like the preponderance of death metal bands sound like Behemoth. Again, Armagedon is no exception. Especially the song "Black Seed." There is also a hint of Dethklok ("Self Destruction," many of the solos), which I can't say is a bad thing. Armagedon is really good, but they only rise a hair's width above the rest of their scene.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Christmas Gift Idea

I'm hard at work on my daughter's dollhouse, and ironing out the details of my year-end list. For now, here's a Christmas gift idea. 

You know how you can buy a mixed six-pack of beer at a lot of liquor stores? That's for chumps. A better idea: Get six different packs of beer, make a mixed six-pack for a gift, and drink the rest.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Master Charger: Unity in Black (2011)

Taking on the Gods

joanismylover alleges that this record (reissued from 2011) puts Sabbath to shame.

What if the best Black Sabbath release in 2013 wasn't released by Black Sabbath? Judging by an eyeball of the cover art, Master Charger are a bunch of Hawkwind loving space rock gods who pay homage to Deep Purple for good measure. Fireball, anyone? Listening to an earful of these 10 tight, hefty tracks on Unity in Black, and we can confirm their rock influences are, in fact, certainly strongly ensconced in the early 70s. But not as much from the influence of those bands as from the ever present hand of doom that lords over this world from the children of its grave to forever in black. Black Sabbath.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Thrall: Aokigahara Jukai (2013)

Rock With It Out

I once had an elementary school teacher who said that Australians are even more American than Americans. By that, I think he meant they were the loudest and most adventurous nationality out there. Foreigners will have to let me know whether that's right.

Thrall is a four-piece of Australian black metal antagonists. Judging by the band's third album, Aokigahara Jukai, they may be more American than Americans. Ignoring a few stalwarts like Lightning Swords of Death, the USBM scene is flooded with intellectualism and faux intellectualism. That's hardly in line with the American, Old West spirit. Perhaps Australia is one of the last places where that spirit still thrives.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Folk Briefs, Part 6

Folkin' Shit Up Again

Fejd: Nagelfar (2013)
3.5 out of 5 stars

The album art on Fejd's Nagelfar is befitting a mighty Viking banner. It should be seen only as the cover of this album, or billowing on the t-shirt of a 400-pound man riding victoriously through Wal-Mart on a power chair, drenched in the sweat of his heroic exertions. The music on the album is Swedish folk with metal drumming added in to make it much easier for us metalheads to get into. To people like me, who can't necessarily tell the difference between Scandinavian and Finnish folk music, it will sound like Amorphis without the metal guitars. Which is pretty cool, by the way. Not pillaging your local Supercenter cool, but cool.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Vaura: The Missing (2013)

The Only Thing Missing Is My Knowledge of Dysrhythmia

Now, this is an unexpected surprise. Vaura is a project made up of people you may be familiar with, but I think their identities are far less interesting than what they’re doing on The Missing.

This record is progressive metal that draws significantly from hook-oriented goth rock and from a certain Brooklyn prog-black style you may know. The Cure meets Krallice, if you will. (To be perfectly honest, I’ve never heard Dysrhythmia before, and that could be a better touchstone given the shared presence of Kevin Hufnagel.) Since I’ve had such an interest in certain kinds of the goth rock / deathrock style lately, Vaura came to me at just the right time.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Satanic Pride v. Obłęd



It’s not every day I get physical CDs in the mail. All I do is rip them (at high bitrates) to my computer anyway, and perhaps they’ll land in the minivan for the rare occasions I’m driving it without my wife present. But a physical CD does grab my attention, and that’s why these releases caught my attention.

Both of them are 2012 Polish black metal albums. As a rule, Polish black metal doesn’t make it all the way to my ears, because I already have a pretty good idea what it’s going to sound like, and I’ve heard it before. I don’t know whether this is endemic to all Polish culture, but their metal scene, at least, lacks in subtlety. Just off the top of my head, I can think of 10 things that are about as subtle as Polish metal (I’ll put the list at the end of the review).

This is my not so subtle way of setting up the unexpected twist to the story.

There are probably only two or three of you who are at all interested in my current project--a dollhouse for my daughter--but it is taking up a lot of my time. Moreso now that we're coming down to the wire before Christmas. After it's complete, I plan to compile my end-of-year list. If you can't wait, go to my dollhouse blog and you might see hints of the records I'm considering for the list.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Metal Briefs: Is It Ambient?

To Yawn, or Not to Yawn?

When I first started reading the metal press a few years back, I was surprised to discover just how much the "ambient" music audience seems to overlap the metal audience. But, it turns out, the two genres can have a lot in common, and the lines aren't always clear.

Mamiffer & Circle: Enharmonic Intervals (for Paschen Organ)
4 out of 5 stars

Circle is (apparently) fairly well-known in avant-garde circles, and Mamiffer used pretty much just a piano to put me off listening to music while eating. Put them together, and you'll get the best kind of ambient (more or less), with weird and offensive string noises, choral singing, hypnotic organ melodies, and madman screams.