This month’s roundup is a real doozey, not only is it going to be so large that it requires three parts but we’re also introducing two new writers to the Noob Heavy fold – welcome Fae and April Pest to the review team! Their reviews are up first, with Fae covering The Last Of Lucy and April covering Allegaeon. We also have reviews below from Espi Kvlt, Melinda (me), John Angel, Kep, Ellis and Valky covering a variety of genres and fantastic February releases. Stay tuned for Part Two and Three.
The Last of Lucy – Moksha
Technical Death Metal – Transcending Obscurity Records
The Last of Lucy has bestowed upon us another hefty dose of chaotic carnage in the form of their 2022 full-length release Moksha – and what a magnificent ride it is, indeed. If you’re looking to scratch an itch for some brand-new, engagingly dangerous Technical Death Metal, this album is definitely not one to miss out on! The vibes I get from Moksha immediately are that of a brief yet profound journey through the eyes of the abyss staring into itself. The band’s overall sound has been pleasantly refined from their previous releases, and while I did quite enjoy the jazzier elements present in their music before (ohhh the saxophone in AshvatthaI), I think that has left plenty of room for TLOL to really tap into a more brutal and deliberate demeanor closer to the likes of Inanimate Existence, The Faceless, or even Archspire. Every song feels intimately handcrafted to deliver a unique story each, and at just over 30 minutes in total, none of them overstay their welcome in the slightest. With driving verses, headbang-inducing and delectably vile hooks, and breaks that simply scrunch the face with enthrallment, I don’t think there is a single song on this album that I don’t absolutely groove to. My favorite track, “The Demiurge”, closes the album poignantly in an outro / solo section that feels suspiciously like a cliffhanger – foreshadowing for perhaps an even more vile entity on its way to wreak havoc on our ears in the most wonderful and evil way. I know Moksha is really going to hit the spot for tech audiences all over, but it has already bore its tendrils into my heart (and my playlists) several times over.
Allegaeon – Damnum
Progressive/technical death metal – Metal Blade Records
When I heard Allegaeon’s recent single, “Of Beasts and Worms,” I knew right away that I would have to catch this record as soon as it dropped, and I’m so glad I did. Damnum is an epic, intricate and positively thrilling progressive death metal tour-de-force. Plenty of tropes favoured by current bands in the style show up here – virtuosic leads, neoclassical melodic themes, flamenco-style acoustic guitar interludes, the works. But while these elements can sometimes feel forced or hammy in less capable hands, on Damnum, they are integrated with remarkable taste, and serve to complement the compositions without ever feeling too flashy or tacked-on. The key to Damnum’s success, I feel, is precisely that the focus here is on dynamic, thoughtful songwriting. These songs are loaded with tasty riffs, brutal aggression and stirring melody in equal measure, and while they have great moments throughout their respective runtimes, almost all of them build up to a dramatic, powerful crescendo in their final acts. They command your attention the whole way through, and reward you generously for it. I have to single out the vocals for praise as well; Riley McShane delivers a range of powerful growls and snarls and some really lovely cleans, which further compliment and enhance the music wherever they show up. If you’re a fan of progressive tech death, don’t miss this record. It’s fantastic, and one of the best I’ve heard from this style in years.
Abhoria – S/T
Black metal from California, US – Prosthetic Records
First thing’s first: one of the members of this band, Walthrax, is a former member of an anarchist, animal liberation death metal band named Catheter. Scoring major points from me right from the jump. Second of all, these riffs are catchy as hell. I wasn’t just headbanging along to these tracks, I was bopping and vibing. Third of all, despite how catchy these songs are, they’re relentless as hell, ferociously beating you over the head with their coldness and and direness. Even though this band hails from Los Angeles, you’d never know it by listening to them, as they give off the same dark, frozen sound as any Norwegian black metal band. This record is consistent in its extremity, sound clean as hell, and gives you exactly zero moments to breathe.
FFO: Imperialist, Immortal, Wode
Venom Prison – Erebos
Death metal from the UK – Century Media Records
We didn’t have to wait very long in 2022 for a new Venom Prison record. Released on Feb 4, Erebos continues the British death metal outfit’s ascent to the top of the extreme metal world. Everything we’ve come to love about Venom Prison is here. Fierce riffing from Ash Gray and Ben Thomas, visceral snarls from Larissa Stupar, flawless drumming from Joe Bills, and prog-tinged songwriting. Venom Prison has taken a big step in the evolution of their sound on their 3rd studio album by introducing a huge dose of melody that wasn’t present before. Stupar’s inclusion of sung vocals is the most obvious manifestation of their new sound but Erebos features plenty of gorgeous moments from the instrumentalists in the band as well. Whether supporting Stupar with softer settings as she explores the sonic palette of her voice as heard on “Pain of Oizys” or delivering a statement of triumph with major-key chord progressions and liquid arpeggio lines for the closing of “Comfort of Complicity”, the rest of the band members make clear that they’re bought into the new vision and sound displayed on Erebos and the increased melodicism results from a full band effort. My only real complaint about is Stupar’s clean vocals are hidden in the mix on a couple tracks. “Veil of Night” is the most egregious example. I really like the vocal melody that I hear but it’s just buried under her screams. However, I love hearing the band and especially the guitarists get better at music. The riffs are tighter even as they include more complexity from album to album and Ash Gray is developing his voice on leads and solos. Erebos is easily the best record I’ve heard in the 1st two months of 2022 and is one hell of a follow up to Samsara, which was already a jaw-dropping statement record. Stop what you’re doing and listen to this album if you haven’t.
Rolo Tomassi – Where Myth Becomes Memory
It’s finally here. Rolo‘s previous album Love Will Die And Time Will Bury It was easily in my top 5 releases of 2018 and it’s been a long four years waiting for this one, and it was very much worth it. Some may know their name from the heyday of 00s internet music when they were in their teen years playing mathy metalcore with a lot quirk alongside bands like Horse The Band. In the decade or so since then they’ve gradually matured with each release delving further and further into the pensive atmospheres of post metal and post hardcore, choosing to rear their chaotic hardcore teeth with more restraint and purpose – whether used as a bridge for wistful noisewalls or as an interruption to serenity. Just like in life, there is never true peace, only temporary peace. Eva‘s vocals, both harsh and clean soar to new heights here, this is peak musicianship after many years of refinement. It’s masterful, sophisticated and flows like a silk river.
Fumigation – Structural Extermination
Brutal death from Ontario, CA – CDN Records
In my humble opinion it’s the brutal death bands that have a sense of humor that are the most fun to listen to, and Fumigation‘s tongue-in-cheek approach fits the bill perfectly. The silly “insect and pest control” theme is as unserious as they come, with song titles like “Close to a Burrow Below” and “Mosquitos in My Taquitos” and hilariously self-aware lyrics confirm the band knows just how ridiculous their material is: “Track on repeat, got whiskey in the jar-o / Cliff Burton was overrated, fuck his shitty solo / This song sucks, let’s get to the outro” (“Centipede Stampede”). The thing is, though, the actual music kinda rocks. The caveman riffs and filthy pinch harmonics are plentiful, the songs are far from boring straightforward brutality, and you will absolutely bang your head to dumb heavy tracks like “Botfly Incision”. Closer “Servant of the Queen” even shows off some impressively nuanced expansiveness. Surprisingly high quality and irreverent goofiness is the name of the game here, and it’s a damn good time.
FFO: bugs, slams, and goofy shit
Black Country, New Road – Ants From Up There
Post-indie from London, UK – Ninja Tune
Ok, so this one probably sticks out like a bit of a sore thumb on Noob Heavy, but it’s too good not to mention. The jazzy, semi-emo, post-indie second full-length from UK collective Black Country, New Road is so richly layered and varied that it practically insists on repeated listens, all while making a near-hour-long runtime feel like half that. Is it a break-up record? Is it about departing vocalist Isaac Wood’s mental health struggles? Probably both, and more to be honest. Whether they’re singing about concorde, Billie Eilish, snow globes or even leaving toast crumbs in a lover’s bed, it’s impossible not to get swept up in just how much all this clearly means to Wood and co., and that’s before you’ve even got to the record’s equally stirring musical and melodic content. Essential and emotional listening from start to finish.
FFO: Arcade Fire, Nick Cave, Slint
Invisible Control – Created in Chaos
Death Metal from Brazil – Xaninho Discos
With Death Metal albums flowing through 2022 like flood waters, there is little room for favorable quality – something that steps out from the others in refreshing form. Invisible Control launch their debut album Created in Chaos with an astounding 8-track album that gets your blood boiling. Songs like “Purgatory” are a rush of harsh vocals, face-melting riffs, and horrifying drums that take your breath away. This album packs more than a single punch, amplifying their energy from one track to the next to leave you absolutely brutalized.