Voices – Breaking The Trauma Bond
Extreme Gothic Metal from the UK
To be honest, it seems impossible to do this record justice in just a few sentences for a release round-up, but here goes. The fourth full-length from London-based collective Voices is a hugely ambitious and expansive record. Its 16 tracks span a towering 68 minutes, these revealing fresh and intricate details on every listen. Featuring current and former members of British legends Ackercocke, it’s no surprise Voices have all the extreme black and death metal elements locked down, but what really elevates this album is its striking gothic grandeur. Peter Benjamin’s clean vocals bring a lot of this in particular, providing many of the record’s most memorable moments in the process. From the gigantic chorus of “An Audience Of Mannequins”, to the stirring pianos of “Lilacs In Between”, to the stunning highlight “Kaleidoscope Of Thorns”, this is a record that can be as beautiful as it can savage, and one that’s well worth giving the substantial amount of your time that it asks for.
FFO: Ackercocke, Type O Negative, Paradise Lost, Opeth
Monosphere – The Puppeteer
Prog metal from Mainz, Germany
Monosphere is waving the flag of prog-y, djent-y music and proving that sound still has something to say with their new album The Puppeteer. Well crafted riffs trade off with soaring vocal melodies and are woven together with electronic interludes, creating a lush and varied soundscape. Taking pages from the standard “prog metal concept album” playbook, they inject some nice musical spice and experimentation with the form and structure of what a prog-y concept album can be in 2021. The clean vocals aren’t as squeaky clean as one might expect in this genre; Monosphere has included some soulful pitch inflections that some might call bluesy that really breathe life into the vocal delivery. The Puppeteer clocks in at 40 minutes while having 15 tracks, most of which are under 3 minutes, with two 3-song suites at the end of the record (based on the names I wouldn’t be surprised if its intended as a “double suite”) Whenever someone says “prog metal concept record” I assume I’m strapping in for at least an hour and will hear multiple tracks approaching the 10 minute mark. The Puppeteer is proof that you can have a prog-y concept record with the fat trimmed. It’s a fun listen that doesn’t meander and keeps driving forward while packing in a lot of music. A must listen if you’re a fan of the style!
FFO: BTBAM, SikTh, Periphery
In Mourning – The Bleeding Veil
Melodic death metal from Sweden
An absolutely giant melodic death metal record full of expressive guitars and emotional vocals. It sometimes swings between melo death and a more gothic doom style. There’s an equal helping of harsher and clean melodic death styles with both being top notch. The cleans even reach for ballads in the peak of songs like “Solitude and silence” which are quickly backed up by Swallow The Sun type death growls. It’s been a fier4ce year of competition for melodic death metal this year and In Mourning manages to very much impress me despite coming so late in the year after a constant melo barrage. The gothic elements really nail it all together.
FFO: Opeth, Swallow The Sun, Dawn Of Solace
Hypocrisy – Worship
Death Metal from Sweden
With bombshell after bombshell of releases in November of 2021, Hypocrisy breaking through the throngs of metal music should come as no surprise. After debuting the track “Chemical Whore” on YouTube with an official video in September, it was obvious this album was going to be an absolute destroyer. It’s heavy and melodic, with the perfect mix of clean and harsh vocals to feed your musical cravings. Herculean drums combined with fantastical riffs make the instrumental just as vicious as the lyrics themselves. With “Chemical Whore” having garnered more than 400k on Spotify, Worship is a definitive need in anyone’s album collection. Every track is feral in both intensity and fury with songs like “Greedy Bastards” and “Brotherhood of the Serpent” taking hold and hoisting you up as an offering to some unseen Alien God. My personal favourite goes to “Dead World” as a must listen for an odd Depeche Mode vibe that mixes insanely well with Hypocrisy’s own brutal musical mastery. To give this album a once over is a bore. Take it in and give it a solid worship just as its title commands.
FFO: Kataklysm, Vader, Deicide
Imperialist – Zenith
Black Metal from Monrovia, California
Cosmic black metal has always been my favorite black metal microgenre. Unlike Satan, space is actually terrifying, making it the perfect subject matter for black metal. Imperialist first burst onto the scene with their debut LP, Cipher, also released via Transcending Obscurity Records, and they quickly got my attention. This new album, Zenith, takes their sound to even grander heights. With incredible technical ability and vocals that sound like an alien is singing them itself, this album solidifies the band as modern USBM heavyweights. Though their debut was promising, this album delivers on that promise, with higher production, cleaner riffage, and vocals coming through as though through the depths of a black hole. It gives moments of classic black metal sounds followed by sexy guitar solos and gentle passages of spacelike silence. The tone throughout is of outstanding black metal quality while still maintaining their original sound.
FFO: Mare Cognitum, Wormwitch, Horrendous
Stagwounder – The Shrouded Muse Of The World’S Lament
Blackened doom from Germany
A very lush and moody doom metal album, I was expecting something far harsher from the cover but this is a fantastic blend of clean tones used with dark crawling riffs. Elegant song writing that sometimes resembles the bounce and flow of avant garde metal acts like Ephel Duath but make it doomier. It’s a cinematic sound like the Damnation album by Opeth (the tones on the clean guitar reminds me of it heavily). The only real blacked elements I’m hearing are folk black, otherwise there’s more of a melodic death metal vibe to a lot of it including the death growls. Sophisticated and poignant album.
FFO: Ephel Duath, Eternal Storm, MAudlin Of The Well
Core Of Dying Earth – Hello World
Melodic death metal from Kazan, Russia
When I saw the genre tag and flipped on this record I was expecting some standard At the Gates-core but that’s not quite what’s here. Core Of Dying Earth have a sound that makes me think of all the big metal bands from 2003 smashed into a blender. They’ve got melodic, thrashy riffs reminiscent of New Wave American Heavy Metal a la early Shadows Fall, catchy, hooky guitar leads and breakdowns from metalcore like As I Lay Dying (fuck you Tim), and searing vocals from bands like Arch Enemy. I even hear some Coheed and Cambria in the lead guitar lines, especially on the track “Info Pollution”. Core Of Dying Earth have fun songs and fun riffs that makes me feel nostalgia for driving two-lane roads in high school blasting metal. And the bass drops! Perhaps it was an abused trend back in the day but I love me a perfectly placed bass drop. My two wishes for the band are that they push their sound in a more modern direction and that vocalist Natalja Mogilner would sing a bit more. She has a rich alto voice and a nice sense of melody. It punches through in the mix and I wanted more everytime she turned to clean singing. While a fun record, Hello World feels a bit dated. It would have been groundbreaking 15 years ago and I think the band could stand to be a bit more forward looking with their sound. But then again OSDM is a thing so what the fuck do I know? Nu metal is making a comeback so it stands to reason Core Of Dying Earth has a style that will soon be en vogue again. I look forward to their next release and would be stoked if a big European band picked them up for a North American tour!
FFO: Arch Enemy, At the Gates, Shadows Fall
Benothing – Temporal Bliss Surrealms
Everlasting Spew continues their best year yet with another strong death metal release in the form of this (lengthy) debut EP from a brand new Finnish outfit. These weird, ungainly riffs are as angular and dissonant as it gets without going full avant-garde. Seriously, it’s really deliciously ugly stuff that feels alien in a somehow grounded, earthy sort of way, and the production leans dry instead of cavernous, so there’s space in the mix; you can hear little bits of twang in the guitars and there’s that satisfying semi-hollow pop of the snare. Temporal Bliss Surrealms is hella proggy too, with the two longest tracks running 7+ and 11 minutes and packing in a plethora of multi-stage and multi-layered song structures that never let you get too comfortable in one place for too long. Those two songs are the bookends, and hint at the full potential of this outfit more than the middle tracks do. The vocals aren’t my favorite, particularly on track 3, but this EP is very cool and I’m excited to hear a full-length.
FFO: Bedsore, Ghastly, Horrendous
Lock Up – The Dregs of Hades
Grindcore/death metal from the UK
Okay, first off, look at that fucking artwork up there. LOOK AT IT. That shit rules so goddamn hard. Nobody questioned that Lock Up was going to drop the kind of album that’s tailor-made for absolutely leveling a mosh pit; that was a given. And everyone knew that the songs themselves were going to be memorable and varied; their back catalogue and the pedigree of guys like Shane Embury, Adam Jarvis, and Tomas Lindberg speak volumes on that front. But good fucking gracious does The Dregs of Hades deliver and then some in all respects. It’s hyper-aggressive, ultra-violent, impeccably mixed and mastered (hats off to Sebastián Puente), and contains some of the heaviest tracks they’ve ever cranked out. The riffs are chunky and muscular, the dual vocals unhinged, and the fun-as-hell breakdowns will have you moshing in your living room. Who needs a pit when you’ve got Lock Up?
FFO: music that kicks ass and makes you want to kick ass
Concrete Winds – Nerve Butcherer
Death metal/grindcore from Finland
Looking for a death metal fix that’s off the beaten path but will still scratch that itch for riffs that feel a bit old school? Look no further than Concrete Winds’ Nerve Butcherer. I came in with zero concept of what I would hear and was pleasantly surprised by the sheer speed ferocity of this record. Everything is frenetic and hair-raisingly savage, with frantic blasts and zig-zagging guitarwork that pulls old school Finnish death metal stylings kicking and screaming into grindville. The runtime and pacing are excellent, too: it’s ten tracks of utterly mental sonic onslaught in less than 30 minutes, with a few seconds at most to breathe and songs linking seamlessly to one another. If you like death metal or grindcore you need to give this one a spin. Looking to try a track or two to get an idea what’s up? I recommend “Noise Trepanation” or “Paroxystic Flagellator”.
FFO: Repulsion, Brujeria, Anhorrence