Tombs – Path of Totality

I was mostly interested in Tombs because they picked up Bryant Meyer, electronics/keyboardist of the inexplicably defunct Isis. This move parallels that of Isis front man Aaron Harris, who joined the re-kindled Twilight to release Monument to Time End. Both black metal bands. Both having released progressivized black metal albums.

One would think, of all the islands in the metal archipelago, that Black Metal would be least likely to make the progressive turn. A genre that derives its sense of bleakness from pummeling repetition won’t necessarily have much space for structural variations. And in many moments, Path of Totality leans on you with an oppressive wall of noise. The vocals, always dark, feel like they radiate from a monolith. And it convinces you it will just stay that way. Take the track Passageways. After extracting its pound of flesh, they bust out with Eye-Of-Every Storm style psychedelia at the end, which throws an entirely new light on everything that came before.

Then comes Silent World, which is the inverse. It covers as much ground as a jam by Grayceon, then spends the next half of the song hammering you into the earth. The innovation here is that these variations never feel out of spirit; the gloom has the last word. It’s the fauna of a lonely wasteland. Just enough to lead you in before the darkness closes around you.

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Deafheaven-Roads to Judah

Hands down, my favorite Black Metal album to date. Deafheaven highlight all the strong points of the genre, a flowing yet logical song structure and the ability to invoke an emotive atmosphere which ties the album together. There are no goat heads impaled on sticks or band members burning churches and eating each other. George Clarke’s vocals owe as much to Grindcore as they do Black Metal, theres an element of honesty and masculinity that is absent from most Black Metal vocalists. Clarke is singing from the heart, he is not being theatrical or trying to fit into genre conventions. Nick Bassett and Kerry McCoy have impressive chops and an ear for complex melodies and chord progressions. They do a fantastic job of layering multiple guitars during the slower interludes. While the rhythm section of Trevor Deschryver and Derek Prine can blast with the best of them, then segway into Godspeed style Post-rock sections without flinching. This is an excellent album from an excellent band.

Anaal Nathrakh – Hell Is Empty And All The Devils Are Here

Anaal Nathrakh Hell Is Empty And All The Devils Are Here

When a album has such a good title, it usually does not deliver. This is a rare case where the music fits the title to a T. It sounds exactly like hell on earth. The songs are angry and noisy almost to the point of just collapsing into a gigantic mess. But there is song structure here, enough to move songs along. Songs tend veer between thrashy Black metal and Industrial ala GodFlesh’s Streetsweeper. While the album does a great job of being evil, it also sounds repetitive. Most tracks blend into each other causing the album to drone on. The other glaring flaw is the clean singing voice. It sounds like some Power Metal album was turned on in the background accidentally when they were recording. Needless to say, it distracts from the whole vibe. Luckily it doesn’t show up that much. Defiantly a good album thats marred by a few problems.

Amesoeurs – Self Titled

Amesoeurs Self Titled:

Neige from Alcest got together with friends and made created this band. It was an attempt to fuse Black metal with shoe-gaze/post-punk, which seems like a bad idea on paper. Well, the actual results are more hit than miss. What really works on this album is when the music is very atmospheric black metal with female vocals over it. What doesn’t work is when the album goes into post-punk music with black metal screeches over it. Because it’s an ambitious album it’s an uneven affair. Yet the good parts are very good and even the bad parts aren’t that bad. So if you’re looking for something interesting from Black Metal, or any heavy music, and don’t mind not understanding a word (it’s all in French of course) then this is worth your time.

The Funeral Pyre – December EP

The Funeral Pyre December EP:

Here’s a band from LA trying to combine Death and Black metal. Defiantly not the first band to do it, but still it’s a nice idea. And these guys show that when it’s done well, it’s awesome. Just look at the first track. Awesome atmosphere, great guitar part, and the screeching vocals really accent it all. Then the rest of the CD just falls miserably flat. The music is uninspired and the vocals become grating. These guys are not a bad band, rather they are a band with a good idea and no idea how to properly execute it. Hopefully their next release will have a more fully developed sound.

Cobalt – Gin

Cobalt Gin:

Wow a Black metal duo, never heard of that before. Actually these guys are really good. They play Black Metal but instead of just punching the guitar over and over while the drummer hits as many things as he can, they actually have musical skill. There are neat passages of atmosphere and just cool riffs. Cool riffs in Black Metal? Blasphemy. Plus Jabroe shows up, so that’s pretty sweet. Overall this is awesome Black Metal that shows what the genre could do if more artists went beyond corpse pain and moaning about frigid mountains.

Orcustus – Orcustus

Orcustus Orcustus:

Why? Why keep making lame black metal like this? This had done nothing new or good. It just sounds like a mosquito buzzing incessantly while some spastic jerk hits boxes. Please stop.

Rating: 2/15 corpse paint was never, ever cool.