2013 was pretty good. Somewhat surprising, maybe a little disappointing but in the end it rounded out nicely. At least in terms of what I heard. Admittedly my listening time took a nosedive for a portion of this year and those records I did enjoy were often on the faster/shorter end of the spectrum; demos and splits and such.
This is a breakdown on the year from my view and then a few small lists I’ve made surrounding the releases of 2013 that I enjoyed the most, sort of. There’s a good amount of records that probably should be included here but weren’t. Some I didn’t get to, some I was disappointed with (no one cares!), some I missed altogether.
Further explanations will be laid out later, and you can guess ahead of time that there’s some Canada bias. Let’s dig into it after the break.
Wrapping up the year I missed a lot. As the new year began moving and I started catching up on stuff I skipped or missed I’m not finding many big regrets yet (a few noise / death industrial albums for instance, I missed some Blue Sabbath Black Cheer). On the other side I am growing closer to some that fell a little flat with me — the specifics of which I’ll get to later.
To the positives, and a little preambling. Having moved back to the west coast of Canada for a time at the start of 2013, I’ve been further exposed to local grind and fastcore I didn’t know existed before leaving years prior.
Absolutely ignorance on my part. I left for Ontario when I was expanding my tastes towards what I enjoy now (more into death metal than hardcore/grind at the time), having only just broken the surface of whatever you want to call the underground. I guess it’s all relative. Some people start listening to Infest and Blasphemy when they’re twelve, others like me only discovered Slayer and Cryptopsy at sixteen.
Before heading to the east there was always a couple of hurdles making it difficult to actively attend shows or meet people involved in music (if you’re looking for excuses). Outside of sheer ignorance and not knowing where to look or who to ask, I had begun working in more isolated regions of Vancouver Island between college, without a vehicle/license. To get to any kind of show or legit record store etc. on this island (more likely on the mainland) requires a steady income or a car or both; and knowing people who want to be involved. Lots of respect to those who have been in it on this coast for so long.
Most of my time writing in general, and in actively attending and enjoying the work of many of these inspiring musicians has been in Toronto (where it’s a lot easier to work around some of that) — aside from two Mitochondrion shows I attended when I visited B.C. in 2011.
That at the time gave me a glimpse of some of the work going on on the island outside of Skagos and Mitochondrion, and this year more than ever doing my thing on this coast (albeit slower, less frequently) introduced me to a lot more I may not have encountered otherwise.
I’m pretty excited about that. Not just the local island/provincial shredding underground but also feeling out the ley-lines of grind in Canada that are apparently as numerous as that of other focal genres; death and black metal.
The point of all that context is the relocation has balanced out my feelings felt elsewhere in relation to this year’s collection of releases, and clearly influenced my listening habits and year end picks in turn.
In the spirit of all that then here’s a few groups and things I gotta make a note of regarding this year. As stated grind was the center of my focus slowly over the year so that’s a running theme here as well.
The tremendous effort by Suffering Mind and Water Torture as they drowned us in splits this year has to be mentioned I couldn’t keep up. Of the four they released the three I heard from Suffering Mind was consistently good and always with a split partner that complimented their harsh grind well. Water Torture I was impressed more by, especially going for a record with guitar as well. The bass attack elsewhere was traumatizing over the course of the other six or seven pieces of strewn powerviolence debris they left behind in 2013.
Both of these bands did splits with top island grinders, Six Brew Bantha, and it’s not surprising that these were the ones I was most fond of. I’ll have more on that later. Speaking of SBB, gotta hand it to them as well. A shit ton of shows, live cassette and three splits showed how exciting the local area can be and urges one to dig into the comrades of these great grinders.
Now, if only SHOOTING SPREE could get more love. They slayed Fastcore Fest 4. I know they’ve got that split with the twisted Ether Binge guys sometime during 2014 but I know I’m not the only one who’d like to see more material roll out with support. Speaking of Ether Binge they’re another one to add to this mentions pile, their name being the perfect descriptor for the state their sound is permanently in.
I’m looking forward to the split withe the aforementioned group even though I didn’t spend as much time with it in 2013. Those guys and Vulva Essers are quite interesting mincers.
Then there’s Detroit, grinders from Alberta, and everything they released this year: Reality Denied, and the splits with Skuff and THEDOWNGOING. So impressed by this group and their quickly widening catalog. I’ve seen their record Reality Denied show up on a few grinders’ lists which is encouraging.
A considerable amount of listening time went into their releases this year, so they should be on my final list somewhere but because I’ve cheated too much already I decided to give them a mention here.
Then I saw them at Fastcore Fest and those shards shot deeper into my brain.
Speaking of: might as well mention Fastcore Fest 4, the first time I’ve attended a west coast festival or Fastcore Fest for that matter. It might have also been the deepest in the woods I’ve been while attending something so awesome and loud, I’d like to attend it annually if schedules pan out.
Just a great gathering in Squamish away from shit and enjoying some fast, harsh live tunes all day and night. I have to mention PIZZA HI-FIVE, Lt. Dan, SHOOTING SPREE, Bridgeburner, and Obacha among the slew of great groups that two days since they floored me . Quite a few bands I was exposed to there and everyone was in good spirits.
(Just an aside relating to the local stuff, Obacha called it quits this year and I had only just seen them as well. I wasn’t able to attend their final shows which really bummed me out but at least they existed and left some awesome blasts behind. SKUFF also shut it down for good)
It made up for missing other great festivals like Stella Natura, the first Dark Descent Records showcase, Noctis fest, and certainly MDF if but only for my one, unbelievable last chance to see Iniquity play their best material live with their second best line up — which, again, I missed. On that front, they did manage to press something of theirs on vinyl which made me feel a little better.
In terms of show attendance mine was down considerably this year: leaving Toronto, having no license/car, and living on an island with shit/expensive public transportation has that effect. I feel shitty about it but there’s no denying it. However the handful of shows I did see were pretty ‘intimate’ in that dirty basement sort of way which I do enjoy: seeing Griefer perform was very cathartic, the noise he weaved being his most intense from my limited perspective.
At the same show I got to see SIXBREWBANTHA, Bungus, and Shitliver wreck everything and enlighten me to how its done on the island. Alda made a rare journey up here and gave us a glimpse at their next record, as did Iron Lung and Column of Heaven when they played Vancouver early in the year.
This was also a show where I finally saw some local groups I’d been getting into, specifically Osk but I was pleasantly surprised by both Koszmar and Cooked and Eaten. This was the case when I saw Erosion and Haggatha open for Baptists who did a superb job supporting their very enjoyable Bushcraft that night.
Before the full list I’m going with a list of releases that, whether small or obscure, may have been lost in the ether when everyone made their 2013 lists, and deserves a mention here. Not like I should be talking on this matter, I’m pretty consistent with being the last to the party on good or decent records in this environment.
These can also be lumped in as honorable mentions. Read on.
- SLAVE – SLAVE CS
Powerviolence | USA | Tapes of a Neon God
A short review is forthcoming from me on the latest from SLAVE. If you’ve heard it then you already know it’s a rough ride. Suffice to say this cassette was an ugly wound in the grind-violence body of 2013. It cuts through with such a guttural but muffled buzz chewing through nine minutes.
Crusty at times filled with skinning velocity, abrupt detonating and sometimes slowing the aftermath pacing over dry, worn riffs and combusting onslaughts of drums.
Get this for sure.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
- Temple Nightside – Condemnation
Black Metal / Death Metal | AUSTRALIA | Dark Descent Records
While Temple Nightside were on my radar after their split with Antediluvian I didn’t expect them to be one of the more enjoyable listens in 2013 at all, not with the anticipated roster at the outset anyway. My expectations were broken thoroughly by Condemnation, which isn’t mold-shattering but delivers on crawling emptiness in the form of toxic, misty tremolo riffs that march with a distant, almost cathedral atmosphere.
It’s simple and it’s pretty damn effective the combination of old and new flavors is tasteful and rips past the temptation to just mimic. “Exhumation”, “Abhorrent They Fall…”, and “Miasma” stand out strongly on this clouded wallow, I was pleased to be not disappointed.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
- Perfect Pussy – I Have Lost All Desire For Feeling
Post-Hardcore / Noisecore | USA | Self-released
This is a nice little noise-punk gem I only found in the second half of 2013. Four drowned out, fast and emotive melodies with stark lyrics that, surprisingly, stand out in the static. A little on the short side and I don’t know if they’ll sustain this on a bigger record but I love it. The first three songs are outstanding.
Oh and the band name is fun too.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
- Torture Chain – Mutilating Astral Entities
Black Metal | USA | Yersinia Pestis
Barring a new Forgotten Spell demo appearing on the last day of December this was a black metal release that had some unmatched intricacies and creativity all funneled from one individual in 2013. Torture Chain is a new discovery for me and it was pretty invigorating.
‘War On The Final Road North” really pulled me in with it’s grand and enthusiastic asault, where the core riffs fasten themselves to my brain quickly. The drumming is just crazy. The title song really rips especially near the end when the dualing solos and leads bend into eahcother perfectly as a newer rhythm unfolds.
It may be a little bit steep on the ascent to entry (each track is beastly) but it’s hard to argue that the mandate with Mutilating Astral Entities is securely on strong enchantments; rarely does one get lost in the melodic furor. “A Thousand Red Hungry Eyes” might be the only ‘weaker’ moment for me. The others all have very powerful passages.
Untouched by outside influences without it being a boring throwback-gimmick with no new ideas or intensity. I enjoyed this a lot, just a little bit bummed I discovered it late and couldn’t get a copy of the cassette.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
- Gowl – BuzzBox EP + Raging Like A Heart//Attack
Powerviolence | USA | Cretinous Records
Impenetrable, corroded powerviolence locked in two small releases that result in injury upon contact. My preference is on the less repugnant Raging Like A Heart//Attack CS for now but the amount of abrasive goodness compressed in both is just what I need. I’ll be writing something short on both of them once I’m finished washing the filth off.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
- WAKE – FALSE + Split w/ REHASHED
Grindcore | CANADA | 7 Degrees Records / Handshake Inc.
Tight grindcore from the frozen plains of Canada has to land on this list somewhere. WAKE is in fact embarking on a tour in a westward direction as we sit here and I’ll be catching them with some great locals soon.
FALSE is the record they’ll be supporting and man did it blast through my headphones more than I expected. I had it on end list for a while but as killer as this is I can’t stack it too heavily. WAKE’s newest evolution birth tracks that hook me much like the new Baptist record (“The Fix Is In”, “Bleak”, “Presbyopia”), but are far more virulent while “Intrusion” takes hints from their split-mates Dephosphorus.
There was a lot of great fastcore this year so it didn’t make the final one. This and their split with Rehashed (which makes me excited for their new record) are two things that should get a look. Stream it if you haven’t. One can’t have too much mephitic blasting.
Read my full review here.
- Oxtongue – Where The Light Is Mute
Doom Metal | CANADA | Holy Mountain Printing / Self-released
Really the only doom record that I spent any considerable time with was this debut demo from a hushed three piece in Ontario; depsite living in the area the past few years I didn’t hear anything about them until I left. The place is like that though apparently. You have stuff like Mare came and go before anyone could be awestruck, and Sound Asleep literally a giant of doom just waiting to fully arise from slumber but rarely making a peep.
Oxtongue may not reach those heights in terms of oddity or power but they cut a clear swath of crippling doom this year which I actually could digest.
Read my full review at Equivoke.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
- CHIENS – Vultures Are Our Future
Grindcore | FRANCE | IFEELGOOD Records / Bones Brigade Records
This probably should be on the main list but I only got into it the last few days of December admittedly. Truly formidable tightly attenuated over every second Vultures Are Our Future is indeed a ripe slice of mincing swarming from France from CHIENS. In the short time I’ve gotten to know the thirteen minutes it’s done a number on me.
I can’t say that it’s doing shit any differently outside of doing fast and thoughtful violence expertly, ramming through with a keen knowledge of what grind must be done; but that’s not a negative at all. I’m still making successive attempts to survive it.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
- AURVANDIL – Thrones
Black Metal | FRANCE | Psychic Violence Records
Aurvandil is a blast of Norse wind projected from France, their second LP and it’s something that might be missed out on until it’s repressed on vinyl. Listening to the four tracks they’ve cemented in the initial cassette batch will send a frigid shock through your brain. In my opinion the first song is a little meandering but the three that follow hit a solid, fruitful stride.
“Summoning the Storms” is a particularly good example even at it’s extensive length. Beautiful and dark, multiple soaring harmonized peaks, the acoustic section setting a new path one zenith. The last song indulges in even thicker, blaring melodies and powerful bass lines that stand out brilliantly.
Thrones arrived late in 2013 and as such I wish I had more plays of it but it’s an album that I had to mention on this list. Hopefully Aurvandil’s second expansive trek gets some attention this year.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
- Sacridose – Anxiety Tremors
Grindcore | USA | FINANCIAL RUIN RECORDS
This is another giant sandblasting session I’ll be reviewing sometime soon, hopefully. It’s a quick nine minutes that didn’t stray far from my ears in 2013.
What you need to know is outside of Morphic Lapse and Code//Error these guys spawn the closest stuff to Insect Warfare you could hope for. Being born of Cellgraft’s blood no doubt helps and I’m inclined to say that Sacridose is already exponentially more thrilling than even the rust storm of Cellgraft.
Anxiety Tremors is not fancy and is completely brutal with a female vocalist that sounds like Jon Chang of GridLink, each song is shocking in the razor sharp precision with which they’re executed.
- Ancst – In Turmoil
Black Metal / Crust | GERMANY | Fragile Branch Recordings
Neglected, Ancst’s 2013 entries were some thoroughly enjoyable crusty black metal and I was very pleased to grab In Turmoil, as it compiles those very entries neatly. Consistently pleasing blackened crust from Germany.
Read the full review on Summoning Spirits.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
- VILKACIS – The Fever of War
Black Metal | USA | Psychic Violence Records
Another demo I caught only late in December, largely because Psychic Violence released it with two weeks left. I think this ties with Keres’ The Wanderer’s Path demo as it is a small raw black metal demo that has a massive and vivid storm locked away within.
A unexpected and strong entry from someone partially responsible for Fell Voices, stepping out from that shadow and into a more raw form. VILKACIS drops classic, chilling black metal with a touch of ambient noodling in one track and it’s not entirely contrived or boring. It’s a little exciting actually.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
- Children of God – We Set Fire To The Sky
Sludge/Hardcore | USA | Vendetta Records
While I didn’t spend as much time as I would’ve liked to with this record I did enjoy it’s Amenra-lite style of bristling sludgecore.
I think looking backward at their split with Seven Sisters of Sleep they seem a little more adventurous back then, the style solidifying more around Coupe de Grace to what we have on We Set Fire To The Sky: dark and steady hardcore that hints at Crowpath’s evil but never tags it entirely.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
- Sex Prisoner – State Property E.P.
Grindcore / Powerviolence | USA | Bad Teeth Recordings
Sex Prisoner rule. While I’m partial to their three-way split and original EP there’s no denying that this is on the same level of awesome. Get it.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
- Wreck And Reference – No Content
Electronic Doom / Industrial/ Post-Punk | USA | The Flenser
I couldn’t forget this one. Wreck And Reference bring their heaviest waves yet in two songs.
The vocals are especially attractive, “Absurdities & Echoes” heartbroken, deflating moaning rasp carries so much in it, washing through the drugged tones and leaving for a beautiful percussive-led build before we hear again. Abhorrence takes us back to the Black Cassette with fuzzy dollops of electro-doom and screams .
Read my full review on Equivoke.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
- Shit Luck – Slow Death
Crust / Hardcore | USA | Self-released
Rotting, crusty hardcore barely holding itself together through its own churning, filth caked with unhinging rhythms and heaps of heavy. It’s very short and seems to be nowhere on lists for 2013 but Slow Death is a demo that should get a mention at least.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
- DETROIT – REALITY DENIED + SKUFF/THEDOWNGOING Splits
Powerviolence / Grindcore | CANADA | Independent / Self-released
Just to re-enforce what I said above, DETROIT killed with everything. While I don’t think any of their other releases this year are complete and pressed, their Reality Denied album was as you can see and there will be a more substantial look at their material in the future.
Their hybrid mincing scorched my brain all summer both live and on headphones and bring out another deadly streak from the Canadian underground’s fastcore fringes. REALITY DENIED did a lot of it but you could place the blame as squarely on their split with THEDOWNGOING too since the trampling contained there somehow is at a higher concentration than even the full length.
Don’t overlook these guys.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
- Kêres – The Wanderer’s Path Demo XX
Black Metal | FINLAND | Versets Noirs / Vermines Pestifera
Desolate black metal, Keres’ first of two demos this year really hooked me with little effort, the climax “Monastic Spirit Torture” being something striking enough to topple bigger records this year. Both releases were good but I do contend this gets the better side in 2013.
Read my full review on Summoning Spirits.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
- Injekting Khaos – S/T
Black Metal | GREECE | BLASTBEAT MAILMURDER PRODUCTIONS
Injekting Khaos curate molten Greek black metal with talented Panos of Dephosphorus on vocals. I’m already on board at that point and when I sat down with molten black metal they produce I wasn’t disappointed. It does not stand out as much as the (somewhat) related Amnis Nihili but I’m enjoying a lot, and it should get a mention.
Hopefully I’ll have some words on this in a separate review in the near future.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
- Reproacher – Nothing To Save
Hardcore / Crust | USA | Self-reeased
Before I closed down Equivoke someone messaged me with a few bands they thought I like to check out. Reproacher was one of them and I really liked their take on the dark hardcore approach a lot.
Nothing To Save is a little heavy on time span but contains some really crushing moments like “Averse Arrest”, and and overall should get some attention. Inspired by Cursed and wallowing in the pits that Shit Luck and Baptist frequented this year, it’s a pretty damn solid win in most regards. I want to thank that stranger and reader of Equivoke for introducing me to them.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
- OBACHA – Fast Friends + Slave Split
Grindcore / Powerviolence | CANADA | Self-released
Well I’m not sure that the SLAVE side of the split is even recorded but I have spent a good deal of time with OBACHA’s side and their material performed variously at Fastcore Fest 4. The split would be on the split list too but for not hearing the other side.
This Squamish powerviolence trio’s last heave before they quickly called it quits at the end of the year is as one would expect: frenetic and grimy violence only the beauty and silence of the Squamish wilderness would draw forth.
I hope these guys don’t stop even if Obacha has, and I’m enjoying SLAVE’s rise as they rest.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
- Skagos – Anarchic
Atmospheric Black Metal | CANADA | Eternal Warfare
Truthfully and shamefully this is another one I didn’t spend as much time with. In the year of it’s full release I spent less time with Anarchic than the prior when it slowly bled it’s shamanic essence onto the web.
It was mentioned on my past lists several times and again here because Anarchic is, in its final form, monumental. It is unexpected compared to the US black metal crowd and even from their prior efforts, more shamanistic, transcendental.
A challenging entity rarely leaving the rain forest of this coast Skagos’ second record has to be on here once again. It was a crowded year.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
- Vulva Essers – Thought Index + Lysergic Static
Grindcore / Noisecore | USA | Self-released
Like the Skeleton of God of grind/noisecore. Well maybe that goes to Suffering Luna. Anyway not only is the name just fitting and good the hysterical, inhalant induced conniption fit that Vulva Essers embody was a thrilling and rusty odd-ball entry for 2013. These two releases introduced me to their unsettling and deceptive approach to grind and I’m still wrapping my ears around them.
Unsettling because despite their inaccessible creep I find myself pulled back to be abused more. Deceptive because while they may sound ordinary at first when causing stacks of string and skin friction (plus the samples) they dip into hallucinatory Daughters through Mamaleek moments where you feel a little delirious.
A missed and underrated group in 2013.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
- Lantern – Below
Death Metal | FINLAND | Dark Descent Records
So early on in the year I was asked by Cvlt Nation to review this nice slice from the depths of the old tomes. Cavernous songs, both thrashing and expansive, patiently stalk these forty minutes with solos that grab the ear and a cutting gelid mist insulates every corner.
Tracks like “Revenant” soar in surprising ways, and plunge quickly into the labyrinth and , while others like “Entrenching Presences” have a decidedly more sinister essence running through them; spinning into madness after an ouset that feels more graspable and deadly, and then turning to introspection by the end. I have to mention “Manifesting Shambolic Aura” as well because it’s one that with Revenant stands out in my mind, concretely memorable passages adorn the song and that final moment is where the vocals really come alive.
The solos are interesting and not just filler, the ashes of Death sprinkled within them sometimes. While not as stand-out as other records on my list this year Lantern’s phantom lingers over me even now. Below is worthy of a mention absolutely
Read the full review on Cvlt Nation.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
And to close off the smaller stuff some other splits, and then EPs, demos and compilations that deserve a mention not listed above. Some that would be here in fact appear on my final list so I’ll refrain from the redundancy here.
Outside of that if you don’t see something that’s awesome on the following I’m a fool and missed it or I forgot.
Bungus / S.B.R. – Split
Ether Binge / Chainsaw Squid – Split
METH DRINKER / Moloch – Split
Ensorcelor / Moloch – Split
Unru / Sun Worship – Split
Hell / Amarok – Split
Crawl / The Way To Light – Split
D.O.C. / Triac – Split
Hell / Mizmor – Split
DEMO & EPs
Braveyoung – Will The Dust Praise You
Damaged Goods – Terminal
Subsist – Subsist
Monomaniac V. 2/3
PIZZA HI-FIVE – OH NO IT’S PIZZA HI-FIVE
Waste Away – Demo
Sights & Sounds – Silver Door
Ayala – Lullaby Waves
Something – What
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
A final brief and unnecessary wrap-up follows this and then I’ll end on some stuff I missed and didn’t enjoy. I don’t spend much time writing about stuff I find disappointing.
♦ ♦ | ♦ ♦
West Coast natives Baptists really exploded at the beginning of this year and have been on a roll with shows and shit ever since, using Bushcraft as a battering ram to do so.
Rightfully so as it is a record that has stuck with me easily in 2013. “Bullets”, “Think Tank Breed,” “Russian Spirits”, and “In Droves” stand out to me as songs that I would find worming their way into my head even after I left the record for a longer period of time. And when I’d return the mudslide of aggression from beginning to end would encase me even longer.
For me there’s few weaknesses or soft spots with a huge amount of memorability, I’ve spun it countless times. Bushcraft hits a very sweet spot, both thrashy and groovy hardcore that treads a nice line between the big guys in the genre and carves their own niche with an axe.
Read my full review on Equivoke.
♦ ♦ | ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ | ♦ ♦
Unru are enriching the darkened punk underground of Germany much to my pleasure. This demo in it’s regular version was already quite solid, breaking nicely from even the most enjoyable forms of chaotic hardcore and being both stifling and refreshing.
But the special version’s extra drone on the second side really pushes them out of a cramped environment. It pushes them into territory which is usually disappointing if not approached seriously and Unru nail it with slight twists of their rusted hardcore hooks.
Even without that, their nightmarish interpretation of the kind of hardcore that always melted brains was something I welcomed when I heard the standard version.
Read my full review here.
♦ ♦ | ♦ ♦
Ah yes. Death Engine blindsided me late in the year with an incredible debut of dark, bleak, metallic sludge drinking from the same pool of enlightenment as Amenra or Children of God. Their form impacts with a leaden weight. Loud, rusted and corrupted and leeching inward as you experience each creaking, whirling moment.
I was lucky enough to get in touch with Tapes Of A Neon God and get a copy on tape which would accompany the 10” and together it was a sliver of disheartening, opaque atmospheric sludge that I kept with me and did not drag.
Jarring and heavy with cascading climaxes, stained with agony and ending on a slightly more luminous note, Amen manages to swerve past copying Hexis or Celeste and maintains a deliberate and ritualistic approach that takes it’s own form.
Read my full review here.
♦ ♦ | ♦ ♦
This one had to show up here. Gris and Sombres Forets, their two similar yet contrasting styles of engrossing, passionate black metal, blanketed 2013 in inescapable beauty and melancholy as they quietly released their long awaited opuses. I’ll have you know I enjoyed both thoroughly and it was tough for me to separate these intricate and deep records; but I didnt want to cheat too much.
The entity of Sombres Forets brings a truly enveloping black metal tide rolling back from his long silence. I can’t believe it’s not on many 2013 lists! The four years since Royaume de glace allowed the dream-like invasion of the senses that La mort du Soleil is to incubate and transform in solitude. A renewed, refreshed vision of cold gloom. Reverse chords and notes that sleekly caress despite their intensity sometimes, less use of acoustic and other strings but no less sweeping in it’s intensity.
The soothing done by his focused and spirited reverie is a decidedly different kind than Gris,, but the feeling they tap into is similarly celestial and gripping, more psychedelic than Gris’s evocation. There’s more desperate longing than glimpses of hope, truly like peaks in the muted pastel squall on the cover they disappear in the density of anguished cries, and heart rending climaxes.
Truly one to regret missing.
♦ ♦ | ♦ ♦
A tangled hive of foul death metal from eons past The Charnel Expanse showed that the old guard of weirdly melodic, smart death metal exists outside the blackened/super-occult and revival strains dominating the scene at the moment; adding so much more to be excited about.
Rich songs that are as entertaining as they are technically proficient and complex. Clear hails to Demilich in certain instances like “The Dysgenicists” which interlaced the dizzying spires like “The Unmaking” or even more cryptic the title track: an unfurling excrescence that wavers between psychedelic and brutal.
Lantern was the only other group recently that waded into these kind of sounds (I enjoyed Below a lot actually) however Zealotry prove immediately in the opening three part voyage “Avatars of Contempt” that they’ve captured something important regarding such a classic, intimidating style.
Add the unpolished, smokey glaze to the wonderfully craggy material and it really makes this sound straight out of the ’90’s in a most brilliant way — somehow missed and warped to 2013 to renew faith in pitted, engaging death.
Read my full review here.
♦ ♦ | ♦ ♦
♦ ♦ | ♦ ♦
I just couldn’t shake this. Haapoja’s new one does a whole lot to build on their already alluring sound from their EP, and it’s really an album that can only be described as infectious.
A furtherance of their bizarre concoction of black metal and groovy, spindly hardcore, Finland’s Haapoja continue reaching past the flocks who half-heartedly approach the style and leave a record that is absorbing but light, over it’s short lifespan getting progressively more gripping, intricate, and wild.
Haapoja’s noxious vibes have spread quickly since their debut EP and leave none untouched by their whipping tentacled hardcore on this excellent album. It was just pressed on vinyl too by Nerve Altar Records so if you’re like me you’ll want to grab this one.
♦ ♦ | ♦ ♦
Grindcore | VARIOUS | Nice Dreams Records / Halo of Flies
Otherwise known as “all Six Brew Bantha splits in 2013.” Everything they were involved with this year ended up kicking ass and these three splits were at the top, playing with three killer grind groups that were also hard at work all of 2013.
First place is the Water Torture split for two reasons: one is the killer material on SBB’s side, the mincing fury like “Bred Into Enslavement,” “Struggle To Exist,” “Manipulated Public” which is crazy frenetic — all of it in fact is memorable and hectic. It’s a lot dirtier in production compared to the others which is nice, kicks coming through as clear as the snare. Pummeling on every since level.
And two: Water Torture’s side is a special treat even for their on-point approach. First time involving a guitarist and it makes a big difference. It sticks out from their already gutting drum-double bass slaughter and combining the surgical mayhem and blistering percussion of SBB’s side makes for a hellish split hard to ignore.
Next two splits tied because really there’s nothing I didn’t like more or less about either contributions, it’s just the Water Torture side on the other one put shit over the top. I think the stuff SBB give up on the Agitiate split like “Mandatory Termination” might be their best yet. Close resemblance to the eviscerating locals Shooting Spree sometimes, though not as psychotic.
Then the Suffering Mind split with tracks like “Game Show” and “Confined” continuing the frantic snare blasts which I’ve heard live for sure; brilliant brutality. Anyway these were so good.
My full review for the Agitate split on Equivoke, as is the Water Torture split.
♦ ♦ | ♦ ♦
I think I enjoy front to back Passages Into Deformity more than a lot of their stuff, slightly more than Chapters of Repugnance. Thoroughly that is, from back to front without a pause for breath which I find more difficult with the brutal shit these days. And this is brutal.
Defeated Sanity have done something just different enough to soften the all-consuming abrasive bulldozing so as to make stick longer, and not just the more fancy intro/outro additions. All with no decrease in wound-cauterizing, sanity shattering riff abuse.
Their current configuration is clearer than past efforts, more easily consumed but obviously not without injury. The cycling of vocalist may not mean too much but at this point they’ve whet their talents practically as far as possible, each installment now being an exercise in application of their deformed skills in new shapes.
“Frenzy”, “Lusting For Transcendence”, “Verblendung”, “The Purging” have been particularly strong in their aftertaste. Especially the monster “Perspectives”, with little quirks in the madness like 2:36 in the quick taps on the cymbal during the one channel breakdown. So sick.
Pulverizing drums (wicked clear, nice snare, kicks don’t kill everything), the bassist’s presence is much more spooky when left floating and his spiraling licks are as blinding as the guitarists, who carries out some exquisite seizuring rhythms and breakdowns (“Naraka” and “The Purging”) — this is the aspect that’s always attracted me to Defeated Sanity. Passages Into Deformity sates my desires well
Chapters of Repugnance got a nice vinyl pressing and I’m hoping Passages Into Deformity gets a similar treatment. The sonic surgery on this record is deserving. One of my favorites this year.
♦ ♦ | ♦ ♦
I had not been too familiar with Bolzer until I was asked to review Aura for Cvlt Nation, however I was pleasantly surprised and impressed with the ethereal carnage that this duo churned out.
Aura is creative and even bright stepping confidently from their first demo into a lavished extension of that style. Each song brings a luster, overall it’s planetary force colliding with a strong foundation of the dark and writhing old-school leaving an extremely reactive field of debris for death metal fans to be exposed to, indeed drawn into, in their intoxicated dazes. I’m gladly a part of this shambling mass.
Yes the sounds contained within Aura occupied my attention quite often this year and it seems a lot of others too which is awesome, these guys deserve the attention I’m a little surprised by how ecstatic the reaction has been, as spirited and lush as all three songs are
Read my full review on Cvlt Nation.
♦ ♦ | ♦ ♦
Why this is missing from so many year end lists is a little inexplicable. Antinumerology is the latest metamorphosis for Mitochondrion and it is fascinating. If you’ve been aware of them at all recently then this is not surprising.
The three songs here are debilitating, “Insumation” being the climax that injects pestilent euphoria into their cataclysmic imaginings, while the invigorating procession through 137 and the title track take you further into their spell.
Born from intense death meditation Antinumerology is not a 7” to cast off as extra material as it is an integral step for Mitochondrion following the aural oppression of Parasignosis, and easily competes with LPs from veterans and rising stars flawlessly this year.
Read my full review on Summoning Spirits.
♦ ♦ | ♦ ♦
Down-tuned and razor sharp Gets Worse had just as strong a showing this year with their two short EPs as they did last year with their 10”.
First it was Year of The Bastard that ripped tendons from bone and then their 7” Negative gouged huge chunks out of the remaining tissue. Insanely brutal and soaked in bass these two release had me from the outset by stomping me so hard I was permanently stuck to their boots.
Read my full review on Equivoke.
♦ ♦ | ♦ ♦
Brutal Death Metal | SPAIN | Willowtip
Was there ever any doubt this would be on my year end list? It really should be on most of them even just as a mention. This is how you take your time on something that is anticipated and end up not disappointing, but exceeding expectations without becoming tired and forgotten in the interim.
All I can say is this is fucking really, really brutal — but with the smart much more on display even considering the Quasineutrality EP. Furnished with unfathomable convolutions meshed with barbarity, all this has by its side a smaller focus on coherence and, weirdly, a sliver of ’melody’ that arises in some of the final moments of the tracks. “The Nonlocality Trilemma” or better yet “Tautochrone” and “Xenoverse Discharger” have brief examples of this, the last two are potentially my favorite songs here.
Just like Spawn of Possession’s Noctambulant blossomed orchestrally in it’s technical daze Exodromos shows Wormed at a new peak that separates them a little from the classic sound of Planisphaerium without losing anything significant that made them so strong.
The prequel concept album Exodromos is a crypto-xenological, dissonant slamgasm straight from the most glaring fantasies of Wormed that I returned to for hallucinations again and again. There’s not much they could do to tighten this one up. I’ve heard complaints about production and the drumming but really even those criticisms, if valid, are minor when you’re being invaded by the alien spores “Tautochrone”, “Multivectoral Reionozation”, “Darkflow Quadrivium”, “Techkinox Wormhole”.
The time they took to plot this path was considerable, and it worked out better than I could’ve imagined. Now all we need is a new Human Mincer record…
♦ ♦ | ♦ ♦
A choking stench hard to place. While undeniably hideous in its amorphous crawl the new Grave Upheaval record is not getting much love in the year end lists. As I’ve said there’s a temptation to go either way on this if you don’t sit down with it long enough or at least with a concerted effort.
Sour and jarring is its writhe, it is debilitating for the whole duration. Two monster tracks seal them away at the end until the next recording while each inscribed note from the opening epochal psalm onward inhume the listener in untold misery.
I’m glad I was able to hold on to what I heard them perform at ROD III 2011 because it definitely has helped me when trying to wrap my mind around it. Those moments ended up being key columns of this death-doom vault and they reverberate strongly now and make this uncomfortable struggle more soothing.
Not all I had expected but undeniably asphyxiating in the overflow of charnel madness that it draws.
Read my full review here.
♦ ♦ | ♦ ♦
One man mutilating ears with loathing and dissonance, Pornography released two short pieces and a compilation of their work thus far in 2013 which caught me off guard in November. This collection holds a remarkable miasma that will catch you off guard at each step regardless of a common thread between them — and in the end it is a great cathartic demonstration.
I’ve learned quite a lot about the circle Anderson is carving out with his colleagues and it seems that the well is deep and dark, Pornography just being one that catches me the most: its stark and violent. The lyrics are vicious reminiscent of power electronics, and the vocals amplify this just as much as the mangled but persistent guitars which make up a large portion of the havoc musically. You’d think it would be unsustainable but absolutely not and I encourage you to get on this.
Read my full review here.
♦ ♦ | ♦ ♦
I did not get around to this until late in winter. I have not heard Master, We Parish yet. In fact when The Body came out with their sophomore (first one I heard) I was a late believer in that too. Both them and Terra Tenebrosa released easily mistakable albums of which I did not feel too much on the first couple of tries. Eventually I warmed up to The Body, and what really helped was seeing them live at Gilead Media Fest in 2012.
In the end that record had charmed me well enough. Their collaboration with Braveyoung was also an interesting, if uneven, experiment with a group I love. Christs, Redeemers is much more consistent than All The Waters Of The Earth Turn To Blood and with that I was wasted by each notch it left. Every song leaves an impression on you but one that is not just from jarring oddities. It’s been surprising to me how much this ended up in my rotation between the blasts and grind late in the year.
The heavy aspects are significantly increased and spread, sometimes more in line with Horse Lattitudes or Thou than Godflesh or Khanate. Those influences never drop though. The pacing is perfect, the blend of bassy doom and industrial, symphonic, or drone stipes congeals to a hellish sludge of which cannot be removed from memory.
♦ ♦ | ♦ ♦
Perhaps the most pleasant surprise-submissions early in 2013, indeed of the year. A Maze of Evenings is an unclassifiable oddity from Night Heir, a marginal collective that wants to rest on the side of avant-garde almost black metal but whose beautiful and intangible nature does not allow it to capitulate to one channel of creativity.
A Maze of Evenings is the second successful result of their intriguing approach and one which I was so pleased and excited to hear. The continued song craft with multiple friends and musicians has culminated in an inspiring and deeply enjoyable record that does not lock them down nor abandon challenge in their sound.
It’s been a regular occurrence in my playlist this year and even as I become more familiar with it it hasn’t lost its enigmatic charm.
Finally, an update on this unique record: A Maze of Evenings has been properly mastered (ala James Plotkin) and this new changes things subtly, refreshing its already distinct nature further into the new year. I’m enjoying it. A Maze of Evenings will also be incorporated into a CD and LP release potentially a but more certainly a self-released tape, as their first album was.
♦ ♦ | ♦ ♦
Svart Crown’s Profane was a big surprise entry in the black and death metal arena, stealing shit away from bands like Gorguts and Ulcerate for me this year quite easily.
Now sure in the context of those two aforementioned bands and their influence or prior stellar releases, Profane isn’t as impressive or creative by comparison. However they certainly in my view were more on top of their game this year than bands that are expected to, and usually do, shine the brightest in this vein of death metal.
Framing shit like that may make some perceive Profane as ‘the best recreation’ of said style but I don’t mean to say that. Svart Crown have a strong, noticeable style even compared to the decrepit legends like Deathspell Omega, Gorguts, etc. that has matured to a point where in Profane we find deeply satisfying, creative, entrancing death metal that escapes the label of copycat or gimmick.
One of records I enjoyed the most this year. I’m not sure if their next record will be as good as this but Profane is one fine record for the death metal archives.
♦ ♦ | ♦ ♦
For some aguably À l’Âme Enflammée, l’Äme Constellée and La mort du Soleil could be switched or grouped as one big triumph for 2013; on some level they’re involved at least with live stuff. Yes these two are hard to choose between but I felt something stronger in Gris this year.
They follow their 2007 opus with a slight change in their course, the word ‘blossoming’ comes to mind when I sit entranced by À l’Âme Enflammée, l’Äme Constellée, the primacy of two souls who intimately sculpting this burst of cosmological depression still leads. Absorbing growth and continuance of the most lush depressive textures you could hope for in this niche are experienced here.
The use of violins, cellos, and pianos only altered slightly from their prior classic while the vocals stray from a similar standard they set (more in front), and yet the change leaves a considerable wake. This is more cohesive, tangibly thicker passion, increasing and more expansive swells. It’s dense and fervent.
I could not tear myself away from these two distinct albums but in the end Gris and À l’Âme Enflammée, l’Äme Constellée was what did it for me; not just the material but the production (more low end), pacing the arrangement, the flood of feelings that burst through when it’s coursing smoothly forward .
Gorgeous, conquering, despondent.
Among the choice darlings of hazy black metal this year it seems this fine work and it’s counterpart were largely neglected in 2013 discussion; even on the honorable mentions section of lists. It’s unfortunate and puzzling. Regardless this is a stunning example of black metal with edge, innovation, and beauty and it was something significant in 2013.
♦ ♦ | ♦ ♦
Grindcore/Hardcore | USA | Halo of Flies
I’m obligated to mention Moksha in this write-up, and it’s not begrudgingly. A record that is venomous. Cloud Rat have worked just outside of the edges of traditions in grind as well as other genres, in a careful but moody fashion that snaps necks it catches attention so well — abrasive to radiant.
I mentioned when I wrote on the Monomaniac series that, like Haapoja, Cloud Rat’s contribution on that series was more enthralling to me even than some of the new recordings on Moksha however that’s not entirely the case.
Much like Dephosphorus the shimmering, bleak cloud they reside in grows more comforting with time, and Moksha delivers exactly what they offered there and more. The guitar tone is intoxicating, atmosphere igniting vocals grate off all defenses. Huge fervent eruptions like “Aroma”, “Widowmaker”, “Inimitable Sea”, “Infinity Chasm” all stick out among the torrent of emotional, melodic fury.
In fact that last one gives me some big waves of nostalgia much like Narrows’ “Marquis Lights“, big time. It’s part of what had this record sticking to me. The sudden doomy “Caisse” is another terribly awesome song, that and others have aspects of Cowers abrupt carefree sound in between aggressions. It’s impressive the balance of the blusy, softer appeals that barely grace this record change shit well (“Infinity Chasm”, “Needle and Damage”) while there’s always an creeping animosity somewhere in the background.
Cloud Rat brought a terrific thirty minutes of dynamic hardcore in 2013. Still one of the only records I don’t have a physical copy of yet (working on that).
♦ ♦ | ♦ ♦
Antediluvian have haunted my year end list two years in a row, and while Through The Cervix of Hawaah is more memorable the newly unearthed scrolls of ancient death metal that is Logos continues warping the boundaries of their own dimension. The record benefits so much from being on vinyl compared to the early cassette rips, as the full terror of the forsaken knowledge they have transcribed herein is able to be more fully understood.
The difference on Logos is only minor but it seems to be weighty in further convoluting their labyrinth-like sound. Despite this songs that do jump out at me after many passes would be such as “Transept of Limbs” which begins in haunting, eerie air and sprials into maddening turmoil that at this point is unmatched; throwing in a creative solo even.
“On the Tree of Life and Death”, “Nuclear Crucifixion” and “The Ash and the Stars” compete with what is heard on Through The Cervix of Hawaah I would say especially the latter. I think why I like this a little more than some others who’ve reviewed it is I also really enjoy their Revelations in Excrement material, and to me this feels like an expansion of that small trench within the widening canyon they’ve created. “Beyond Diurnal Winds” especially by it’s finish pushes this connection closer while “Death Meta” shows they are not done with Under Wing of Asael.
Upsetting and impervious death metal with few challengers. More difficult to enjoy than their previous record Logos seems to be another gem conspicuously absent from a number of lists, not that it’s necessary. Unheard of instrumentation, skill, discipline and creative potency. Antediluvian’s process will continue to hurl whoever intercepts them into a gulf of untold creation and destruction imperceptible to those unworn of their particular psychosis.
♦ ♦ | ♦ ♦
Yes this is the peak of malformed and dark death metal in 2013. The record that just blew me away while shutting out veterans like Portal was this tremendous effort by Abyssal. Not only was their first record surprisingly mature and promising it seems Novit Enim Dominus Qui Sunt Eius has surpassed it by eons in disorienting, asymmetrical catastrophic death metal.
It could be called horrifying in some moments. It captured my attention so much, and eroded my sanity so quickly, that I feel guilty neglecting them last year. Refined but still deliciously incoherent, oppressive and angular all with atmosphere that contorts and swarms in intoxicating fashion.
Definitely my favorite death metal release this year, an early knockout and one that was narrowly beaten for top spot on my list.
Read my full review here.
♦ ♦ | ♦ ♦
I think this is how you do it guys. Seattle’s shape-shifters Great Falls understand and wow do they demonstrate how to etch out cacophony-driven sludgy hardcore.
Accidents Grotesque feels like a Hydra Head classic that got lost many years back, now transported to vaporize us with complex and flesh-rending music. Music which only they, Yautja and a few others are properly synthesizing these days it seems.
The bizarre collection of influences and dissonant aural pleasure fed through a possessed Breather Resist/Crowpath-tinted lens is mesmerizing; songs like ‘”God Arms the Patriot”, “Bruxism” or “Milk From Treason” are frenetic while having a certain ‘off’ old-school Rorschach feeling.
Other times (or simultaneously) we see Great Falls have perfected their ability to slide smoothly into the staining, slowing muck of mangled doom — “Replace Me With Fire”, “The Forgiveness Machine”, and “A Parade of Horribles” all flatten in this regard. It’s hard to recover from their girth and malice.
It’s a significant record of 2013 and I’m really glad I caught it. Sweltering, bitter, doomy, noisy; Accidents Grotesque did not get enough attention last year but I’m still consuming it in heavy quantities and cringing with pleasure.
An easy, exciting pick for a top spot on any list. Read my full review here.
♦ ♦ | ♦ ♦
Alright. I couldn’t make a straight division between these two at the end of the day, so yes I’m cheating.
Collectively, the three way clusterfuck between ACxDC, Magnum Force, and Sex Prisoner joined much later by Frail Vessel’s hull-shearing slab of volatility kicked my ass the hardest in 2013. In only thirty three minutes combined the year was over with only Great Falls making for serious competition when deciding this.
If you wanted me to be more specific about which aspect of either release pushed it to the front I would say this. First on the three way split is the dumbfounding addicitive quality of each song, and smooth play-through as all three bands bring ‘A’ material that links together naturally. The sheer crushing nature of each ACXDC neighborhood wrecker (“Crux” and “Loathe”) or the lowfi bristling repugnance of Magnum Force had me locked down.
But while each band is in high gear I’d give it to Sex Prisoner for getting the best of everyone in this spot on my list. I have their first 7” and their State Property — while both are great, it seems the less than four minutes they’re responsible for here is what they have to surpass: it’s simply unstoppable, scathing raw power. ‘Crossfaded’ might be the best twenty seconds of 2013. Each second of their third on this record is amazing.
To Frail Vessel’s contribution to this spot you may like to read my review. Their acrid, frenetic powerviolence aggression is intimidating and wraps a more ruthless formula tightly beneath, only revealed on repeated listens and making their poisonous dialect more magnetic, harsh and addicitive.
Needles to say what this new eastern-Canadian four piece recorded on this demo pressed on my mind since it was made aware to me this year. A grind demo that is simultaneously raw and thoughtful while not necessarily complex and contains all the impact of meteor. The bramble patch production adds a higher level of severity to the music too.
Even if Frail Vessel ends up being short-lived like Obacha and SKUFF I’m glad the band existed at all because in 2013 I was stunned by this demo.
| ♦ ♦
ACXDC/Magnum Force/Sex Prisoner – Split 10” + Frail Vessel – Demo 2013
Great Falls – Accidents Grotesque
Abyssal – Novit Enim Dominus Qui Sunt Eius
Antediluvian – LOGOS
Cloud Rat – Moksha
Gris – À l’Âme Enflammée, l’Äme Constellée
Svart Crown – Profane
Night Heir – A Maze Of Evenings
The Body – Christs, Redeemers
Pornography – Pornography (This Is A Collection)
Grave Upheaval – Untitled
Wormed – Exodromos
Gets Worse – YOTB EP / Negative EP
Mitochondrion – Antinumerology
Bolzer – Aura
Defeated Sanity – Passages Into Deformity
Water Torture / SBB – Split + Suffering Mind / SBB – Split + AGITATE / SBB – Split
Haapoja – Haapoja
Zealotry – The Charnel Expanse
Sombres Forets – La Mort du Soleil
Death Engine – Amen
Unru – Demo MMXIII
Baptists – Bushcraft
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
The list of misfit records. What follows is a short examination of some records missing in action from my list, I guess those albums of 2013 that were hard to miss but while reading my shit list someone thought “where the fuck is it?”
Plus other loose end topics: the main albums I was on the fence about, those I heard but found a little disappointing or was pretty indifferent towards, and then a summary of the records I just didn’t get to — or were on my radar but I kept slipping on.
One thing I’ll make note of before specifics sorrounds a couple labels that weren’t as prominent in my spin cycle. An example that might be a little surprising? For me almost everything I heard from Profound Lore (a label that is usually damn solid/consistent) I found I was indifferent towards or disappointed with. You can go down the descending list on their bandcamp page and of the bands that released something new (Castevet, SubRosa, A.M.S.G., Vasaeleth, Grave Miasma, Altar of Plagues, Portal, etc.) did nothing for me or I didn’t feel motivated to listen to.
To a much lesser extent this was the case for a few others I noticed. Dark Descent is a label that I do love and has grown considerably with a ton of excellent bands and in many previous years various records demanding my attention. This year was the first in the 3 consecutive ones where there was a slow down of sorts for me.
The flip here is that unlike the above example there were a few records I did like when I finally got around to hearing thrm, like the new Temple Nightside, Mitochondrion, and Lantern releases. The change probably just has to do with me more than the quality coming out of Dark Descent; though I didn’t hear all of it.
Deathwish Inc. is another which didn’t do much for me this year despite a plethora of records, though none I was anticipating too feverishly. There were some big albums on Relapse I was anticipating: True Widow, Ulcerate, Exhumed come to mind right away. I’m reluctantly inclined to say Gilead Media just barely slipped into this category as well: as you’ll see below two big records I was pretty stoked about (Northless and Fell Voices) early on left me a little wanting, while I just didn’t get around to the new Ash Borer or Lychgate.
On another track there’s albums from bands I’m trying to still diving into, but often they have such volume in releases and contortion in their style it’s hard to keep track. Examples would be the ever persistent in change and extremely creative Jute Gyte who every year releases something most ‘progressive’ or experimental black metal acts wish they could emulate; easily taking the crown from the likes of Krallice of ever Castevet.
The first of his recordings I heard was Impermanence and I can’t remember if I heard it from Lurker or The Inarguable, but it was challenging. This year he had three records of varying peculiarity and unconventional bends: Labyrinthus, Metonym, and Discontinuities. Each of them bring out some very unique, pretty, jarring, sometimes aggressive and ambient psychedelic ‘black’ metal. That’s loosely describing it as each record mutates in vast ways.
Tormenting through rich and abrupt phase switches and thoughtful composition embedded throughout I just wish I had been less reluctant to spend time warming up; I guess a bitter taste was left after disappointment from Krallice’s successive releases. Discontinuities was the record I pushed myself towards most if you would like to know, the most ‘straightforward’ of the three with Metonym being anything but in the context of what you might expect. There’s noteworthy, intellectual arrangements that will haunt you on all three but I didn’t spin all of them last year.
I’ve triied harder to pay attention to Kayo Dot as well and like Maudlin of the Well I’ll regret being so late to an interesting party. There were some noise records I’m only just getting to like Pharmakon’s Abandon, as well as several Blue Sabbath Black Cheer tapes and an offering from Black Pillar.
One other example I could give that’s just as bizarre and challenging but more one dimensional is Yzordderrex, a monstrous and callous abrasion parading as dissonant doom metal. Since 2012 this project has been rumbling in chaos and grime spewing multiple heaps of its rotten fruit on the internet.
Three records which I tried to get to but the entry toll is pretty harsh and I had interests slightly elsewhere in 2013. Speulcheral is the one record I spent a little time with and felt more comfortable coming back to. Like tectonic plates in density, ruptured and blunt in its taxing playthough. Certainly not for those with a sensitive ear.
The “On The Fence” list is a little wishy-washy I suppose. Some of these I didn’t spend enough time with prior to the year ending, and some slipped or were overshadowed by other records or their own recent past; leading them to be excluded from the previous lists.
- Ævangelist – Omen Ex Simulacra
Black/Death Metal| USA | Debemur Morti Productions
I really just did not spend enough time with this considerabe heap of malefic atmosphere. Omen Ex Simulacra indulges in the same horrific ethereal essence but feels more spread out and patient in it’s building of dread and confusion. At least compared to their debut record
It’s intimidating and dense even on the few chances I’ve absorbed it it refuses to make it easy. I’ve sent perhaps two full plays so far which has caused me to leave it out of my recent rotation just based on time. I’m making a concerted effort to get more doses.
- Ulcerate – Vermis
Technical Death Metal| NEW ZEALAND | Relapse
So some who know a little about my tastes might have noticed that the new Ulcerate record was nowhere to be found on my year end. Vermis was an album I expected to listen to a lot but didn’t, partially because it was overshadowed by other records but for me that resulted from my being on the fence about Vermis when I heard it.
I actually enjoy most of what Ulcerate put into this. I think much of what my tepid disappointment stems from is that there’s a few moments on Vermis where I hear a very strong protrusion from the Everything is Fire corner of their psyche (like “Clutching Revulsion”), and I expect them to go further into that; perhaps wrongly.
On the other end of things I found my time spent with a few other twisted death records took time away from this. Ulcerate still craft tense death metal like few out there — the material isn’t lacking, all the skillful musicianship is rewarding on a couple levels as always. They balance atmosphere with brutality well again and to some degree are still creeping into a slightly different amalgamation than previously heard. I just wasn’t feeling it as strongly as prior albums
- Fell Voices – Regnum Saturni
Atmospheric Black Metal | USA | Gilead Media / Antithetic Records
As with Omen Ex Simalcra I couldn’t listen to this as much as I had anticipated myself wanting to. The difference is I found Regnum Saturni to be a little bit sparse and stretched considering the length, no where near as impactful as what I hear on their Untitled record from 2011.
However I would like to give it more time because again I really have only sat down intently with it a handful of times. I am enjoying VILKACIS, so take that for what its worth because the drummer’s clearly doing some excellent shit by himself.
- True Widow – Circumambulation
Doom Metal/Shoegaze | USA | Relapse
I don’t really have to much of a problem with Circumambulation. There’s just not much moving in comparison to As High As The Highest Heavens And From The Center To The Circumference Of The Earth which is solid, though not mind blowing.
Really soft, heavy, drugged beauty that I love and Circumambulation has a lot of that to be sure; not like a drastic change or anything occured or is needed. I guess my shift in focus towards faster genres this year just left me wanting more unfairly.
- Northless – World Keeps Sinking
Sludge / Doom Metal | USA | Gilead Media
I was very excited about the new Northless album. Clandestine Abuse was deeply purgative, volatile and beautiful. It was also a big surprise too that I caught late. World Keeps Sinking just doesn’t reach that same level at a consistent rate across each track. There are a couple of tracks that peak back into that tremendous range I enjoyed but it’s not sustained.
It would be absolutely wrong to say that World Keeps Sinking isn’t heavy — as I said there’s a couple of points where, like Ulcerate’s Vermis, they coil into a range I find soothing. There’s plenty of aggressive weight being lugged into steep and ragged shorelines. Examples of this? The title track contains thundering dissonance and tasty furrows that branch into chugging darkness, it’s a big one too that dances a lovely, muck-ridden dance.
“Wither and Escape” is the shortest, and still it is another example where the weight returns from the debut. Slow, brutal, claustrophobic. “Returnless” not only brings in back but steps forward in a way I can get into as well. This one is a swamping deluge of warped and melodic fury that ocasion goes a little more psychedelic in the same amount that it dives deep into the clunky sludgery they love to wallow in.
I do like World Keeps Sinking, my expectations however did ruin my experience initially and left World Keeps Sinking on the sidelines more often in 2013.
I’m still fuckin stoked to see them at Gilead Media Festival later this year.
- Light Bearer – Silver Tongue
Doom Metal / Post-Metal USA | Halo of Flies
As a latecomer to both Fall of Efrafa and Light Bearer’s debut record Lapsus I had different reactions to both stages of these musicians’ creative endeavors. Deeply love Fall of Efrafa coming from a point of wanting to love them but just not enjoying their work many years previous to 2013 — so my position did an about-face.
I was stoked on Light Bearer’s creation and Lapsus was a good return to a similar, albient thematically shifted, sound and atmosphere. I felt it was a little longer than necessary when I originally heard it but upon successive returns I warmed up to it quite a bit. Not as much as something like Inle for instance but my doubts were sated.
With Silver Tongue I find myself having a similar reaction as to the one I originally had to Lapsus. The difference is I think i like the creations, the structures and atmosphere dredged up here more than Lapsus, at least the majority of the time. I still feel one or two songs could have been left to simmer or potentially be left for the next chapter of their tale; just for some breathing room. “Matriarch” is one I felt could have been dropped to the benefit of the record’s longevity, however the title track and “Beautiful Is This Burden” both are the most interesting songs here, and happen to be the longest.
Overall I love that these guys are still around and pushing themselves, and the longest song o this track which is the finale is truly something potent. Again the length had me leaving it on burners further and further back when it came to priorities in 2013 despite my enjoyment.
I plan on writing something on this I just don’t know when.
- Inquisition – Obscure Verses for the Multiverse
Black Metal | USA | Season of Mist
I enjoyed the newest Inquisition record overall it was just swamped over by others in the genre. Arguably Obscure Verses… doesn’t take many steps away from what makes them a pseudo-darling of the black metal undeground so that’s either a big positive or a mark of stagnation for some.
There’s a few moments where it rises to the challenge posed by it’s predecessors like on “Darkness Flows Towards Unseen Horizons” and the riffs at the end, or “Master of The Cosmological Black Cauldron” which is fairly captivating once it gets to the groovy chords.
Another alright record I’m on the fence about.
Disappointing / / Indifference :
Self-explanatory I think. Two I haven’t listed because I’d like to try them again are SubRosa’s More Constant Than The Gods which on the first listen felt like it lost a lot of the radiant gloom that No Help for the Mighty Ones held, and became a little meandering. The other is Batillus’ Concrete Sustain. I loved Furnace‘s debilitating, industrial doom but the follow up felt bland in comparison when I first gave it a spin.
Here’s the rest.
- Deafheaven – Sunbather
Atmospheric Black Metal / Post-Rock | USA | Deathwish Inc.
I have to say I haven’t listened to this more than three times at most and I’m on the indifference train here. I don’t understand the strong reactions on either side of the aisle.
What’s going on in Sunbather isn’t bad — I’m not getting into the “is or is it not trve” discussion — but it’s a little boring in context of the hype around it and similarly the many records from other bands both big and small that play with the brushes they do, but to better (or longer lasting) effect.
Like I mentioned, I like some stuff that manifests in this style but Deafheaven didn’t effect me as it did others especially this year. I much prefer what Gris and Sombres Forets offer.
- Portal – Vexovoid
Death Metal | AUSTRALIA | Profound Lore Records
I know most people laud Outre as their masterpiece but I will forever hold Seepia as the standard for how tumultuous and disturbing Portal can be, with their split with Rites of Thy Degringolade in tow. And yes Swarth in fact returned to some of those sentiments just more legible. I liked it a lot. Vexovoid was the first Portal record I did not immediately check out, and is also the first I’m okay with skipping after having listened to it several times on principle.
Vexovoid is definitely the cleanest of their catalog in terms of production and ease to decipher, I don’t think that’s necessarily why I don’t like it as much as their past stuff but it’s surely a sticking point for some.
A few tracks stand out for me though. “Curtain” is one but not in the same way Portal compositions usually stick out as it felt too ordinary, but it was one moment that was stark and had a good deal of crushing mass thrown around smartly. The same could be said for “Awryeon” and “Plasm” too but more in line with their filth for the latter.
All I can say is I didn’t consume this interdimensional spell as ravenously as I expected to and once I did I was left a little wanting. At this point Impetuous Ritual have the edge.
- Gorguts – Colored Sands
Technical Death Metal | CANADA | Season of Mist
Indifference. I feel bad about it but that’s unfortunately what came to mind three songs into Colored Sands. I did come back to it to give another run at it but nothing stood out like other records did this year. Now it’s not to say From Wisdom To Hate was all that mind blowing either so there was probably a decent disclaimer for what would manifest later — of course the comparisons to Obscura are inevitable with whatever they came up with.
However if you want to argue about how Colored Sands stand as a record just trying to play with where Gorguts’ sound left off than maybe you could make a case and separate their past from how one views the new one. In the context of a very influential split in styles.
I knew halfway into 2013 that Colored Sands would be a mandatory underground idol album to list on most wrap ups of the year, and like the Deafheaven record I simply don’t see the justification for the reactions on either extreme to this one either.
Again, post-Obscura wise it does alright intricate and odd stuff but they themselves, let alone others influenced by them, have made far more impressive monuments with their formulas by now; which makes Coloured Sands feel a little hollow. Existing because it can and people demanded it, not out of the same creative pits that birthed their original sounds.
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One last thing. A few records I just haven’t had the chance to even listen to. I’ll get to them I hope soon and a few I’d like to show up in an article of their own. Not going into detail, this is just a good way to fizzle out.
Wormlust – Feral Wisdom
Cult of Luna – Vertikal
Paysage d’Hiver – Das Tor
Yellow Eyes – Hammer of Night
Russian Circles – Memorial
Vasaeleth – All Uproarious Darkness
Immolation – Kingdom of Conspiracy
Cultes des Ghoules – Henbane
Oathbreaker – Eros|Anteros
Grave Miasma – Odori Sepulcrorum
SUN WORSHIP – SURPASS ECLIPSE
Lycus – Tempest
RAMLORD – CRIPPLED MINDS, SUNDERED WISDOM
Monarque – Lys Noir
Celeste – Animales
Ruin Lust – Ruin Lust
Ash Borer – Bloodlands
Seven Sisters of Sleep – Opium Morals
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