Ketchup, catsup, catch-up…it’s all the same here at Nine Circles: stuff is constantly falling through the cracks. And while we’ll have our annual quarterly round-up from the crew coming shortly, I’ve got enough albums I’ve been digging over the last few months that devoting a Nine Circles ov… column felt natural. All of the selections below came from my own interest in the band – this isn’t a list of the releases we receive as promos I haven’t had time to review (that list would be immense and frightnening).
So let’s see what’s on the menu…
Amiensus – All Paths Lead to Death EP
Ascension, Amiensus’s 2015 record hit all of my metal spots: fierce aggression and melody with a production that engaged the music in a dynamic, expansive sound. If they kept that blueprint forever I’d be happy. Instead, they really ratchet up the black metal anger on this EP and it turns out I’m even happier. All Paths Lead to Death is a cold, nihilistic slice of rage that lashes out even as it retains an imprint of the progressive attitude that made me dig the band in the first place.
Disbelief – The Symbol of Death
Sometimes you don’t know why something hits you a certain way. It’s been a while since I’ve really focused on the kind of technical, chopped up melodic death metal that Disbelief is serving up, but by the the end of second track “The Unsuspecting One” I was hooked. There’s not a lot of surprises to be had on The Symbol of Death, but was the album lacks in innovation it makes up for in execution. Everything is razor sharp and crystal clear. Which is just how I like my death metal.
Dumal – The Lesser God
The Lesser God is fast becoming an EOY contender for me. Dumal exceeds in crafting vicious black metal where the hooks refuse to let go. Tracks like “Fane of the Clandestine” and the epic “Abrahamic Contagion” remind me of what drew me to black metal in the first place: layers upon layers of sound, tremolo lines cutting through the shroud as the drums oscillate between frantic and monolithic. With all the high profile black metal releases piling up, this one should not be left out come end of year.
Gold – Optimist
With all the coverage we gave to the latest (awesome) Anathema record, it might be easy to forget in the beginning of the year another album with a similar title came out. Gold’s follow-up to the stellar No Image is a pulsing liquid beast of a record, brooding and haunting and brimming with a dark worldview. Vocalist Milena Eva weaves her mesmerizing voice between the dissonant chords and throbbing baselines, lending a deeper resonance to quiet, introspective tracks like “Teenage Lust” and the rolling march of opener “You Too Must Die.” There’s nothing optimistic about Optimist, but it draws you in just the same…
Human Future – Flat Earth Blues
The genre of “post-hardcore” is increasingly becoming meaningless as band expand and stretch beyond the confines of the hardcore label. Human Future’s new EP follows a trajectory set on previous release Spectrum with a strong sense of cohesion as they move into a fusion of psychedelic rock, quiet progressive ambience, and what we would typically define as the post-hardcore sound. The quieter moments of a track like “Swine” with its guitar solo only serve to illuminate what a loss it was when the band announced it was disbanding after this release.
Isenordal – Shores of Mourning
Not many bands are working the My Dying Bride approach to doom, and that’s too bad, because when done right you can yield something like the beautiful sadness of Isenordal. Shores of Mourning isn’t all crying and gloom: the opening title track blasts the middle of the song apart with some fierce black metal blasts that complement even as they oppose the female vocals. And that’s the trick to making this work: by contradicting the doom elements with the ferocity of black metal, Isenordal hit on something fresh and engaging, even as you’re shutting off the lights and retreating to the light of a solitary candle.
Mesarthim – Presence EP
I can’t believe we’ve gone three quarters without talking about Mesarthim. 2016 was a massive year for the black metal/blackgaze/electronic musical entity, with at least four releases put out. This year has (so far) only brought us the Presence EP, the concluding musical chapter that started with .- -... ... . -. -.-. . (Absence). This time the tracks incorporate every style within itself as opposed to breaking them out. I’m still trying to figure out if it’s entirely successful (you can see for yourself by checking out the first track, “Eschaton Part 1”), but it’s ambitious, and that’s waists something I like to get behind.
Pagan Altar – The Room of Shadows
You can’t go wrong with the classic NWOBHM doom rock of Pagan Altar. Originally conceived 13 years ago but only recently completed after the loss of vocalist Terry Jones, The Room of Shadows continues the crushing 70s metal sound of past releases The Time Lord and Lords of Hypocrisy. Seriously, this is the bee’s knees when it comes to folk and prog-tinged photo metal. Think the best of Pentagram but less stoned, more into setting your brain on fire with tasty jams. I love this music.
Wretch – Bastards Born EP
The tragedy that precipitated the demise of The Gates of Slumber is laid bare on this EP from Wretch, the new band led by Karl Simon. Re-working two tracks from …Slumber’s final album The Wretch the Bastards Born EP is a tribute to the passing of Jason McCash and J. Clyde Paradis. The solemnity and darkness of both “The Wretch” and “Bastards Born” is palpable with every beat, but things rise from the darkness with the ridiculous groovy virtuoso display of “Basement Dweller” which points to Wretch moving on to greater heights and hopefully the peace they’re seeking.
Like I said, this is just a taste of what I’ve been spinning these past few months. The entire team is getting together to point out some of the missed Q3 records soon, so stay tuned. And if there’s anything here that strikes you, please support the bands using the links above!