It seems silly to judge the volume and or content of music from one year to another – I’m sure I was feeling the crunch of not being able to adequately catch up with new music this time last year as well, but this year it just feels heavier. Between surprise releases I never saw coming to recommendations from friends and stuff that’s been either on our radar or blasted into the ether by huge marketing pushes, there’s just a weight of distorted riffs sitting on my shoulder no amount of headphone time seems to disperse. Which is not to diminish any of the records I’m about to cover that we haven’t devoted a full review to: there are easily two in this list I’m over the moon for. Nevertheless, for this edition of Nine Circles ov… let’s spend a little time with some early 2018 releases we may not have covered in depth, but are still worth your time.
Alterbeast – Feast: Unique Leader are never looking to reinvent the wheel. They’re just looking to ensure that wheel is blindingly fast, capable of whiplash turns, and full of the wheedly-dee, if you get my meaning. Alterbeast’s second album fits right in, and has just enough thrash and black metal mixed into its technical death roots to prove interesting. Just stay away from that cover of Dissection’s “Where Dead Angels Lie” and you should be okay.
Asunojokei – Awakening: This Japanese hardcore/post/blackgaze hybrid came out of nowhere in 2016 with an EP that landed on my End of Year list. Out of nowhere I got a message saying their debut album was out. Awakening is a refinement of the EP, full of twists and surprises and a keen sense of melody that suffuses every part of the album. Expect this to be discussed further come December.
The Atlas Moth – Coma Noir: I don’t want to tell tales out of school, but I love everything about Coma Noir. It definitely leaves behind the sludge of the previous records, but in its place the band creates a maelstrom of punchy riffs and progressive blasts that hint at a wider, more ambitious future. Tracks like “Galactic Brain” and “The Streets of Bombay” have been in constant rotation for me, and when I want that deep dark mud I can always go back to The Old Believer and An Ache for the Distance.
Astrakhan – Without New Growth Process is Bloodshed: Astrakhan have been carving out an interesting path, each release subtly shifting from the previous. Their new (and sadly final) album stretches into stoner prog in a way their previous work only hinted, moving away from the Baroness worship into something individual and mesmerizing. If this is how Astrakhan is going out, they’re doing it on a supremely high note (pun vaguely intended)…
Fucked & Bound – Suffrage: Sometimes you need that dirty, grimy hardcore punk that’s going to punch you right in the face, then spit on you before taking a boot to the head. Fucked & Bound deliver that in spades. This is a serious dose of scuzzy rage in the best possible way. The 46 seconds of “Dead Bop” may seem like a frenzied blast of fury but you can’t help but notice how ridiculously tight everything sounds. Hardcore punk/metal that can also play the shit out of their instruments? What will they think of next?
ION – A Path Unknown: Atmospheric black metal that stretches the fabric of time. Three tracks, with the shortest at 17 minutes. All praise to the mighty Zyklonius who turned me onto this record, where droning ambient keyboards interplay with frigid cold guitars and drums reverberate in your mind as the music casts its evil spell. This is dense, hypnotic black metal that is exciting and vibrant and broad in reach. In other words, it feels like it was created just for me.
Legend of the Seagullmen – Legend of the Seagullmen: And so it goes: the “supergroup” album I had the least interest in turns out to be the most fun. If nothing else this is a chance to hear Danny Carey prove no one can touch him when it comes to having the the most sublime sense of space and rhythm in metal, and everyone else sounds like they’re having blast on this weird psychedelic hard rock nautical concept album. I have no clue what it’s about, but when I hear the ripping sense of fun and adventure on tracks like “Curse of the Red Tide” and “The Orca” I don’t really care. Legend of the Seagullmen – the band and the album – is an absolute blast.
Master’s Hammer – Fascinator: Holy shit and shame on me: I haven’t given Master’s Hammer a thought since their 1991 debut Ritual. That masterpiece of black metal in no way prepared me for what the band was doing over 25 years later. Fascinator is rife with atmosphere and little nods towards prog and symphonic black metal while simultaneously remaining steadfast to its more traditional roots. This is a wicked little record that should remind folks that the progenitors of the genre are in no way sitting on their laurels. If anything, they’re doing their damndest to forward the sound into new sonic territories.
Necrophobic – Mark of the Necrogram: Honestly, you had me at the title. I have no idea what Necrogram is (I’m old, so I assume it like a candy gram rather than Instagram) but based on the title track I know I want it. Is it black metal? Melodic blackened death? I don’t know, and I don’t particularly care. I know it makes me bang my head a lot, and pump my fist, and wonder what a necrogram is, and if I can eat it or if I should sign up for it. No, really…this is maniacal riff-tastic bludgeoning music that deserves a spin with a loved one.
We have had an abundance of riches in just the first two months of 2018. Are you excited yet? You really should be…it can only get heavier from here.
Until next time, keep it heavy.