Circle Pit: Albums We Missed, Q1 2018


From time to time we all get together as a team and discuss some of our favorite albums we missed covering at release time. Whether due to time slipping away from us or whatever the case may be, we miss them. Well, now that we’ve just passed the end of March, we are proud to bring you some overlooked highlights from the first quarter. So, without further delay, let’s jump right into it. Albums we missed in Q1 2018. Here. We. Go.

towards atlantis lights

Comprised of members from Pantheist, Aphonic Threnody and Void of Silence pretty much ensure you’re going to get some quality funeral doom, and Towards Atlantis Lights delivers with Dust of Ages.  It harkens back to early 90s Peaceville but sprinkled through tracks like the massive 30-minute “The Bunker of Life” are odd hints of the quieter, melancholic moments of Disembowlment. The music insinuates itself in the back of your head as you listen, and sequencing aside (I’d shift “Bunker of Life” to the end and open with the excellent “Babylon’s Hanging Gardens”) this is a sweet slice of sinister gloom that paired nicely with the winter chill.

– Chris

earthless - black heaven

The surprising thing about the new Earthless isn’t that it’s fantastic (that should come as mo surprise to anyone who’s kept up with the band since Rhythms From a Cosmic Sky), nor is it the fact that Black Heaven features vocals.  It’s that the band has so effortlessly shifted their songwriting to shorter, punchier tunes that work perfectly with their newfound voice.  Tracks like “Gifted by the Wind” and “Electric Flame” have a boogie psychedelic rock vibe that recalls early Grand Funk Railroad while remaining thoroughly modern and tripped out for stoners.  As musicians everything is still impeccably choice and savory.  This is hitting me in a similar fashion to last year’s The City That Always Sleeps by Biblical, and that turned out to be my #2 album of 2017 so, yeah…expect to see this pop up again toward year’s end.

– Chris

sojourner - the shadowed road

Sojourner had a solid entry in the atmospheric black/folk metal genre with 2016’s Empires of Ash, but it wasn’t something that called for a lot of revisiting. That is completely changed with The Shadowed Road.  The reliance on tired and well-worn genre cliches are gone, and instead a renewed focus on tightening the songwriting has led to a beautiful sounding album that stands out as opposed to settles in with its peers.  “Titan” displays everything that’s great about this album in one track, mixing instruments and styles naturally and effectively.  Chloe Bray’s ethereal vocal contributions mesh nicely with the harsh screams, but it’s never a pull between conflicting styles.  Sojourner have hit a great stride with The Shadowed Road and if the genre interests you at all I’m assuming you’re already digging this as much as I am…

– Chris

Ancst - Ghosts of the Timeless Void

Ghosts of the Timeless Void can be thought of as Ancst 2.0.  Down from two vocalists to one and replacing the drum machine that powered the band along with the decidedly flesh and blood Mihai, Ancst have used these changes to accentuate the best parts of their sound and create what is easily their best album yet.  The human element of the rhythm section adds an organic element to the band’s sound, and Mihai does an excellent job of keeping up with the breakneck pace the band’s songs are known for.  The balance between pissed off hardcore and soaring, melodic black metal leans more towards the hardcore aspect on this album, but the change is refreshing, and the fist-swinging grooves the band locks into here are worth the price of admission alone.  For a band that can’t stop outdoing themselves, this is another triumph.

– Vincent

Recode the Subliminal - Disconnected

When it comes to things unrelated to black metal, I have three other genres that I love and I am always looking to listen to: symphonic metal (with some caution), progressive metal, and melodeath. Because I never really got into death metal, its more orchestral and melodic subgenres became my preferred listening choice; thus, whenever something crops up, I am always interested in what it sounds like. In this vein, Recode the Subliminal is a band plays melodeath with a penchant for the progressive, which is always a nice touch. Their 2016 debut, The Cost of Every Man, was excellent, so I looked forward to their next release with bated breath. Disconnected, their follow-up, emphasizes their melodeath sound and have reached what I call Sybreed territory: they have decided to conceive this album as a concept album inspired by the Deux Ex video game series. From augmentation to introspection, Disconnected walks the fine line between electronic influences and their metal framework, striking a balance between each part. I expect more from this band in the coming future, but, in the meantime, this album has staying power and definitely one I will be listening to for a while.

– Hera

The Sword - Used Future

Let’s just kill this right here and now; if you’re still pissed The Sword moved away from their stellar Age of Winters metal on High Country get over it. Period. I’ve loved this band from the beginning and still do. And, I’ll be the first in line to admit High Country was a bit disjointed but give them some credit, it was their first foray into 70s classic rock, R&B groove and still just a hint of their harder edge. But on Used Future all those disjointed edges have been smoothed and a keener sense of self emerges. “Deadly Nightshade” reminds us of the harder edge but is laced with a ‘deadly’ groove while “Sea of Green” introduces a rhythmic soul swagger better than anything on High Country. And then there’s the title track that offers a mean Kiss lick that’s better than anything Paul and Co. have done in ages. But for those of you still wanting “Barael’s Blade,” check out the opening moments and choruses of “Book of Thoth” then get back to me. All of this is to say that while the band have moved on from being called the next Metallica or whatever you deemed them to be, they could care less and are better for it. Personally, I don’t want a part II or III of the same old thing and The Sword have successfully switched things up and followed their own path. It’s a free country so you can choose whether to like it or not but if you dismiss it solely based on ‘THEY’RE NOT GODS OF THE EARTH ANYMORE’ you’re missing the point.

– Josh

Fu Manchu - Clone of the Universe

I’ve got a long and happy history with Fu Manchu. It started with 1997’s The Action Is Go and reached an apex with 2000’s King Of the Road and literally everything in between and since. This is a band that has yet to put out a bad album or even a lukewarm one and has always brought the good time stoner feels with them. Every album has had that one track that jabs itself into the cortex (see “Weird Beard”) and here “I’ve Been Hexed” is the one that I’ve literally been hexed with. And that’s not a bad thing at all, oh no. No matter the tag you put on this band they rise above it, stoner: sure why not, skate metal: it’s in their roots so why not, desert rock: sure, I mean California Crossing is an open love letter to it but better. Anyway, Clone of the Universe may well be their most ambitious album to date but absolutely does not move away from their identity at all. All the hard grooves are there (“Nowhere Left To Hide”), the aforementioned earworm (“I’ve Been Hexed”), skater stoner metal on the title track and a surprise in the form of “Il Mostro Atomica” which is an eighteen plus minute exploration of the band’s sound since forming in 1985. My ears can hear shades from their debut No One Rides For Free all the way up to their last full length Gigantoid buried in the haze of this track. True it’s long, and especially for this band, but for any tried and true fan this is a gold mine of riding the rails of memory lane but also an exciting look ahead. I’ve gone on way too long but this is a band I have a long and enjoyable history with so I highly recommend you pick this one up. Trust me.

– Josh

Sacred Leather - Ultimate Force

Do you miss the kind of heavy metal that made folks want to be rock stars? Or how about the kind that forces you right back into teenage days of ruling the school parking lot and weekend nights of burning up the strip between your chosen point A and B with a killer soundtrack solely meant to drive you faster and faster? Or maybe you weren’t around in the 80s and need the kind of power and glory Sacred Leather‘s debut Ultimate Force provides. Either way, this Indiana quintet brings an exceptional amalgam of Judas Priest, Manowar and Mercyful Fate but completely and unabashedly make it their own. Anchored by vocalist Dee Wrathchild and bolstered into metal’s stratosphere by the guitar tandem of JJ Highway and Carloff Blitz, the band blisters through “Powerthrust” and “Prowling Sinner” like they were born for maximum shredding with a touch of thrash metal and the NWOBHM at their backs. “Dream Search” is the best power ballad that never happened during the age of power ballads and they cap this thing off with the nearly ten minute epic “The Lost Destructor / Priest of the Undoer” which shares the muscularity of Priest’s Sad Wings of Destiny. Yes, it is that freaking good. If I told you this band consists of membership as varied as Coffinworm, Demiricous and Skeletonwitch (to name a few) would it surprise you? Just goes to show that even the most hardened of metallers have an affinity for the true veins of heavy metal. I share this affinity and am beyond floored by this excellent debut from Sacred Leather. If you’ve somehow missed Ultimate Force don’t wait any longer. Do it. Now.

– Josh

Eryn Non Dae - Abandon of the Self

I love it when a band decides to shed its skin and re-emerges with a uniquely idiosyncratic new style and identity and delivers something special. Eryn Non Dae. joins the company of recent prime examples of such excellence (Obsidian Kingdom, Foscor) with a mesmerizing next level follow-up to its brilliant 2012 release Meliora. While Abandon of the Self jettisons some of the monumental bulk and pummeling crescendos of its predecessor, it ramps up the level of tension, experimentation and atmosphere off the charts. It lulls you into a dreamlike state where walls of lead suddenly become translucent and ephemeral, easily vaporized by tender exhalation, yet ready to regain structural integrity and enormous heft at a blink of an unbelieving eye. Abandon of the Self occupies an unusual place in time and space where unreal and lifelike alternate with a hypnotizing sway.

– Zyklonius

Monolithe - Nebula Septem

Another shapeshifter makes a triumphant return with conceptual lucidity and mathematical precision. On Nebula Septem, Monolithe travels further away from its funeral doom origins and migrates deeper into outer space with renewed vigor and growing hunger for adventure and progression. The beautifully constructed release — composed of seven songs, each of them seven minutes in length — flows gracefully and invokes a palpable sensation of traversing through nebulae with Newtonian determination, while in awe of the surrounding cosmic grandeur and the beauty of the celestial clockwork. Never clinical nor cold, Nebula Septem emits warmth throughout the grand journey of marvel and majesty. Extra kudos for the band for including also a high dynamic range version of the digital album for enhanced immersion and enjoyment

– Zyklonius

Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard & Slomatics - Totems

Spice flows and puffs of exotic psychoactive substances swirl when the intergalactic merchants of psychedelic sludge/doom known respectively as Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard and Slomatics establish a formidable tag-team on their colossal full-length split Totems. And what an atom bomb of leaden atmosphere it is. MWWB bulldozed its way into my heart and 2016 EOY list with Y Proffwyd Dwyll and the two new songs on display continue the unstoppable trajectory fueled by gigantic riffs and tectonic weight and coated with Jessica Ball’s ethereal vocals. The magnificent end result is paradoxically simultaneously spectral and towering, but essentially MWWB. The magic continues on Slomatics’ side, where the trio introduces new evolutionary paths for music that crushes and levitates at once. Rarely do sonic brethren join forces with such curatorial success and flair.

– Zyklonius


The past three months have been littered with dozens of releases that have struck favorably with me, so I could really discuss anything here, from the household names to the more obscure. But I would like to dedicate these few words to the debut full-length effort from Hinayana titled Order Divine. It’s been four years since the Austin, Texas based melodic death/doom group dropped their demo Endlesss, but those years have proven well-spent. While only five-ish additional minutes in length, Order Divine shows significant growth from 2014’s offering. Creativity, skill, and execution have all taken a notable leap forward. While the backbone of this effort follows the same trajectory, the blending of the dense, hollow passages with subtle melody takes the enveloping nature of this sound even further. It becomes even more powerful. More epic. While the previous demo seemed to fly by in an instant, Order Divine listens far more impressively than you would think given the run time. It’s an album that gradually surrounds you with the opening “Gateway” and proceeds to capture your emotional and mental existence until the final notes of “Conduit Closing” delicately fade away.

– cmb

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