Nine Circles ov…Clearing Out the Promo Pile, 2018 Edition

9C ov...Promo Pile

Every leaf that falls from a tree, signaling the beginning of winter and the end of the year feels like it lands as yet another promo I haven’t had a chance to get to yet.  The end of November also marks the time I start flushing out my various end of year lists, creating playlists of contenders and engaging in the massive purge of albums from my computer, releasing albums I’ll never come back to and freeing up precious space on the old hard drive.

But those lost, deserted promos call out to me, begging for another chance to be consumed, to be measured and contemplated.  So think of this edition of Nine Circles ov… as part of the process (or just a cheap sequel to my last post), digging in the dirt for those glints of promise that  – even this late in the year – can change a mind.

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barren altar - entrenched in the faults of the earth

Coming out of California with a number of singles and EPs under their belt, the debut full length from Barren Altar is awash in contradictions that pull together to create a dark, brooding thing of beauty.  Entrenched in the Faults of the Earth moves gracefully from doom to black metal to post-metal and always holds to a dark and melancholic spirit, one that can snap up and bite as in “Call to the Waves” or on lead-off track “Nexus of Grief.”  Blackened doom is inadequate in describing the depths of the earth sound Barren Altar bring on this sonic slab – there’s so much more at play, and well worth the extra listens to discover it for yourself.

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centauro - daño colateral

Summoning some straight up old-school thrash, Mexico’s Centauro feel like they hit upon their secret sauce and have no wish to mess with it.  Daño Colateral is the band’s third full length and it’s chock-a-block with squealing solos, tight palm muted riffs, and that buzzing production that sits in the middle of “shitty” and “brilliant” – in other words, perfect for the music they’re making.  I don’t know what the hell they’re shouting about on rippers like “IDS” and “Sentencia de Muerte” (though I suspect it’s a death sentence) but I know I like it, and it makes me want to punch something and drive fast.  So, mission accomplished, Centauro?

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coldbound - the gale

It’s unfair to listen to Coldbound and dismiss it as just another tired melodic death metal album, nipping at the heels of bands like Insomnium or November’s Doom.  It’s a rare band that is so unique they don’t rip and tear at the unguarded ankles of some band or other: a close look at the stuff I loved this year is no exception.  And yet, despite everything on The Gale working just as it should I remain pretty much unmoved.  There are glimmers of light on tracks like “Endurance Through Infinity” but sometimes hitting all the right buttons still misses the mark.  Your mileage, of course, may vary.

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comess - botched and flailed

Apt title.  Botched & Flailed is the debut from metallic hardcore (I refuse to use the term metalcore for this) band Comess, and it’s a noisy, violent stab in the face.  That may seem an unappealing description, but if you’re the target for this kind of music your head is already buzzing in anticipation.  The chance to get pulverized by the frantic bursts of pain inflicted by tracks like my favorite “Toothskin” the concept of which is frightening enough without the accompanying music is enough to recommend to anyone needing a barrage of riffs aimed straight for your gut.

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fight the fight

Fight the Fight bring a kind of music you can anticipate a second before it happens.  Slick and polished, the Norwegian band’s debut LP Fight the Fight is not necessarily paint by numbers metalcore of a kind that would feel right at home back in the mid 00s, but it’s close…painfully so.  Heavily processed guitars measure out precise power chords galore as hardcore verses spear into anthemic sing-along chorus.  Songs like “The Edge” feel constructed rather than written, and while there’s no denying the band’s penchant for earworms, there’s no denying a lack of gripping material, either.

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good tiger - we will all be gone

All I knew about Good Tiger was a Canto Corey put out way back in 2015 about a massive crowd-funding this group composed of ex-members of The Faceless, TesseracT, and The Safety Fire achieved.  Three years later the band have released their second album We Will All Be Gone and its progressive alt rock leanings recall more emo driven rock bands, but the musicianship and sharp songwriting keep it from wallowing in that particular pool.  For me it clicked with the driving “Salt of the Earth” where the heaviness is offset by a truly soaring chorus.  Further on, the percussion really makes its presence known on “Just Shy” and the brief instrumental “Cherry Lemon.”  It’s not necessarily my thing, but Good Tiger does what they do really, really well.

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nocturnal graves - titan

Doesn’t matter what genre; there’s something in the water in Australia that consistently leads to interesting bands.  Nocturnal Graves have been playing some straight up brutal black metal for a while now, and new album Titan injects some slower paced atmosphere in with its more death-inspired attack and the results sound fantastic…even when the songs aren’t all that great.  Shorter tracks like the punishing “Roar of the Wild” and “Souls Tribulation” are as good as anything put out by anybody this year, and while the longer songs aren’t bad at all, they don’t pack quite the same level of intensity.

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the secret - lux tenebris

A minute into Lux Tenebris, the comeback EP from Italian black/grind outfit The Secret and I knew it: this was the kind of “extreme” metal blogs love to tout to the heavens.  And as snarky as I want to be about that, a minute later I was  singing the same tune.  Sludge and crust cover some gnarly black metal and doom elements: a far cry from the 1-2 minute blasts of blackened grief the band were previously known for.  Opening track “Vertigo” feels the least consequential (odd for an opening track), but both “The Sorrowful Void” and especially closer “Cupio Dissolvi” are brutal highlights for the year.

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WuW

“Nothing Will Be Spared” is the translation for Rien ne nous sera épargné, the debut from dark instrumental band WuW.  Combining an intriguing mix of classical and avant-garde jazz with their particular take on black metal has the feel of cinema.  It’s a bleakly gorgeous journey that evokes exactly the kind of setting on the album artwork.  The fact that the album was released by Prosthetic is shocking – All That Remains this ain’t.  Every song transports you to a dark recess, but that final track, “À l’écart des chemins fatigués de nos habitudes” is unrelenting in its death-like beauty.

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Revisiting and finding gems like Barren Altar, The Secret, and WuW are part of why despite the deadlines and constant crush of commitments I love being a part of this site.  Will these albums change my gestating end of year lists?  Tune in next month to find out.

In the meantime, keep it heavy.

– Chris


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