Nine Circles ov…Metal on My Horror Break

Nine Cirlces ov.... October 2019

It’s been a hot minute since I’ve been on here talking about metal.  That’s because I’ve been knee-deep in Blood Red, our annual horror series where I watch a crap-ton of movies and write them up for the Letterboxd Hooptober Marathon.  But that doesn’t mean I haven’t been listening to metal – I’ve been trying to keep up with the veritable glut of heavy offerings bestowed upon us so far this Autumn season.  So for this edition of Nine Circles ov… I thought I’d jump in and share nine recent(-ish) releases that have been keeping the blood pumping…as it spurts out a major artery.

Without further ado, let’s dive in. 

Blut Aus Nord - Hallucinogen

It’s a damn shame it got leaked…seriously screw the metal journalism community…but holy hell is Hallucinogen, the latest from Blut aus Nord fantastic.  Creeping in the shadows between their more overtly experimental work and the straight ahead fury of the Memoria Vestusa series, this is heavy on atmosphere, progressive and psychedelia elements.  It’s also a crash course on how to mix heavy reverb without it sounding like a dull wash.  From first track “Nomos Nebuleam” onward, this is one of the best black metal albums in 2019.

bryan beller - scenes from the flood

My history with Bryan Beller goes back to the 90s, having heard and seen his distinctive bass backing up the likes of Mike Keneally, Steve Vai, and the almighty Dethklok.  But his solo work is really where his virtuosity and versatility meet, and nowhere is that better exemplified than on his new double album Scenes From the Flood.  Whether it’s the Satriani-led rock of “Volunteer State,” the explosive metal drive of “Steiner in Ellipses” featuring Dethklok alumni Keneally and Gene Hoglan, or the beautiful cover of Janet Feder’s “Angles & Exits” Scenes From the Flood has proven to be one of my most listened to albums since being released.

ghastly sound - have a nice day

I’ve written about Ghastly Sound before, how they excel at mixing infectious hooks and choruses in a sludgy hardcore roar.  New album Have A Nice Day continues that trend, offering up a steaming plate of nine tracks in just under 30 minutes.  There are hints and traces of alternative rock a la a band like Lo-Pan, but Ghastly Sound put their own unique spin on it, particularly with how they harmonize on the vocal lines.  Listen to the first two tracks, “Bait and Switch” and “We’re All Shadows” and I guarantee you’ll be hooked like I am.

howling giant - the space between worlds

Man, the fuzz tone on “Comet Rider,” the opening track on The Space Between Worlds from Howling Giant, just gets me.  It knows what I like from this progressive hard rock/fuzz/doom/stoner hybrid that bands like Torche do so well, but ups the ante on the groove element to make sure every atom in my body is bopping.  Even when they strip things down like on “Ghosts in the Well” there’s a great sense of movement in the song structure to carry your body along to distant shores of musical bliss.  And that makes it sound, well…a little like things come crushing back into focus on “The River Guide” so don’t worry about a lack of heaviness.

in mourning - garden of storms

There’s not a lot of bands that scratch that particular itch I have when I’m missing (and not listening to) older Opeth.  In Mourning do very well with that mix of progressive death metal meeting somewhere in the corners of the gothic space farmed by bands like Katatonia.  Garden of Storms is lush, exciting, and and deals in great dynamics that leaves plenty of room for aggression on tracks like “Black Storm” and “Heirophant.”  With this album, In Mourning have risen above imitation to became a band I’m sure will be imitated in the future.

kill of rights - sign of the crimes

This is far from a recent release, but ever since I heard it as a kid in 1989 I was obsessed with DBC and their progressive metal masterpiece Universe.  And back then I didn’t have a computer to see whatever became of the band.  Well, sadly founding guitarist Gerry Ouellette died in 1994, but the other guitarist Eddie Shahini turned up in the crossover death/thrash band Kill of Rights.  Released in 2014, Sign of the Crimes is no classic in the vein of DBC’s earlier work, but squint your ears and the riffs spill some of that old school goodness.  It’s rough, it’s coarse, but I can hear the faded echoes of one of my favorite bands, and that’s good enough for me.

kohti tuhoa - ihmisen kasvot

Have you gotten on board the Kohti Tuhoa train yet?  I raved about them in 2017, even putting them on my end of year list.  Their blistering mix of hardcore, punk, and speed metal hasn’t abated in the slightest on new album Ihmisen Kasvot.  I haven’t the vaguest idea what’s being railed against on the Finnish band’s latest, but it sounds angry.  Angry and vital and filled with once again great artwork.  And really: what more do you need from a kickass metal band?

lightning bolt - sonic citadel

Maybe over the years something changes in the wiring of my brain, because the disruptive noise machine that is Lightning Bolt was never anything I could stomach for long periods of time,  but the great thing about music is you grow with it, and apparently I did some growing because Sonic Citadel is a raging party.  From the opening bludgeon of “Blow to the Head” to the insanity of closer “Van Halen 2049” Lightning Bolt are making some killer music, and I’m happily primed to dive into the back catalog and see how much it rips.

sun worship - emanations of desolation

Sun Worship trade in that specific brand of atmospheric black metal that relies on a sharp attack and ominous tones.   Emanations of Desolation is modern and deep and dark and maybe a little more direct than the droning, doom laden tracks of the band’s earlier output. Some of this can be attributed to the more overt presence of guitarist/vocalist Lars Ennsen who already has one of the best black metal releases of 2019 under his belt with his other band, Ultha.  Regardless of the reason, tracks like “Void Conquerer” and the epic closer “Without End” point toward an ascension for the band.

You can miss a lot in a month, and I’m sure there’s at least a dozen we haven’t covered here on the site I missed as well, so let me know what else may have passed me by and I’ll jump on it.

In the meantime, keep it heavy.

– Chris


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