Label: Consouling Sounds
The solo project of Josh Graham, IIVII (pronounced “ivy”) have returned from 2015’s outer-space ambient fiction of Colony, with further tales from beyond our world. But whereas Colony told a tale of loneliness that emphasized the void between the stars, new album Invasion draws its fear not from being alone, but from learning that there is some kind of intelligence out there, and it does not come in peace. Though it is more immediate than its predecessor, and its narrative is more obvious, neither of these elements are to the detriment of Invasion, which is a strong continuation for IIVII.
Toward Akina, the second album from Italian band Seventh Genocide, is a pretty distinctive beast. Though the marketing and press releases tag this album as post-black metal, the emphasis is very much on the “post” part of that equation. There are far more sections on Toward Akina that recall Pink Floyd’s psychedelic sounds, or even the raw emotional passion of late-90’s/early-00’s screamo than there are moments of classic black metal coldness. It may not appeal to those who judge a record by it’s kvlt appeal, but if genre is less of a concern than the music simply being good, then Toward Akina has a lot to offer.
Label: The Flenser
Sometimes, there is comfort in the darkness. There are records out there whose content speaks of pain and misery, and wants you, the listener, to know that you’re not alone; to know that things will get better.
How We Lived isn’t one of those albums.
On their second full-length together, the duo of Heinali and Matt Finney have crafted something that may move with a damaged grace and sense of warped beauty; and there may be sounds that shimmer and dance in the haze; but more than that, How We Lived is an album heavy with the sounds of deep-seated sorrow, rooted in the everyday experiences that slowly build up until the burden feels insurmountable. It is a challenging listen, intense in a more emotional rather than musical sense, but it is also a deeply rewarding one, where the void in your soul may stare back at you, but if you’re strong enough to avoid looking away, How We Lived makes for one hell of an experience.
Shanghai’s Spill Your Guts are the kind of band that pretty much everyone needs in their lives. Though nominally a hardcore band, their style of music takes in much more than that descriptor suggests, with previous releases Full Blast and Slip and Fall including plenty of elements taken from black metal, crossover, and full-on thrash metal. Theirs is an energetic, invigorating sound that is all but guaranteed to brighten your day and add a burst of energy. Full length Hungry Crows builds on what has gone before, pushing the energy levels even higher, and is the best thing the band have done so far.
Label: Alerta Antifascista Records
Hailing from Gothenburg in Sweden, Myteri‘s take on crust punk on Ruiner offers up something slightly different from the norm. Whilst the requisite heaviness and sense of political rage is all present and correct, with plenty of dirt and aggression that brings Tragedy to mind, there’s also an overt sense of melody and stirring octave chord led melodies and riffs that have more in common with emo than they do crust. It’s a brave combination of styles, and a very successful one, with Ruiner being one of the most immediately powerful and gripping records I’ve heard this year.
Label: Blackened Death Records
I’ve written before about how Pope Richard, the main man behind Blackened Death Records, never seems to stop working. Since my review of Takhisis a few weeks ago, he’s already released several new grind and crust singles, organised a multi-artist compilation, and released a new album as World Controller. His sci-fi based death/doom project is back with its second album, Fiery The Angels Fell, and it’s a much angrier album than previous LP Apocalypse and EP Divinitatis Aemulus, with moments of punked-up, grind-indebted fury and speed. It makes Fiery The Angels Fell a varied, engaging listen, with a lot of character and depth to it.
I’m sure every blogger and writer approaches their reviews differently, but here’s the case for me: about half the time, I won’t even look at an album’s artwork until a few spins have gone by. We all know that presentation influences our perceptions of a record, and so getting the opportunity to listen to something without seeing the artwork can be a boon, helping ensure that judgments made on the music are based on the music itself, not the packaging.
Yet, there’s no denying the importance of artwork to a record, and it’s because of this that Second Son have been gathering some unwelcome attention recently in the underground metal press. Rather than some monochrome Transilvanian Hunger knock-off, or lurid depiction of Satan or the horrors of humanity, Sacred Son is presented with a photo of sole member Dane Cross on his holidays, looking pretty happy with life. Frankly, if people are taking issue with Sacred Son simply because of that, then it’s further proof of how concerned with image (rather than music) parts of the black metal underground are; and it’s their loss, because the music contained within is uncompromising, forceful, and in large parts, every bit as grim as the cover isn’t.