Label: Dark Descent Records
It’s pretty clear from the first moments of The Ruins of Fading Light that Crypt Sermon aren’t a band who are looking to reinvent their chosen genre. Theirs is a style of doom that follows the path set down long ago by the likes of Candlemass and Solitude Aeturnus, with melodically infused leads and muscular riffs providing the backdrop for epic vocals and dark tales. Anyone looking for innovation in their metal won’t find it here; but what will be found instead is an album filled with spirit and passion, that wins through sheet force of personality and strong song-writing.
Label: Gizeh Records
Göldi fell is, put simply, the soundtrack to A Very Bad Time. The latest album from Several Wives is one of the most unsettling pieces of dark ambient I have had the (mis)pleasure of hearing in quite some time. Thick with ominous atmosphere and a sense of dread that is never far away, this is the music that plays when you’re alone at night in an unfamiliar house, grappling with demons both real and imaginary; of returning to your childhood home and finding the dimensions being somehow off; of a sense of wrongness that goes beyond the physical. As all this might imply, it’s also a very impressive piece of work, that leaves a long-lasting impression.
Label: War Crime Recordings
Crossing genre lines as if they don’t exist, They Don’t Sleep Anymore is an intensely personal album. The latest Clouds Collide release pulls from post-black metal, post-rock, post-hardcore, post-punk, and shoegaze, They Don’t Sleep Anymore is – as that collection of reference points may imply – a sprawling, spacious, emotionally-laden album that isn’t too often musically heavy, but certainly is emotionally. As with previous Clouds Collide releases, it draws heavily from sole member Chris Pandolfo’s personal life; in this instance, dealing with a longing for the past, finding your sense of self in the present, and how you cope with that as you move forward in to the future. Whilst this could have easily made for an album that is difficult to listen to, instead They Don’t Sleep Anymore is remarkably cathartic, with its universal themes and gorgeous music granting it a surprising accessibility.
Label: Willowtip Records
The press pack for the self-titled album from No One Knows What the Dead Think describes their music as “bullet hell grind”, and it’s a wonderfully accurate term. Bullet hell games, for those unfamiliar with the term, are shoot ’em up games where the focus is on what initially appears to be an overwhelming number of enemies and projectiles, to be avoided through precise maneuvers and practice. As those familiar with the bands members were previously involved in – chiefly, Discordance Axis and Gridlink – can attest to, it’s an apt description. No One Knows What the Dead Think might seem immense, with an intensity comparable to those video games, but like them, there is a flow and thread to the album that reveals itself over time.
Label: Sentient Ruin Laboratories / Rope or Guillotine
The idea of slow and heavy doom that sounds as if it was dragged backwards through a tar-pit, half dead and choking on its own blood, is hardly a new one – and it’s fair to say that Nightfucker aren’t looking to re-invent the feeling that such blackened, ultra-heavy doom can bring. Indeed, given that they contain guitarist Dominic Finbow, formerly of UK doom legends Moss, there’s considerable pedigree here in that expressing particular strand of desolation. Nightfucker is self-oblivion in sonic form, the sound of repulsion directed inwards, full of loathing and disgust, and it sounds as crushingly bleak and thrilling as ever.
Label: Pacific Threnodies
Dungeon synth can be a misleadingly-named genre. The very name itself invokes mental images of, well, dungeons – dark, decrepit, and generally unpleasant places to visit. Yet the opposite is true of The Way to Avalon, from solo artist Malfet. Rather than being dark, ominous, or any of the other adjectives often associated with dungeon synth, this album is bright, spacious, and hopeful. It is a gloriously beautiful album, that invokes images of pastoral lands and a connection with nature and the living environment that is almost entirely lost in the modern world.
Label: Fighter Records
Speed metal doesn’t need to be flashy to work. The genre’s often at its best when bands stick to the basics, focusing on the quality of riffs, blistering solos, and – most importantly – being able to put across a sense of excitement and energy. When judged against such criteria, Canadians Aphrodite absolutely kill it on Lust and War. The trio have created an album of incredible speed and passion, that’s a little bit rough and ready, but this only adds to its charms. It’s an exemplar of what the genre aims for, and is almost impossible to resist.