Label: Third I Rex
For all its nihilism and intended obscurity, it’s interesting to note how black metal has gone from being a fringe movement within metal to one of the most widely listened to sub-genres. Its satanic, blasphemous influence can be found in all sorts of places these days, adding further edge and intensity to musical styles that were often already defined by those aspects. Blackened hardcore is one such style, and Rest follow in the footsteps of bands such as All Pigs Must Die and The Secret, with their self-titled debut EP being a fifteen minute blast of hardcore violence and black metal frostiness. It might not do anything too new with the style for the most part, but its passion and intensity are more than enough to make this record more than worth your time.
Label: Deathwish Inc
There’s few bands more important to me than Planes Mistaken For Stars (PMFS), and it was a sad day for me when they played their final (at the time) show in 2008. Though the band started playing live again in 2010, I never truly expected a new album to ever materialize; so, the release of Prey is welcome in that it represents the return of one of my favourite bands. But it’s also a release that should appeal to more than just fans of old, as this is a wonderfully passionate piece of post-hardcore, full of grit and melody, with the kind of definite roughness to the edges that speaks of bad decisions and good times. There’s no one who sounds quite like PMFS, and that’s as true on Prey as it ever was. It’s one of the most unexpected releases of the year, but also one of my favourite. My hopes for the album were high, and they have more than been met.
Label: UKEM Records
Wretched Soul are one of those bands who are so difficult to categorize, but who can quickly be understand. Even after a single listen to latest album The Ghost Road, you know exactly where the band are coming from; mixing thrash, heavy, and even bits of black and death metal, Wretched Soul are probably best termed simply as ‘extreme metal’, but that doesn’t tell even half the story. It comes nowhere close to capturing how energetic their sound is, how each track moves with a seemingly untameable energy, simultaneously recalling the best of classic heavy and thrash metal whilst also sounding modern and fresh. Nor does it hint at the sheer sense of enjoyment held in the record, with each track seemingly designed to ensure headbanging and raised fists. Quite simply put, it’s really rather good.
Label: Label 2318
When it comes to death metal, I normally like it to sound as if the genre never managed to quite crawl out of the sewer. Give me filthy, slime-encrusted riffs and inhuman vocals, with a foundation of dirty bass and pummeling drums, and I’m usually more than satisfied. As such, Bacterial Husk are have put out just the kind of death metal I like with EP Agnosia Of Omens. The press release references early Gorguts, Obituary, and Death, and I wouldn’t argue with any of that, and Bacterial Husk are worthy of such comparisons. This EP is a quarter hour blast of unclean, putrid death metal, and I think it’s bloody great.
Label: Peaceville Records
Trying to second-guess Darkthrone at this stage in their career is a fool’s game. It’s been ten years since the Norweigan legends shifted from black metal in to metalpunk territory with The Cult Is Alive, and since then they’ve moved in a more heavy metal direction, culminating with 2013’s The Underground Resistance. Over twenty years on from laying down the blueprint for raw black metal, Darkthrone’s modus operandi can now be summed up simply as “doing whatever the fuck they want.” Which is all well and good, but can they keep doing that whilst still releasing music that’s worth your time and money? After all, the metal scene is full of classic bands who are now, frankly, embarrassing themselves, deluded in to thinking they can release an album of half-arsed material and their fans will love it.
It’s quite remarkable just how many different aspects of music fall under the broad spectrum of extreme metal. The split cassette between US black metal band Barghest and Californian death/doom/black act Teeth demonstrates. Both bands are undeniably extreme, serving up vicious, intense pieces of sonic devastation; but the way they go about doing so are both very different. It’s a mark of how good both acts are that their different sounds sit well with and compliment one another, making this release from CVLT Nation’s music label something very exciting indeed.
Label: Cold Spring
One of the most wonderful things about artistic creation is that you never really know where it will take you. Even though Photosynthesis started out as an attempt to write some quasi pop/classic pieces, you’d never know that from the finished product. What the duo of Dave Ball and Jon Savage have created instead is a haunting, delightfully organic album of ambient and experimental electronica. This is a record to sink in to, letting it take you on its journey to some other place, and it has a refreshing, almost cleansing feel to its retro soundscapes.