Label: Ruined Smile Records / Strictly No Capital Letters / Rubaiyat Records / Polar Summer / Waterslide Records
Indie-emo is a style that often gets the light, gentle part of the musical equation right, but doesn’t pack quite enough energy in for it to be of interest to me (or fall within the usual remit of music covered by The Sound Not The Word). Russian band Ensslin‘s brand of indie-emo may recall some of the more relaxing practitioners of the style at points, but the band also have plenty of moments where they up the intensity and volume, all without losing touch with their chosen style. Added to this is an emotional, cathartic edge that makes Thumbsucker a satisfying, rewarding listen that will appeal to fans of bands like Football, etc.
Label: The Sign Records
Blackened thrash is the kind of genre where less can often be more. It doesn’t need to be progressive, or musically forward-thinking, or risk thinking outside of its box. Instead, the genre is often at its best when bands nail the fundamentals; when the riffs and leads are fast and vicious, the drums a crashing hammer of power, and the vocals utterly unhinged. Nekrokraft tick all of these boxes, and Witches Funeral – a compilation of their early demos, including two previously unreleased tracks – shows that the band were writing top-quality blackened thrash right from their very first days.
Label: Snow Wave Records
Though it’s not what might necessarily be termed a big release, Sol, the second album from sci-fi inspired band Coraxo has still been one of my most anticipated releases of 2017. Their previous album, Neptune, was the kind of record that showed a lot of promise, mixing prog and electronic sounds with melodic death in a way that was full of ambition, but didn’t quite reach the heights the band were so clearly striving for. The feeling was always that their next record would be a big improvement, and now I’ve been able to spend some quality time with it, it’s safe to say that Sol is a considerable improvement, but has a few moments that hold it back from greatness, though it is still a hugely enjoyable listen with lots to recommend about it.
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.