Olivia Neutered John – Kill All Men (Starting With The White Ones)

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Label: Blackened Death Records

This is an album that will make a lot of people unhappy. Kill All Men (Starting With The White Ones) is the first album from Olivia Neutered Johnthe satirical porno-grind project of Pope Richard, and whilst that’s a genre normally known for its poor perceptions of women and anyone who isn’t a straight white male, Kill All Men flips the usual practices of the genre on its head. The record mixes sexualised topics with the kind of gore that’s part way between Cannibal Corpse and Castrator, placing women in positions of power. It’s backed up by furious, straight to the point blasts of grind, making Kill All Men a rush of furious energy, that often masks its serious points with crude humour.

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World Controller – Fiery The Angels Fell

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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.

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Takhisis – Takhisis (self-titled)

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Label: Blackened Death Records

Pope Richard seems like the kind of guy who’s never satisfied unless he’s creating something. As well as running Blackened Death Records, he’s also the creative force behind over a dozen different bands, the latest release from which is the self-titled album as Takhisis. The album serves up 40 minutes of crushing occult doom, full of catchy hooks and powerful riffs, but more than that, it’s possessed of a dark, subtly seductive atmosphere, full of clandestine sorcery and secret gatherings. It also feels like one of the most confident, assured records that Pope Richard has put his name to, and considering the consistent quality of his records, that’s quite something.

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Carnivorous Forest – Frozen Rivers

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Label: Blackened Death Records 

Some things are worth waiting for. After a collection of demos, splits, and EP releases, the full-length from neofolk/death metal act Carnivorous Forest is finally here, and it does not disappoint. Frozen Rivers is a powerful, atmospheric record, varied in scope and tone, yet with a consistent character that ties everything together. Listeners who have enjoyed previous Carnivorous Forest releases will not be disappointed. Sole member Amarok is in fine form throughout, and of all the different releases he has put out over the past few years in many guises on Blackened Death Records, this is undoubtedly one of the best.

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Shiteater / Clit Eastwood – Shit Clit Split

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Label: Blackened Death Records

You’ll probably be unsurprised to learn that Shit Clit Split isn’t the most sophisticated of listens. Featuring one-man act Shiteater from the UK, who play old-school, disgusting death metal, and US grind/crust/powerviolence band Clit Eastwood, this is a split for those who don’t take their lyrics too seriously, but still want to hear killer riffs. The contrasting styles of the two bands play off well against each other, and there’s a lot of energy and fun to be found here, but its inherently OTT lyrical nature is both its greatest strength and biggest weakness.

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2016 Favourites – And The Rest

2016 has been the year that saw me listen to, and review, more music than ever before. For every release that gets reviewed, there’s several that I don’t have the time to write something on; or that I listen to, but simply don’t get excited over. It’s also worth bearing in mind the purposes of this blog – exploring the underground. With the odd exception (such as the new Darkthrone), I have no interest in writing in the “big” releases; I want to help give some exposure and coverage to the small and underground, not go chasing whatever review or feature will get me the most hits. I’d also point out that it’s easy to lose sense of what actually is mainstream and underground when you spend so much time immersed in music. Sure, everyone may have access to Bandcamp and Youtube and a legion of Spotify recommendations, but  it’s easy to overestimate just how big our favourite bands are.

That said, there’s still some mainstream releases I’ve really enjoyed this year and want to share some thoughts on in another post. But here, I want to take the time to give shout-outs to those more underground releases which didn’t quite make the cut for my list of 25 favourites of the year.

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Shrug – Apathy

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Label: Blackened Death Records

Apathy isn’t really an album to be enjoyed. Whilst there are lots of elements I like about the first full-length from Shrug, it is a bleak, harrowing listen, dealing as it does with issues of depression, illness, and suicide. It doesn’t shy away from any of its themes, confronting them with a straightforward approach that can be quite uncomfortable, and is remarkably honest. There’s no suicide idolatry here, no veneration of depression as artistic inspiration. Instead, there are elements of harsh noise, experimental electronics, and goth rock, resulting in something quite unusual, but very convincing and brave.

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