Mixturam Metallum #1

20 of the Best Metal Albums of 2012

by Craig Hayes and Dean Brown

13 September 2012

Image via Shutterstock.com

Mutilation Rites and more...

Mutilation Rites - Empyrean

Mutilation Rites—with this their full-length debut for Prosthetic Records—have held a shotgun to the head of black metal while simultaneously injecting it with a hypodermic needle full of crusty thrash and derelict doom. This mongrel band hail from Brooklyn, New York and their hostile surroundings have bred some serious contempt into their sound. On Empyrean, Mutilation Rites appear to have violent contempt for everything and everyone, and their grievous assault on the senses sounds as nasty as it reads. Their grimy approach to black metal grabs you around the throat the second “A Season of Grey Rain” begins and holds on for dear life during the suffocating blackened thrash of “Fogwarning”, only to release you from their vice-like grip after the wretched ending of “Broken Axis”. Not only do Mutilation Rites have one of the best band names in recent memory, with deceitfully titled: Empyrean, they also have the most dangerous debut you are going to hear this year—or any year for that matter. DB


Inverloch - Dusk/Subside

Perhaps it’s best that Inverloch’s debut is only 22 minutes long, lest any more prove injurious to one’s mental well-being. The Melbourne, Australia-based band features two members from seminal funeral doom act disEMBOWELMENT (noted for redefining the possibilities of sonic and emotional heaviness with its ‘93 album Transcendence into the Peripheral). Inverloch follows a similar bearing to disEMBOWELMENT, using crestfallen and slow-building atmospherics alongside lurching, reverb-drenched guitar and bursts of percussion to create monstrous, all-encompassing dirges. To adapt an adage, it takes great talent “to craft beauty from the stuff that makes us weep,” and the asphyxiating churns on Dusk/Subside are entrancing elegies to the pitilessness of life. Though they move forward at a sorrowful pace (inter-spliced with frantic last gasps) the effect is not solely dispiriting. Dusk/Subside is incredibly morbid, but there is light in the wretchedness. Melodies suggest the promise of post-mortem revelation, and counterpointing the shatteringly heavy doom and death metal with serene keyboards makes space for some much-needed rumination. Dusk | Subside is definitely not for the frail of heart (or mind), but it is an opportunity to immerse yourself in genuinely harrowing metal and find cathartic reward for your endurance. CH


Enthroned - Obsidium

Obsidium is the ninth full-length from Flemish black metallers Enthroned and their first for Agonia Records. Refining what was achieved on previous album PentagrammatonObsidium‘s swarming instrumentation covers a gamut of tempos shifts without sacrificing any of its command. The scorching barrage of the blasting drums and thorny guitar progressions are devotedly affixed to the rigid parameters of the genre and are impressively sustained by vocalist Nornagest—who chants, evokes and exorcises his infernal decrees through a distinct, blood-curdling rasp. With Obsidium‘s emphasis squarely on the tenets of the second wave of black metal, Enthroned unambiguously demonstrate their unease with the more experimental flirtations that have begun to pervade this grim, godforsaken genre; relying instead on clearly defined production and memorable pitch-black anthems. Plagued by numerous tragedies throughout their lengthy career, Enthroned has reached a plane where they are respected but not revered. Obsidium will not alter this, but tracks such as “Horns Aflame” and “The Final Architect” smoulder with the same abstruse vitality that exists at the vile pith of bands like Marduk and Watain, and the power of these paeans alone should bring Enthroned to a greater audience. DB


The Howling Wind - Of Babalon

Of Babalon is the third full-length from black metal duo The Howling Wind. Fans of the other projects from the band’s vocalist, guitarist, and bassist Ryan Lipynsky (Unearthly Trace, Thralldom) will already be aware of his ability to conjure metal’s core malevolence. Joined by drummer Tim Call (Aldebaran), Lipynsky’s latest work is his most deep-rooted and virulent yet. A conceptual tale drawn from Aleister Crowley’s writings on the Scarlet Lady (the devil’s mistress), Of Babalon is replete with iniquitous sonic and narrative layering—clear evidence of Lipynsky’s songwriting inventiveness. Recorded by Colin Marston (Krallice, Dysrhythmia), Of Babalon draws from the classics; there’s no trace of avant-garde or post-black metal here. The gelid traditions established by acts such as Celtic Frost are shackled to a resolutely US black metal aesthetic (a fittingly venomous cover of Hellhammer’s “Horus/Aggressor” appears to underscore that orthodox spirit). Stygian guitars swirl melodically and batter dissonantly, drums pulverize, and guttural vocals chisel through the middle. Murk-ridden and syrupy mid-tempo squalls ooze with evil, miasmatic emanations—reeking of all the brimstone and ritualism required to summon a profoundly sacrilegious aura. Pitch black, and with frenzied tremolo pickings and blast beats galore, Of Babalon is a fantastic example of time-honored black metal cutting straight to the vein. CH


Ephel Duath - On Death and Cosmos

Davide Tiso—backed by a fresh label and a revitalised line-up—has managed to breathe new life into the aberrant entity known as Ephel Duath. With latest EP, On Death and Cosmos, Tiso manages to avoid all accusations of self-indulgence, with each of the three songs on display here flowing as one continuous movement, cut free of all pretentious elements. The disturbing range of emotive growls emitted by new vocalist Karyn Crisis creates a real undercurrent of malevolence and her addition to Ephel Duath, coupled with the divine versatility of Steve Di Giorgio’s twisting bass-lines—illuminating Tiso’s disfigured jazz metal riffs—has elevated Ephel Duath from sounding not unlike a Mike Patton side-project, to a definite threat. Peer closer at On Death and Cosmos‘s ever-evolving compositions and you will also see that Tiso has been mindful of disorientating the listener and has carefully disciplined each riff shift with the stylish drum work of Marco Minnemann, allowing the songs the opportunity to unfurl organically. Poetic, challenging and occasionally frightening, Ephel Duath now possess the ability to become a true force of darkness. CH

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