The end is nigh, with the apocalypse looming ever closer. Still, let’s not let that put us off the abundant joys of heavy metal, steely hard rock and genre-bending artisans of the loud and the furious, who, as it happens, will provide the perfect soundtrack as we are collectively smitten from this earth. Far be it from us here at Mixtarum Metallum to fear the reaper, so we’ve gathered together another few months of raucous riffs and thunderous reverberations to celebrate our impending doom. And keep a look out for next month’s collection too, where we’ll be plucking our choices from subterranean vaults, oddball spheres and outlandish realms as we take a look at some of the very best deep underground and tangential metal releases from 2012 in the lead up to PopMatters’ end of year best metal list (where writers from near and far meet to do battle over the annual top 20).
Self-titling a record usually happens when a band feels the need to make a grand statement regarding their true identity. But when a band eponymously titles their third album after parting ways with their firebrand singer, such a move could be coined a statement of unity and a definite declaration of intent. Losing a frontman the calibre of Frank Carter would be enough to buckle any band. Carter’s enigmatic—bordering on arrogant—performances (on record and live) gave Gallows a quality distinguishable from the rest of the UK hardcore/punk scene, and his Cockney scream and “fuck you” persona made Gallows sound real, and to a certain degree, dangerous. Since his departure, the remaining members of Gallows have refused to roll over and die—recruiting vocalist Wade MacNeill from the smouldering ashes of Alexisonfire, and after a snapshot EP, serving to us on a bloody platter: the best British hardcore punk album of the year. Gallows is rife with unquenchable determination, and surprisingly, is more intense than the Frank Carter led albums that preceded it. It plays out like a hungry debut, and in many ways it is, with Gallows desperate to prove their worth and relevance, and succeeding because of riotous songs crafted with razor sharp conviction.—Dean Brown
Years Past Matter, the latest multifaceted mind-bending expedition from New York City’s avant-black metal troupe Krallice, is spilling over with meticulously composed tracks (cryptically titled “IIIIIII” to “IIIIIIIIIIII”). Guitarists Mick Barr and Colin Marston’s virtuoso journeying proceeds unabated, their entangled riffing resetting the polyrhythmic gymnastics bar once again. Along with Lev Weinstein’s dexterous percussion, and bassist Nicholas McMaster’s rumbling undercurrent, Krallice’s cityscape black metal is dissonant and hard-hearted, like a crumbling tower block, yet as affecting as dawn rays catching on its broken windows. Four albums in and Krallice is still evolving. Constructing songs full of precipitous swerves, their allure is based in no small part around their unpredictability and the hypnotic impulse to deconstruct fractions and decipher the existential while you listen. Years Past Matter is filled with atmospheric, surging tremolo maelstroms, with all the mathematic exactness culminating in the 16-minute, “IIIIIIIIIIII”. The song, more than any of the band’s others, crystallizes Krallice’s ability to exploit ingeniously structured complexity and raw emotive eloquence, heaping ecstasy upon awe till its radiant finale. The search for superlatives to describe Krallice’s oeuvre begins anew.—Craig Hayes
Long Live—the fourth record from frenzied hardcore proponents the Chariot—saw the band produce what was the apex of their career. It was an album packed to the hilt with sudden bursts of cathartic anger and experimentation. Their latest record, One Wing, closely follows suit and plays out like a companion piece: creating a place where deafening feedback is used as a weapon just as much as the angular chaos of hardcore and the impassioned screams of sole original member Josh Scogin. Such polluted emissions are heard best on the likes of “Forgot”, “Not”, and “Tongues”, but it’s the songs that move past the typical redlined blowouts that really bring this album to life. The prominent use of piano on “Your” and “Speak” establishes an interesting dynamic, “It” shows the band’s increased fondness for settling into bass-heavy grooves, and “First” may be the best song they’ve ever written: sounding like a rabid version of In Utero-era Nirvana before opening up into a western romp replete with trumpets, marching beats, and guitars that have more in common with the Shadows than Deadguy. It is daring and it works. And the same could be said for the Chariot’s career thus far.—DB
Toronto, Canada-based Vilipend spit out a vitriolic blend of metal, hardcore and sludge, slathered with the atonality and stop/start of a little old school Amp-Rep and Dischord noise. Inamorata is angry, propulsive and impressively passionate—vocalist Chris Gramlich‘s throat-shredding snarls and growls convey his pain and frustrations in a palpable, powerful purge. “To Impede the Healing Process”, “Cutting Heartstrings [Erosion]” and “Farewell Cruel Girl (Apnea)” are highlights—fearless, emotionally naked and razor-sharp dirges, of which there are many within. The band trades hardcore and metal back and forth with pugnacious aplomb, with guitarist Derek Del Vecchio wrangling warped notes, and providing endless icy, discordant sections, à la the fiercest Fugazi jangles meeting Buzzov•en in parts. There’s no doubting the band’s fervency, and drummer Adam McGillivray’s fills and flourishes are particularly impressive. On “The Thin Red Line Between Salvation and Damnation” a thicker mix may have increased his impact—and that of the guitar dropping in—but minor sonic quibbles aside, the aggression and clanging, crashing and harsh attack of Inamorata is indisputable. Its rawness (and resulting causticity) means all the seething rancor and hostility is right up front, exactly where it should be. Bring on full-length #2.—CH
During their doom-death days and throughout their gradual bloom into mournful metal flag- bearers, Katatonia’s constants—Anders Nyström and Jonas Renske—have made wallowing in the dark corners of your own psyche quite therapeutic. This duo has shown great skill in turning negative emotion into heart-achingly beautiful music, and such feats are rare for a song-writing team who practise the alchemy of metal. Their ninth full-length,Dead End Kings, takes the unfortunate role of following Katatonia’s most successful release, and the insurmountable heights that Night Is the New Day scaled shadows the slow-burn of their latest release. Dead End Kings is the first Katatonia album to truly reveal the consequence of the Nyström and Renske moonlighting in the death metal band Bloodbath, and because of the duality, this collection of songs seldom reaches the metallic peaks of past songs such as “The Longest Year” and “Deliberation”, choosing instead to lay down amongst the subdued aspects of Katatonia’s sound. Renske’s voice still radiates for miles and Katatonia still do possess the ability to immerse you in melancholia and provide the means to elucidate and overcome the internal pain within. It’s just their overly reserved approach fails to surpass what has preceded it and the songs take their sweet time hitting your inner core.—DB