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The first edition of Mixtarum Metallum this year covers ten laudable metal albums released in January and February 2014 that we haven’t covered yet. So, without further ado, it’s time to get back to business.


 
Astrophobos
Remnants of Forgotten Horrors (Triumvirate)


January is usually a barren month for metal, though this year has started off with a number of strong early releases that have caused quite a stir. So while everyone began the year debating whether Alcest are metal or not (they’re not—get over it!), a little known Swedish band named Astrophobos appeared on the horizon brandishing the kind of wonderfully melodic black metal that Dissection perfected before Jon Nödtveidt ceremoniously took his own life in 2006.


Comparisons to Dissection are high praise indeed. However, Remnants of Forgotten Horrors, the band’s full-length debut, is a fresh and energetic interpretation of a style of metal that in its current state isn’t usually described as such. And even though Astrophobos are clearly schooled in the practices of the ‘90s Swedish black metal (there’s also quite a bit of Naglfar in the furnace), they pull the genre into the present with pristine production which accentuates the array of gleaming ice-spiked riffs, rapidly shifting rhythms, and lacerating vocal snarls on show.


 
Nausea
Condemned to the System (Willowtip)


Almost as old as the grindcore genre itself, Nausea have existed for decades at this stage—not that you’d know if you were to go by the band’s full-length albums. With a gap of 23 years since their first studio LP (the genre milestone Crimes Against Humanity), the Los Angeles-based band—founded by vocalist, guitarist Oscar Garcia (he of Terrorizer fame) and drummer Eric Castro—now launch a second Molotov cocktail of politicized grind in the form of their sophomore album, Condemned to the System.


Switching from bass to his new position as second guitarist for this release is Leon del Müerte (Impaled, Murder Construct), and rounded out by bassist Alejandro Corredor, Nausea have written an album that matches the intensity and ire of their 1991 debut. With those signature punk/hardcore riffs, encased in a killer guitar tone (think Sepultura circa Chaos AD), pushed to the limits by system shattering blasts and D-beats, Nausea position on the grind-gauge beside Brutal Truth and Napalm Death remains in the red—just like their music and hatred for injustice.


 
Artificial Brain
Labyrinth Constellation (Profound Lore)


Whenever you hear that Profound Lore have signed a death metal artist it’s taken for granted that the band won’t be your typical grunt ‘n’ blast merchants. Latest signees Artificial Brain are no exception. The band formed by Revocation guitarist Dan Gargiulo exist in the Obscura-sphere of death metal, where Gorguts loom as overlords and bands like Artificial Brain are deployed as minions to warp and contorted what remains of humanity’s crippled psyche.


For the most part, the band’s debut album, Labyrinth Constellation, is a relentless deluge of dissonance and instrumental disorder. But there is cunning pacing throughout, and every instrument—including vocalist Will Smith’s (ex-Biolich) meat-gargling emanations—exists in (dis)harmony with one another.


Sometimes technical death metal can be an exasperating endeavour to find any kind of foothold. Yet like their contemporaries in Ulcerate, Artificial Brain keep a serpentine eye focused on song-craft while tearing your head off as a sacrificial gift to their all-consuming overlords.


 
Nebelung
Palingenesis (Temple of Torturous)


Dimly lit neo-folk and extreme metal have always made for complimentary bedfellows. And underground labels like Pesanta Urfolk and Svart Records have highlighted in recent times, the connection in spirit between the two. Swedish label Temple of Torturous—known for its high pedigree of black metal—has now followed suit and expanded its artist base with the signing of a folk artist in the guise of a German trio who practice the dark arts as the entity Nebelung.


Predominantly instrumental, Nebelung’s third LP, Palingenesis, aches from the profundity of its interwoven acoustic guitars and the delicate layering and interplay of its other earthy acoustic instruments: cello, hammered dulcimer, violin, accordion, harp, etc. An album made for the contemplation of one’s own existence during the shadowy months in which the leaves wither from the trees and the boughs shake from the wickedness of winter’s grip, Palingenesis’s emotional gnaw is just as affecting as the laborious detail that has gone into crafting its six sumptuous and suggestive compositions.


 
Of Mice and Men
Restoring Force (Rise)


Of Mice and Men don’t really deserve a second chance. You see, the young metalcore mob have made their name from schlepping style-over-substance ‘core to the masses who annually attend the Warped Tour. Breakdown begat boring breakdown, and that was enough for the fringed kids to engorge themselves on.


Although according to Restoring Force (Of Mice and Men’s latest album), it’s obvious that this kind of substance-free existence is not enough to satisfy the Californian band any longer. Of Mice and Men have used the 2012 addition of Aaron Pauley on bass and clean vocals to shake up their sound, and they now include actual songwriting dynamism. Consequentially, by finding a balance between post-hardcore’s melody and emotion and the angst and aggression of nu metal and metalcore, songs the significance of “Glass Hearts”, “Another You”, and the colossal choruses of “Identity Disorder” should propel Of Mice and Men to the same heights as bands like Bring Me The Horizon.


Restoring Force confirms Of Mice and Men are worthy of a second chance—if you’re willing to forgive, that is.


Dean Brown has an obsessive love of music in every shape and form, with a deep respect for bands that play from the heart. He is a Contributing Editor here at Popmatters, writer for Last Rites (www.lastrit.es), About.com/heavymetal (heavymetal.about.com/), and his work can also be found at soundshock.com, scratchtheSurface-webzine.com, metalireland.com, tighttothenail.com, amongst others. He is also a columnist for the quarterly digital zine Backlit (www.backlitzine.com). Dean can be found on twitter: @reus85


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