Music

Mixtarum Metallum IX: The Ides of March and the Death of April’s Fools

Mixtarum Metallum IX is consumed by ten deadly albums chained, or loosely chained, to metal’s monolith.

Like January and February 2014, March and April proved to be strong, if not stronger, months for metal releases. As far as the Album of the Month goes for March, it was a head-butting tie between the remorseless doom that Conan brought down upon us on their second studio album, Blood Eagle, and the rapid evolution shown by Morbus Chron on Sweven. Both albums -- although totally different in sound, style and overall objectives -- are powerful arguments against naysayers who either believe that there’s no scope left in terms of what can be done with doom and those who still (stupidly) think that young bands experimenting with the formula that brought them attention (in Morbus Chron’s case, death metal) are fatally foolish.

April’s Album of the Month lands between the statuesque sounds of Behemoth's The Satanist and Triptykon's Melana Chasmata: Contradiction by Basel, Switzerland's Schammasch. Schammasch have made a monumental creative leap on their second studio release, the 80-minute double-disc Contradiction. A work of vast scope and supreme execution musically, conceptually and visually speaking, Contradiction spans many sub-genres from death and black metal to doom and progressive metal, and beyond extremity into '80s goth rock and neo-folk. Such genre labels and the comparison to two metal bands held in high esteem are not detailed to simplify the artistic merit or devalue the individuality of Schammasch, however; but more to stress, stylistically, the kind of company this little known band outside of Europe's metal underground now keep. The upper echelon now has a new beast to feed at its table.

In terms of the rest of March and April’s metal releases, Mixtarum Metallum IX is consumed by ten other deadly albums chained, or loosely chained, to metal’s monolith.

 
HARK
Crystalline (Season of Mist)

The Welch sludge power-trio Taint left a massive hole when they decided to call it quits after their final release, 2010’s All Bees to the Sea. However, the force of the riff refused to relinquish its grip on guitarist/vocalist Jimbob Isaac, as he has now made his full-length return with his new band HARK (the band is completed by ex-Whyteleaf bassist Nikolai Ribnikov and drummer Simon Bonwick). HARK’s debut album, Crystalline, prowls around the same sludge-sodden terrain as Taint, with its monstrous rolling riffs bucking and stomping their way across the album’s 56-minute run-time. Not only that, there is the same progressive urges that individualized Taint slow-burning in the background, not to mention a vicious noise-rock streak that pokes its head out during songs like “Black Hole South West” and “Breathe and Run”. Angular riffs, huge grooves, throaty shouts and knotted rhythms all tangle and find room to roar thanks to Kurt Ballou’s signature production job. The result is a debut album from veteran riff-smith that stands up to anything his celebrated former band ever created.

 
Animals As Leaders
The Joy of Motion (Sumerian)

When a new sub-genre rises you always get frontrunners who become restless because of the stigma the sub-genre places around their necks. These artists make it their goal to separate themselves from the bland bandwagon-jumpers and in the process of doing so they generally tend to create their best work. Animals As Leaders have done just that with their third album, The Joy of Motion, and consequentially the band led by virtuoso guitarist Tosin Abasi have further distanced themselves from djent and its banal bands raiding Meshuggah's bunker of b-sides. Abasi's supreme talents again dictate the entirety of The Joy of Motion, yet his extensive musical ability is never at the expense of the songs. With a guitarist who can do it all you need equally dexterous musicians to add stability, and Animals As Leaders are stacked with the talent required to push progressive metal into the future. If they continue to develop their song-craft and refrain from leaning on the (now) clichéd Meshuggah-isms, they may even go on to define their own genre some day.

 
Lord Mantis
Death Mask (Profound Lore)

A musically vile and thematically controversial album, Lord Mantis’s Death Mask has created quite an amount of noise online for all the wrong reasons. But what the commentators seem to be missing is that this album is painfully focused inward, with Charlie Fell’s (vocals, bass, lyrics) loathing directed at his own self. Outside of its shocking album cover and its, at times, terrible choice of words, the music of Death Mask is where his self-loathing is most clearly conveyed. Every destructive riff, pneumatically powerful beat, and bleak scream is laid down with hatred and disgust -- it’s so real that you can’t relax for one moment. From the statement of brutality that is “Body Choke” through to the mechanical malice of “Possession Prayer” -- which sounds like Godflesh covering Times of Grace -- and the no resolution ending of “Three Crosses”, Death Mask will offend and make you squirm in your seat... but you dare not look away. This is as extreme as it gets.

 
The Oath
The Oath (Rise Above)

The Occult Rock Renaissance that has been in full Satanic swing since The Devil's Blood dropped Come, Reap in 2008 isn't far off saturation point. At present, we're smothered by bands professing a deep dedication to the Occult and a fanatical adoration of Coven, Mercyful Fate and Pentagram. But interestingly, the quality of the material has yet to dilute, and with bands like the Oath appearing with their tantalizing blend of doom 'n' garage rock and disappearing as fast as they materialized, it seems we're nowhere near creative collapse. Smokey, sultry and entirely legit, the Oath's self-titled debut for Rise Above oozes sex appeal and effortless cool from every pore. The blonde-bombshell pairing of guitarist Linnéa Olsson and singer Johanna Sadonis -- backed by Kadavar bassist Simon Bouteloup and drummer Andrew Prestidge -- have a keen ear for classic-sounding vocal melodies and a simplistic yet memorable guitar hooks, and it is this bare-bones approach to songwriting along with the aforementioned attitude that defined the band’s short existence. The Oath's recent break-up will undoubtedly add to their cult status.

 
Autopsy
Tourniquets, Hacksaws and Graves (Peaceville)

The death metal legends who were buried in filth for 15 years have, surprisingly, become a prolific band since they permanently reunited in 2010. Tourniquets, Hacksaws and Graves, Autopsy's third album since 2011’s Funeral Macabre and second studio album in a year sees drummer/vocalist Chris Reifert and Company in disgustingly great form. Everything we've come to know and love about Autopsy remains dead-set in place: the creepy-crawl of the sludgy death metal riffs (this time with chunks of blues), the cavernous sounding and loosely played drums, and Reifert's maniacal approach to purging his own larynx. While some of Autopsy's songs since their resurrection have been too long in the rotted tooth, these twelve songs tighten around your neck until your eyes bulge and pupils bleed out. There are few sounds as fascinating as a veteran act on the top of their game long after the release of what critics and fans deem as their "classic material", and like Cannibal Corpse and Carcass, Autopsy continue to exist outside of trends. Studio album number seven is another lesson in death metal grotesquery from one of the genre's greats.

Next Page

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

A Certain Ratio Return with a Message of Hope on 'ACR Loco'

Inspired by 2019's career-spanning box set, legendary Manchester post-punkers A Certain Ratio return with their first new album in 12 years, ACR Loco.

Books

Oscar Hijuelos' 'Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love' Dances On

Oscar Hijuelos' dizzyingly ambitious foot-tapping family epic, Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love, opened the door for Latinx writers to tell their stories in all their richness.

Music

PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.

Film

'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.

Music

Bright Eyes' 'Down in the Weeds' Is a Return to Form and a Statement of Hope

Bright Eyes may not technically be emo, but they are transcendently expressive, beatifically melancholic. Down in the Weeds is just the statement of grounding that we need as a respite from the churning chaos around us.

Film

Audrey Hepburn + Rome = Grace, Class, and Beauty

William Wyler's Roman Holiday crosses the postcard genre with a hardy trope: Old World royalty seeks escape from stuffy, ritual-bound, lives for a fling with the modern world, especially with Americans.

Music

Colombia's Simón Mejía Plugs Into the Natural World on 'Mirla'

Bomba Estéreo founder Simón Mejía electrifies nature for a different kind of jungle music on his debut solo album, Mirla.

Music

The Flaming Lips Reimagine Tom Petty's Life in Oklahoma on 'American Head'

The Flaming Lips' American Head is a trip, a journey to the past that one doesn't want to return to but never wants to forget.

Music

Tim Bowness of No-Man Discusses Thematic Ambition Amongst Social Division

With the release of his seventh solo album, Late Night Laments, Tim Bowness explores global tensions and considers how musicians can best foster mutual understanding in times of social unrest.

Music

Angel Olsen Creates a 'Whole New Mess'

No one would call Angel Olsen's Whole New Mess a pretty album. It's much too stark. But there's something riveting about the way Olsen coos to herself that's soft and comforting.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Masma Dream World Go Global and Trippy on "Sundown Forest" (premiere)

Dancer, healer, musician Devi Mambouka shares the trippy "Sundown Forest", which takes listeners deep into the subconscious and onto a healing path.

Music

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" Is an Ode for Unity in Troubling Times (premiere)

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" is a gentle, prayerful tune that depicts the heart of their upcoming album, Crucible.

Music

'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.

Music

Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.

Television

Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.

Film

Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.

Music

The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.