best metal of april 2024

MetalMatters: The Best Metal Albums of April 2024

In April’s best metal, Locrian fully establish their return, Benighted adorn their anguish in their darkened past, and Inter Arma lead in extreme metal.

I must say, when it comes to heavy music, this year is shaping up really nicely. After the absolute March onslaught, April releases hold their ground. From experimental cosmonauts Locrian returning to their previous, more rock-centric form with End Terrain to extreme metal stalwarts Inter Arma reigning supreme with New Heaven. From the black metal depths, Walg surprise with their melodic take, SELBST open up bizarre pathways via strange yet fitting influences, and Aristarchos plunge into the atmospheric depths of the genre.

On the death metal front, Benighted continue the fabulous tradition of their grindcore-informed pathos, Replicant dazzle with their technical aptitude, and Necrot stay true to the old-school spirit. In the space in-between, both Antichrist Siege Machine and Heresiarch return, continuing a stampede through dystopian warzones. On the more dissonant side I would urge you to check out the new work from Kvadrat, especially if your heart beats for the dissonant visions of Ulcerate and their strain of death metal.

Tradition still runs strong, be it through the 1880s-inspired visions of Attic, who relish the harrowing tones of Mercyful Fate, or through the doom-laden soundscapes of Arð, who masterfully weave traditional doom with the heavier Yorkshire scene. But, even in the outer realms, there is a lot of movement. From Couch Slut and their contorted noise rock visions, the powerviolence of ACxDC, and the screamo elations of Heavenly Blue, there is something here for everyone. So dig in! – Spyros Stasis

ACxDC – G.O.A.T. (Prosthetic)

From their genre—a particularly brutal variant of hardcore called powerviolence—to the on-the-nose lyrics, there is scarcely anything subtle about Los Angeles’ ACxDC at first glance. Yet, listening to their sophomore release G.O.A.T., it becomes clear that there’s more than meets the ear and eye at play here. Encased in layers of rage, sarcasm, irony, and absurdist humor, we find a fragile, personal sort of struggle, a coming to terms with contemporary demons: pervasive self-doubt, inescapable failures, and a sense of being trapped in a humanity-chewing machine.

This emotional complexity is reflected in a wider gamut of influences than those displayed in their 2020 debut, Satan Is King. Meant to be listened to in a single breath, the 17-track, 23-minute-long album maintains the group’s signature meaty, brutal sound but brings it closer to grindcore by adding tightly packed bits and pieces of death metal, crust, and other extreme genres. The result is as intoxicating as its themes are potent, with seesawing concoctions of buzzing riffs, seething screams, and breakneck rhythms pointed in rejection of sheepish religiousness and doctrinal oppression—a sort of deranged secular manifesto. Essential listening for this day and age. – Antonio Poscic

Antichrist Siege Machine – Vengeance of Eternal Fire (Profound Lore)

Agents of chaos! That is probably the most fitting description for the black/death maniacs Antichrist Siege Machine, who return with their third full-length, Vengeance of Eternal Fire. Without any inclination to slow down or take it easy, the duo from Virginia puts forth another steamrolling assault on the senses. Straight in from “Son of Man”, they unleash their malice with conviction, driving deep into the black/death mythos. Fragments of the all-time greats are smeared throughout this work, from the old-school applications of Blasphemy to the more modern interpretations of Revenge.

Still, there is a clearer suggestion of the influence from a few different scenes of the past. Firstly, the thrash applications appear at multiple intersections, be it through the schizoid lead work of the opener or the infectious progression of “Piled Swine.” The polemic perspective of “Cowering Lamb” and the mid-tempo hell of “Vanquishing Spirit” owe to this scene, but there is a deeper foundation that ASM uncover. The grind essence has always been present, but this time around it takes a more prominent role. The barbaric stampede of “Only Evil” evokes terrorizing memories of a world downfall, while “Lysergic War Psychosis” reminisces the noise-laden early to mid times of Napalm Death. There is a lot that ASM unearth with Vengeance of Eternal Fire, and it is great to see that they still approach their craft with hunger and drive. – Spyros Stasis

Arð – Untouched By Fire (Prophecy)

Second album for Winterfylleth keyboardist Mark Deeks with his doom metal project, Arð. Following in the footsteps of his debut record, Take Up My Bones, Deeks continues to focus on his monastic doom and the tales of his native Northumbria, moving from Saint Cuthbert to King Oswald. This switch does not alter the musical past of Arð, where most of the components from Take Up My Bones remain intact. The epic Bathory-ian influence is there, but once more recalibrated, away from its Scandinavian roots and focused on the North England landscape. Similarly, the orchestral applications are still strong, with the big chant moments of “Name Bestowed” standing out, as well as the minimal implementations that Deeks masterfully orchestrates. The sparse instrumentation in the aforementioned track and “Cursed to Nothing But Patience” highlight this side of Arð.

Of course, the body of this work is drenched in the ethereal doom of Paradise Lost and My Dying Bride. The grand procession of Arð speak to this ceremonial reality, contorting the heavy metal tradition to a sorrowful form. It is deeply felt through the start of “He Saw Nine Winters” while the lead work of “Helenfeith” beautifully weaves the guitar melodies together to form a deeply emotive wordless message. It is a downtrodden but cathartic process, in particular, highlighted through the arduous progression of “Casket of Dust”. It also reveals the underlying, subtle success of Arð. What Meeks has achieved is to collect these obvious influences together. The epic sense of Bathory, the sorrow and gloom of certain periods of the Peaceville Three, and yet when they come together, the result still stands on its own. It is not an easy feat, and it is this achievement that further elevates Untouched By Fire. – Spyros Stasis

Aristarchos – Martyr of Star and Fire (Vendetta)

Shrouded in a thick veil of anonymity, not much is known about UK’s Aristarchos other than they play some of the most enthralling and melodic atmospheric black metal out there. At four songs and a taut 32 minutes, their second album, Martyr of Star and Fire, is an exercise in conjuring cosmically vast soundscapes while maintaining second-wave black metal’s gripping, dynamic inner core. The closing “Adornment – Endless Syzygies of the Constant Immaterial” is especially tasty: its weightless sections and interplay of growled and clean vocals placate the relentless onslaught of careening riffs and blast beats. Think Akhlys and Nightbringer, but without any of their sketchy backgrounds. – Antonio Poscic

Attic – Return of the Witchfinder (Ván)

Premiere Mercyful Fate and King Diamond worshipers Attic return with another, quite frankly, brilliant record. Despite the clear inspiration behind the German heavy metal quintet’s sound, as heard in Katte and Max Povver’s gritty, dueling guitar attacks, Meister Cagliostro’s soaring falsetto, and the sheer melodicism of it all, their third LP is foremost a showcase of on-point songwriting skills and riff forging that, at times, eclipse the originals.

Compared to their previous records, such as 2017’s excellent Sanctimonious, Return of the Witchfinder is also significantly more varied, the band’s arsenal now enriched with rawer sections, Iron Maiden-esque moments, and harmonizing twin guitar attacks. If you’re a fan of classic heavy metal, this is as good as it gets. – Antonio Poscic

Benighted – Ekbom (Season of Mist)

There are few acts as dependable as Benighted. Since their inception and the abandonment of their black metal origin, the brutal, technical deathgrind act has amassed a strong discography without missteps. Their tenth record, Ekbom, is a proud continuation of this tradition, albeit with a few potential twists. But let’s start with the obvious, shall we? Tensions are at a high, and Benighted never loosen up. From the relentless pacing of “Scars” and the high discordance of “Metastasis”, this is an unstoppable ride through Daedalean brutal death metal.

It does take a few different cues, at times a slight tilt towards the hardcore dimension (maybe with a bit of slam) in “La Vice Des Entrailles” and then towards the grindcore chaos of “Nothing Left To Fear.” Within this space, Benighted truly reign supreme, enlisting traditional metallic approaches to enhance their stellar guitar work in moments like “Morgue” to reach the decadent depths of deathgrind, as with “Flesh Against Flesh.” And they never lose sight of delivering some very catchy moments, as with the chorus to “A Reason for Treason.”

Where there is a slight enhancement is with the blackened applications. This is a dimension that has not been as prominent as Benighted in the recent past. The cataclysmic start of “Scars” establishes that from the get-go, while “Scapegoat” also features this grimness. Given the subject matter, ekbom being a psychiatric disorder where the patient is convinced that they are infested by parasites, this eerie dimension fits like a glove. Moments like “Metastasis” and “Mother Earth, Mother Whore” further dig into this essence, causing this deep dark demeanor to prevail. You have to look no further really than “Fame of the Grotesque”, where Rustin Cohle’s famous quote on how “human consciousness is a tragic misstep in evolution” summarises it all succinctly. Benighted fully embrace this idea, and in the process, they produce another excellent work. – Spyros Stasis

Couch Slut – You Could Do It Tonight (Brutal Panda)

Within the amorphous and far-reaching noise rock space, Couch Slut take a direct and harrowing approach. While channeling the likes of the Jesus Lizard and aspects of Swans, they still return to the sludge lineage and their crust components. Their fourth full-length, You Could Do It Tonight, does not deviate from that path, if anything it doubles down on this direct, no-bullshit, approach. Case in point, the sludge-oid start of “Couch Slut Lewis” with its Sabbath-ian grit. It is a malformed rocking demeanor, something that shines further on the attention-grabbing groove of “Wilkinson’s Sword.”

The return to an animalistic point of origin is further established with “Ode To Jimbo,” where discordance and mayhem are veiled under the obtrusive distortion and dark mien. It re-establishes that this is not a work for the faint of heart, a notion further pushed with the black metal tinges of “Energy Crystals for Healing” and “Downhill Racer”. Still, Couch Slut momentarily leave behind this Darkthrone-ian circa The Cult Is Alive manifestation for a deep plunge in noise rock experimentation. The drunken groove of “The Donkey” is a perfect amalgamation of unsteady progressions and bizarre spoken-word narration topped off by a deranged sonic background.

Filled with faraway spiraling delays and deconstructed doom metal riffs, it is as disorienting an offering as “Laughing and Crying”. Still, the darkest corner is exposed with the Sprain-level quality of the closing track, “The Weaversville Home For Boys”, which puts the final nail on a brilliant decadent chapter of modern-day noise rock via way of crust, sludge, and a few other tropes. – Spyros Stasis

Heavenly Blue – We Have the Answer (Secret Voice)

In their nearly ten-year-long existence, Youth Novel unfortunately produced only a single, albeit excellent full-length in their 2021 self-titled work. With a deep understanding of the screamo and noise rock sounds, it was a shame not to see them carry on. But fear not, because Maya Chun and Jon Riley now carry the torch with their new band Heavenly Blue, and their debut record, We Have the Answer, scratches that same itch. It does so by touching upon many disciplines that screamo is based on.

The post-hardcore groove of “Davos” kicks things off in a Snapcase-like manner, persisting further through the off-kilter approach of “Glass So Clear”. With this as a starting point, Heavenly Blue easily traverse into noise rock applications with the backward-feeling progression of “Pando” and the explosive experimentalism of “…and Like That, a Year Has Passed”. On the other end, they are also able to navigate to the hardcore punk setting with the relentless approach to “Static Voice Speaks to Me” and the polemic applications of “A Part of Me, A Part of You”.

Yet, it is all about the emotion here, and Heavenly Blue possess a singular focus on that. Cutthroat vocals fill the space with angst while the distorted guitars create a wall of sound, their color adding elements to this spectrum of sentiments. The title track sees them move towards an Envy-grade level of anguish, while “Certain Distance” brings in a grand presence through its mid-pace setting. Everything is then aimed to evoke different emotions, be it an expressive lead part (“…and Like That, a Year Has Passed”), a turn toward ambiance (“Davos”), subtler acoustic applications (“Certain Distance”), or truly bizarre amalgamations of all the above (“Heat Death Parade”). It is this combination that elevates We Have The Answer and suggests great promise for the future of Heavenly Blue. – Spyros Stasis

Heresiarch – Edifice (Iron Bonehead)

Another one from New Zealand’s thriving extreme metal scene, Heresiarch, have been around since 2008, but it was not until 2017 that they released their debut record, Death Ordinance. They now return with another black/death stampede in Edifice, which sees them evolve their style. Compared to Death Ordinance, Edifice is better defined in terms of production and more well-rounded. Their debut record relished the obscure and overwhelming approach acts like Revenge modernized. It is prevalent in the likes of “Manifest Odium”, but there is a stronger kinship with the more pristine, later works of Tetragrammacide, shining through moments like “Swarming Blight”. 

Building on top of this newfound freedom, Heresiarch touch upon many different sounds in more depth. The black metal eeriness is enhanced, offering harrowing moments in “Nooise Above the Abyss”, while grindcore leanings are more pronounced in moments of fierce exhilaration like “Mystic and Chaos”. They also travel further into the past, allowing their proto-death influences to shine proudly through the schizoid fervor of “Gloryless Execution” and the unstoppable energy of “Tides of Regression”.

Finally, there is a more straightforward atmospheric push that Heresiarch promote. This originates in part from the pronounced black metal aspect, but it also finds a foothold through certain death/doom applications. The slower pacing in “Gloryless Execution”, the Autopsy-ian start to “A World Lit Only By Fire”, and the Sabbath-infused lead work of “Hubris and Decline” suggest as much. It is through this multifaceted approach that Heresiarch are not trapped within the strict conditions of the black/death scene, while at the same time, they deliver a very strong result in Edifice. – Spyros Stasis