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.

In Vain – Solemn (Indie Recordings)

With this new record, Norway’s progressive death/black metal outfit In Vain finally realize their full potential. While the fundamental elements of their music have remained unchanged since the 2007 debut, The Latter Rain, the compositional approach of the band has matured significantly over the past years, culminating in the perfect storm that is Solemn. This is a grandiose album from start to finish and in every sense of the word: from the superb sense of world-building, the Vintersorg-esque fabric of growls and clean vocals, and doom-death progressions on cuts like “Shadows Flap Their Black Wings” to the blistering moments of black metal on “Blood Makes the Grass Grow”.

Borknagar and latter-day Amorphis and Enslaved come to mind as points of reference, but In Vain’s sound draws from a more varied well of influences, at times launching into brass-underscored ambience (“Season of Unrest”) and even passages of funeral doom (“Eternal Waves”), all of it performed with utter gusto and glued together by inspired, surprisingly twisty, and downright catchy songwriting. – Antonio Poscic

Inter Arma – New Heaven (Relapse)

As the progressive sludge and post-metal scenes entered a period of introversion, rehashing trusted recipes, Inter Arma uncovered a way out. The act from Virginia found solace and catharsis in extreme metal applications, which has resulted in a stellar discography without any misses. New Heaven is not about to change that, and from the start of the title track, Inter Arma indulge in the contorted, dissonant sludge. Thou-inspired ceremonies ensue with “The Children the Bombs Overlooked” in a meditative grandeur, while the ethereal doom inclinations that are evoked in “Concrete Cliffs” point towards some long-gone salvation. But this is just the surface for Inter Arma, who deliver a clinic on forward-thinking metal.

The psychedelic depths are endless, with the Middle Eastern introduction to “Violet Seizures” leading towards a krautrock approach. Distancing themselves from the gentle application, Inter Arma extend this cosmic journey through brutal applications of a blackened nature. It mirrors the death metal interpretations of their furious sludge moments, like the title track. But still, they travel further, towards the post-punk scene with the pure bleakness of “Gardens in the Dark”, brilliant in its decadence.

The traditional heavy metal lineage also takes its turn, the razor-sharp riffs of the “Endless Gray” interlude, “Desolation’s Harp”, and “Concrete Cliffs” relishing and yet reinterpreting a great past. It is all part of the glorious return for Inter Arma in New Heaven, a work that further establishes them in the upper echelons of the extreme metal vanguard. – Spyros Stasis

Kvadrat – The Horrible Dissonance of Oblivion (Nuclear Winter/Desolate Depths/Total Dissonance Worship)

Following a very promising EP and a split with fellow Greek underground acts, Human Serpent and Moeror, it is now time for Kvadrat to rise fully. The one-man project of I.A. subscribes to the dissonant black/death that dominates part of the extreme metal scene. Wasting no time, Kvadrat descend to the dark depths of this mentality, unleashing the full brutality and eeriness carried over from the works of Deathspell Omega. Vitriolic and obtrusive, the lead work in “-4°C” drips pure poison over the erratic rhythmic breaks. At times, Kvadrat follow the amorphous black metal dissonance, with the eerie lead work providing great textural depth in “Η Φρικτή Δυσαρμονία της Λήθης”. Yet, at other moments, it is the death metal solid form that prevails with moments like “Γυάλινα Μάτια”, featuring a relentless stampede that would make Erik Rutan proud.

Apart from the discordant quality of their black/death, Kvadrat only prove to be great students of the pacing and progression practices of Ulcerate. This provides them with an arsenal of tools, from the heavy grooves of the opening track to the cataclysmic doom of “Η Φρικτή Δυσαρμονία της Λήθης” and all the way to the sickening exhilaration of “Σηπτική Ανυπαρξία”. Throw in a bit of ambiance, some minimal interludes and clean guitars, and an almost progressive rock adventure in the first part of “Ολική Αποσύνθεση”, and you get an excellent first step out of the black/death space and into the unknown. It will still take some time for Kvadrat to find their unique identity, but for the moment we can relish their profound dedication to the dissonant black/death sound. – Spyros Stasis

Locrian – End Terrain (Profound Lore)

While they often get bunched together with metal bands—in part thanks to the labels they release their music on—Chicago’s Locrian are best understood as a purely experimental outfit. In their fluid style, metallic elements exist as just one of an array of disparate building blocks. Their 2022 record, New Catastrophism, ventured the furthest in this sense, with the trio’s music pared back to fragile, ethereal expressions and devoid of any of metal’s tropes.

With End Terrain, André Foisy, Terence Hannum, and Steven Hess reclaim some of their firmer edges but place these post-metal and blackgaze constructs into unstable architectures that threaten to collapse at any moment—a reflection of the future dystopia and catastrophes they thematize through their music. On the gorgeous, synth-drenched “Chronoscapes”, their anxious thoughts translate into something that Kayo Dot might have created during one of their avant-pop phases before exploding into a heavy post-metal dirge. Elsewhere, “Umwelt” and “Innenwelt” descend into noise ambient and ASMR-like cues, while “Excarnate Light” and “Black Prisims of Our Dead Age” sway into gorgeous, shoegaze-laced post-rock. – Antonio Poscic

Necrot – Lifeless Birth (Tankcrimes)

Oakland, California’s power trio Necrot’s new album is at the zenith of contemporary old-school death metal. With blood and gore splattered in thick layers across its seven cuts, the group’s third full-length hits just the right mixture of groove and aggression.

The pieces flow between hard-edged but melodic riffs à la God Dethroned or Vital Remains (“Cut the Cord”), the sort of slower, intestine-twisting chugs and abyssal growls perfected by Cannibal Corpse (“Drill the Skull”), and even proggier, black metal inflected moments that land somewhere between In Flames and Death’s Individual Thought Patterns era (“Winds of Hell”). Couple the band’s penchant for suffocating atmosphere and dynamic songwriting with some really thrilling leads and solos, and you get a fantastic, viscerally enjoyable death metal record. – Antonio Poscic

Nuclear Tomb – Terror Labyrinthian (Everlasting Spew)

The greatest thing to be said about Baltimore, Maryland’s Nuclear Tomb, is that their mercurial style is nearly impossible to put a finger on. Formed in 2011, their first LP, Terror Labyrinthian, can be roughly described as an amalgam of thrash and death metal, but to stop at that would be selling it short. With a healthy dose of Voivod’s jangling, loose, and decidedly progressive influence in their riffs and structures, the nine cuts on the album veer from devastating, filthy death in the mold of early Morbid Angel (“Obsoletion”) to brutal, high rev scorchers like those dished out by Pestilence (“Parasitic (Live a Lie)”) and demonstrations of technical prowess that are equal parts Sadus and Coroner (“Terror Labyrinthian”). With nary any fillers in sight, this is a debut that was very much worth the long wait. – Antonio Poscic

Replicant – Infinite Mortality (Transcending Obscurity)

Over their earlier EPs and LPs, Replicant’s mixture of avant, dissonant tendencies with brutal technical death metal always felt on the verge of greatness but never quite got there, falling short by a final bit of je ne sais quoi. Whatever that missing ingredient in the New Brunswick quartet was, Infinite Mortality has loads of it.

Born out of the most outré of death metal traditions, the album’s nine tracks combine maelstroms of brutal, technical death metal with discordant grooves, borrowing equally from Demilich, Gorguts, and Dying Fetus to create an intoxicating, idiosyncratic concoction. Despite their clear influences, the resulting sound is fully and uniquely their own. “Pain Enduring” and “Planet of Skin” are especially awesome pieces, the former scorching its way forward as if chased by a swarm of infuriated hornets, the latter expanding the tight soundscape into a nimbler, near cosmic vastness while still remaining every bit as hard-hitting as the rest. Forget narrow categories; this is one of the best metal albums of the year so far, full stop. – Antonio Poscic

SELBST – Despondency Chord Progressions (Debemur Morti)

There is a slow-moving change that is on foot for SELBST. The black metal band from Venezuela (now relocated to Chile) forged its self-titled debut in the dissonant black metal tradition. Their sophomore, Relatos De Angustia, found them taking on the dark melodic inclinations of Mgla, but Despondency Chord Progressions sees them move even further out. The opening track is key here, laying out a more powerful atmospheric and even theatrical approach. It only lasts for a second, but what then ensues makes everything click.

SELBST have doubled down on their melodic self, but in the process, they have evolved further. “The Stench of a Dead Spirit” sees them embrace more traditional applications, mirroring the works of Uada. The further inclusion of clean vocals and the aforementioned downplayed theatricality opens bizarre new spaces that signal an Arcturian, circa Aspera Hiems Symfonia, influence. That is particularly true concerning the lead work, especially in the “Chant of Self Confrontation”. Darker moments still ensue, as the weaving bleak melodies of “The One That Blackens Everything” add a drop of sorrow, while dissonant applications channel the works of Ulcerate and Aosoth throughout.

But, where SELBST now innovate, thanks to their stronger melodic dedication, is in expanding their black metal platform. It augments their earlier style by adding a Latin dimension to the proceedings, as with “The Weight of Breathing”. The Santana-esque guitar parts of “When True Loneliness Is Experienced” and the descent to the acoustic depths of “Between Seclusion and Obsession” is where SELBST find true novelty. And that is quite something to behold. – Spyros Stasis

Walg – IV (Independent)

Dutch duo Walg have been releasing an album per year since 2021, each of them a tempered, natural evolution of a heavily melodic, quite ferocious, and symphonically tinged black metal style. IV is the most well-rounded of their works so far, a mix of proper black metal inferno—hyper-speed blast beats, tornado-like tremolos, demonic growls, the lot!—with an elevated sense of fluidity and atmosphere. Compared to the often exhausting sonic makeup of most other black metal groups that toy with neoclassical elements, Walg’s bombastic side is kept at bay, unleashed occasionally in carefully measured dosages that eschew the pitfalls of saturating the metallic core. Good stuff. – Antonio Poscic