Best Metal Albums of February 2024

MetalMatters: The Best Metal Albums of February 2024

In best metal albums, Spectral Voice craft soul-wrenching death/doom, Borknagar’s unique blend remains relevant, and Darkspace dare us to stare into the abyss.

meth. – Shame (Prosthetic)

meth.’s 2019 record, Mother of Red Light, is one of the most ambitious debut albums in recent memory. Instead of focusing on one strand of extreme music, meth. opened up their core to encompass disparate genres. From the nihilism of sludge and drone to the dissonance of noise rock and black metal, meth. found their niche. Their follow-up, Shame, sees them navigating the same waters. The drone/doom destruction of “Doubt” sets the tone, the circular motifs birthing a trance experience. This is a mode they further investigate with the title track, calling upon the tribal spirit of Neurosis. On both occasions, they make excellent use of a circular motif, the progression moving slowly in a surrounding fashion before reaching an overwhelming point.

From there, meth. descend to various depths. They execute with noise rock bravado and post-hardcore fury in  “Blush”. The dissonance is excruciating, and it naturally leads to moments of mathcore ferocity in “Cruelty”. This is also where they pick up a blackened gear, naturally fitting in this ongoing cacophony with “Compulsion”. While meth. have not changed their perspective since Mother of Red Light, there is a further cohesiveness that defines Shame. It can be felt both through the extension of the song duration, the shortest offering clocking a bit under five minutes, and also through the flow of the record. The abrasiveness of Mother of Red Light is replaced by a natural continuity, where brutality and introspection interchange with ease. It is particularly this patient and meticulous structuring that elevates Shame that much further. – Spyros Stasis

Necrowretch – Swords of Dajjal (Season of Mist)

With their fifth record, Swords of Dajjal, Necrowretch enter a period of maturity. The driving force here is that Necrowretch have narrowed their focus. Throughout their discography, the French act dwelled in the intersection between black metal and death metal with a healthy dose of thrash. This time around, the black metal is the pivotal force. The bitter quality of “The Fifth Door” relishes the infernal presence of ‘90s black metal. It is the same affair with the title track, a rampage of unstoppable force through cataclysmic riffing. However, they still find places where some death and thrash injections can be of great use. The Possessed-like introduction to “Ksar Al-Kufar” suggests as much, soon evolving to a ferocious black/death onslaught. Similarly, the sharp lead work in “Daeva” sees Necrowretch take a cue from the 1980s scene, while the groove and heavy progression to “Numidian Knowledge” further establish that connection.

The other difference with Swords of Dajjal is the songwriting depth. In the past, Necrowretch’s structures possessed a raw, unfiltered sense. Through this, the songs were both aggressive, but there was also a certain preciousness to them. Here, there is much more care put into the flow and coherence of the overarching work. The bitter black metal dissonance gives way to a dissection-infused melody in perfect harmony in “Dii Mauri”. The acoustic guitar passages and tribal drums in “The Fifth Door” build a hypnotic facade. At the end of the day, Necrowretch show that they are perfecting their craft. Given that they already produced some very strong works, it is very nice to see how small changes, additions, thought and care can result in them elevating their level with Swords of Dajjal. – Spyros Stasis

Pestilength – Solar Clorex (Debemur Morti Productions)

The masked, cryptic duo Pestilength from Spain’s sunny Basque Country play an utterly dark, supremely filthy, evil incarnate amalgam of black, death, and doom metal. Encased in a grimy guitar tone, the production and mastering make their third LP, Solar Clorex, sound as if it had been recorded in a sewer, eliciting an almost physical reaction of disgust and dread. Following with a similar sense of revulsion, the nine cuts on the album move from brutal, wickedly warped old-school death metal in the vein of Morbid Angel circa Covenant and Domination (“Neerv”, “Enthronos Wormwomb”) to burrowing dissonance that resembles a clash between grindcore era Carcass and Gorguts (“Oxide Veils”, “Verbalist Aphonee”), all of it mixed in with moments of pure sludge (“Occlusive”) and pillaring doom grooves (“Choirs of None”). – Antonio Poscic

Planet B – Fiction Prediction (Three One G)

Vocalist, bassist, and Three One G label head Justin Pearson, who you may remember from acts such as Dead Cross and the Locust, has a knack for creating idiosyncratic, often twitchy, and nervous-sounding music that is nonetheless humorous and, above all else, ludicrously fun. Fiction Prediction, the latest album of his project Planet B with Luke Henshaw, Kevin Avery, Scott Osment, and a number of guests—including the late great Gabe Serbian of the Locust and Eric Livingston of Mamaleek—is a prime example of this approach, with catchy, jumpy songs that sound as if the Beastie Boys met the edgy hardcore punk energy of the aforementioned The Locust.

Weirdly, melodic electronic glitches make way for barrages of turntable scratches and overblown saxophone lines, only to be swept up in incisive raps. There is a horrorcore edge to it all, but instead of letting you chill along to the soundtrack of a 1980s horror flick, it makes you feel like its unfortunate protagonist moments before being gutted by a psychopathic masked killer. The sort of music I wish Mr. Bungle were making these days. – Antonio Poscic

Praise the Plague – Suffocating in the Current of Time (Lifeforce)

Berlin outfit Praise the Plague’s new full-length Suffocating in the Current of Time does not mark a significant departure from the previous releases in their six-years-long career, but taken as a whole feels that much more well-rounded and thought through. A diabolical mixture of doom and atmospheric black metal is compressed into a svelte forty minutes that still allows the band to touch upon a myriad of stylistic threads.

Take the opening “Veil of Tyrants”, for example, which leads the way with spooky ambient effects, then roars through a blistering barrage of black metal, only to ultimately end up in a bottomless abyss of funeral doom. While the remaining cuts are not quite as varied, each of them draws from a similar well of influences and formulas, and combines them to great effect, pummeling away with heavy, buzzing riffs on the intense “Astray From Light” and entertaining a post-metal, synth-laced crescendo on closer “Throne of Decay”. Music that often feels breathless and breathtaking, gnarly but elegant. – Antonio Poscic

Spectral Voice – Sparagmos (Dark Descent)

It’s almost a cliché to say, but it still should be said. It is not enough playing slow to get doom/death right. This is something that Spectral Voice understand intimately. And so Erroding Corridors of Unbeing dropped like an absolute bomb in 2017, with Spectral Voice quickly establishing themselves in the vanguard of the current death/doom revival. Since then, Spectral Voice took their time, no pun intended, and they have worked their way towards their sophomore record, Sparagmos. And it should be no surprise that they top their stellar debut.

Sparagmos exists on two opposite planes. On one hand, there is the dreamscape, where Spectral Voice allow their elusive and otherworldly side to flourish. The start of the album establishes this, allowing for a bitter psychedelia to rise. Further flourishes through sludge augmentations, slight post-metallic leanings, and descents into the dark ambient world complete the imagery. The mystical parts of “Sinew Censer” fully complete this transformation, but there is also a more earthy and primal side. This is where the death metal self takes over and erupts into a frenzy. “Red Feasts Condensed Into One” not only sees this Autopsy-ian demeanor come to view, but it also travels further back to the proto-death metal scene, ushering in aspects of Possessed’s early masterwork.

The bottom line is that Sparagmos is not simply a continuation of Erroding Corridors of Unbeing. It is an evolution and one that finds Spectral Voice at the height of their might. It is a work that proudly stands amongst the ones produced by the pioneers of the genre. And for an act that arrived some 20 years later, that is nothing less than astonishing. – Spyros Stasis

Sun of Nothing – Maze (Venerate Industries)

While bands born out of a primordial soup of post-metal, hardcore, noise, black metal, sludge, and other extreme variants are a fairly common occurrence—see LLNN, Amenra, Psychonaut—Greek outfit Sun of Nothing still manage to carve out a corner of this space that is unlike most others. Theirs is a jagged and aggressive style, restless in how it shifts gears from pumping hardcore and serrated black metal into groveling, slo-mo eruptions of doom-sludge. At times, like on the face-tearing “Voidhanger”, they’ll embrace an Isis-esque sense of grooving, air-punching atmosphere. At others, they’ll collapse into proper hardcore, allowing screamed vocals to spiral around a blackened concoction of tremolos, blast beats, and despair-laden growls. Bleak but irresistible stuff. – Antonio Poscic

Theophonos – Ashes in the Huron River (Profound Lore)

Jimmy Hamzey, aka Theophonos, discovered in the late 2010s an uncanny combination of black metal and post-hardcore. The result is the stellar discography of Serpent Column, which stands separate from both the genre’s avant-garde scene and the more mainstream screamo and shoegaze wing. Laying Serpent Column to rest in 2020, Theophonos now focuses on his solo project, returning with the sophomore record Ashes in the Huron River. However, even exquisite recipes need some further augmentation, and while Theophonos’ debut Nightmare Visions carried down the Serpent Column path, this time around, there are some interesting changes that take place.

The post-hardcore and mathcore side takes a more pivotal role, the black metal aspect providing mostly an overarching aura, with some obvious exceptions, as with the title track. Now, it is the Converge-fuelled exhilaration that primarily drives this work, from the moment when the frantic grooves of “The Built World arrive. It is the comfort zone for Theophonos, and it feels like home when “No Reprieve” comes in with its frantic demeanor or the manic and relentless progression carries on with “Willing Power” and “Grid of Sorrows”.

The first switch appears with “Empty Gardens”, which, although still follows a post-hardcore motif, returns to a more traditional, hardcore punk aesthetic. The bigger change, however, is revealed when “An Elegy” unfolds, reminiscent of the post-metallic applications of Coalesce and the various representatives of Hydrahead. It is something that fully blooms with “Still You Haunt Me” establishing a rockier, Pelican-influenced procession, something that continues through kraut-rock augmentations in the closer “As Long As Forever”. It is quite a switch, and for the most part, it works for Theophonos, showcasing a different side of the artist. However, it feels slightly incomplete, stitched into this record rather than an organic evolution. That does not take away from Ashes in the Huron River, and it suggests that something more exciting is on its way. I cannot wait. – Spyros Stasis

Utopia – Shame (Independent)

Striving for technical perfection can lead to a dead end. There are many acts out there with great musicianship and a high-level skillset, but they put themselves into this one-dimensional trajectory. Simply put, they sound flat (no pun intended.) One of the stellar exemptions to this rule is UK’s Utopia, and they have already proven as much with their 2021 debut, Stalker. Now, with their follow-up, Shame, they continue to expose their extreme, uber-technical vision to a myriad of spaces.

The death metal verging on grind introduction with “Machiavelli” is ridiculous. A frenzied sprint through labyrinthine passages with no escape in sight. Within this mindset, Utopia put together grind notions (“Social Contracts”) and mathcore ideas (“The Gift of Failure”) to adorn their frantic demeanor.

Everything blossoms from there. The rhythmic backbone takes on aspects of Meshuggah and descends to an abstract point (“Zither”). Hardcore grooves add more weight to “Walking Visions” before the track performs a magnificent turn towards post-metallic, verging on sludge approach. Still, Utopia push forward. The jazzy themes within this chaotic offering feel natural, but apart from additional virtuosity, they open up a further dimension. Suddenly, an atmospheric quality rises in “Sun Damage”, becoming tenser with “Weathering Away and Laughing”.

The final nail comes in the form of psychedelic, krautrock-ish aspirations of “Never Argue With an Idiot” and the otherworldly “Moving Gently Towards the Grave”. Given the quality of Stalker, all of this was expected in Shame, and Utopia sure do not disappoint. – Spyros Stasis