best metal of july 2023

MetalMatters: The Best Metal Albums of July 2023

In July’s best metal, Oxbow resume their experimental journey, Mutoid Man hammer their love for fun heavy metal, and Mizmor descend to despair’s dark depths.

Eternal Rot – Moribound (Memento Mori/Godz ov War Productions)

According to the Biblical myth of the exorcism of the Gerasene demoniac, one of Jesus’s miracles was to drive demons out of a possessed man and into a herd of pigs, which then proceeded to drown themselves in a lake. If an enthusiastic field recordist had found themselves there at the time, I imagine their recordings of the animals’ final throes as they sunk to their deaths would sound very much in line with Eternal Rot’s Moribound.

This third LP by the Polish-British trio contains some of the filthiest, ugliest doom-death metal known to humanity. The vocals oblige particular mention here, as the vocalists’ growls sound like the dying rasps of swine crawling through the mire, serenaded by slo-mo blast beats and a concoction of sludge, doom, and death metal riffs. Within this mayhem, occasional flickers of melody and progressive guitar licks evoke the likes of YOB and Mastodon. But these are moments of deceptive respite and cruel, ephemeral rays of hope that disappear as quickly as they appear while the whole thing descends back into suffocating heaviness. Absolutely sick. – Antonio Poscic

Fabio Frizzi – Zombie: Composer’s Cut (Cadabra)

Reinterpretations of seminal movie soundtracks can be hit or miss, especially when horror is concerned, either producing relevant expansions of the original scores or ending up as quick ‘n’ dirty cash grabs. Luckily, Fabio Frizzi’s partial reimagining of his own accompaniment to Italian director Lucio Fulci’s iconic horror flick Zombi 2 (or Zombie, depending on release territory) is an authentically potent work. While familiarity with the movie helps and adds another dimension to the music—the importance of Frizzi’s soundtracks and cues in Fulci’s movies cannot be overstated—Zombie: Composer’s Cut more than stands on its own as a piece of lovely 1970s/1980s synth and funk inflected progressive rock.

The album’s sonic narrative is fluid and seductive, often permuting recognizable themes through various stylistic shifts, before ending up in moments of pure intensity and exhilaration, like the dramatic sweeps of synthetic strings on “Zombie vs. Policeman”, the marching Haitian drumming on “Afraid of Voodoo” or the gnarly, tense guitar riffs on “Zombie vs. Shark”. Scary, endearingly schlocky stuff! – Antonio Poscic

Gateway – Galgendood (Transcending Obscurity)

Gateway is the brainchild of Belgian multi-instrumentalist Robin van Oyen that like Eternal Rot also featured in this edition, deals with sonic filth of the highest order in the domain of death, doom, and sludge metal. Similar to van Oyen’s first full-length with the project, 2015’s self-titled Gateway, and the series of EPs released since then, Galgendood is all about devising suffocating atmospheres, putrefied vibes, and disarming effects (in the Spinozan sense) rather than concerning itself with intricate songwriting or song progressions. Guitars down tuned into oblivion, pinched harmonics, momentous growls, and towering rhythmic hits undulate in unison, ushering in sensations of utter desperation and delicious abandon. This is straightforward, uncomplicated music with an ambient-like sense of structurelessness and all the more stirring because of it. – Antonio Poscic

Mizmor – Prosaic (Profound Lore)

The ever-prolific A.L.N., the mastermind behind Mizmor, delivered two excellent works in 2022. Mizmor’s latest EP, Wit’s End, lingered between the doom and abstract drone domains, while the collaboration with Thou delivered a staggering assault to the senses with Myopia. In 2023, A.L.N. returns with the fourth Mizmor full-length and the first to be released through Profound Lore, Prosaic. From the get-go, “Only an Expanse” grabs you with its fuzzy distorted, blackened progression. It is a bitter and unyielding procedure, one that Mizmor have near perfected at this stage. The despair is palpable, the lead work producing a graphic scenery while the monotonous pacing sucks out all hope. 

Switches towards the doom self are to be expected. This is Mizmor’s bread and butter, and here A.L.N. unleashes a rigid form. Combined with guttural vocals in the opener, there is a death metal twist in the proceedings. However, this lies on the surface as “Anything But” comes on to expose the black metal essence. The full nihilistic manifestation arrives with “No Place to Arrive”, and Mizmor reach their full bloom misanthropy with closer “Acceptance”, completing a tired climb towards some ambiguous notion of catharsis.

While many qualities are familiar, Prosaic does offer some re-interpretations of Mizmor. The foundation here appears to rely more heavily on the black metal self, while the drone and doom qualities offer support. This, in turn, makes the work more accessible, as it provides a more direct representation than the past abstract self. In addition, there are certain atmospheric aspects that Mizmor have altered. In place of the ambient experimentations, taking a page from dark ambient and even kosmische musik. Instead, it is acoustic guitars that enhance the atmosphere in Prosaic. It is some nice alterations to A.L.N.’s recipe, and they show that there is still ground that Mizmor want to cover. In the meantime, we have another excellent release to enjoy. – Spyros Stasis

Mutoid Man – Mutants (Sargent House)

In a sense, Mutoid Man are to heavy metal, stoner, and hard rock what Oozing Wound are to thrash: a brash, supremely fun injection of vitality and spunk into an oft-tired set of aesthetics. The joined forces of vocalist and guitarist Stephen Brodsky (Cave In/Old Man Gloom/Converge), drummer Ben Koller (All Pigs Must Die/Killer Be Killed), and bassist Jeff Matz (High On Fire) are worthy of being called a supergroup, but one completely devoted to perfecting and enjoying the music at hand rather than stroking their egos.

As a result, Mutants, the New York group’s fourth LP, sure as hell sounds like a record made while having loads of fun. The ten cuts on it ooze with a wonderful sense of confidence and freshness, supported by offbeat yet immaculate songwriting and zany lyrics. From the driven melodies and jumping rolls of “Call of the Void” and the punchy sludge grooves of “Broken Glass Ceiling” to the thrashing, start-stop attacks of “Memory Hole” and the classic heavy metal flourishes of “Setting Son”, Mutants is truly all thriller no filler. – Antonio Poscic

Odz Manouk – Bosoragazan (​Բ​ո​ս​ո​ր​ա​գ​ա​զ​ա​ն​) / Ծ​ո​ւ​ռ (Tzurr) (Blood Coloured Beast)

These two new albums by Odz Manouk arrive after a 13-year-long hiatus. While it’s unclear whether the project’s mastermind, Devon Yagian-Boutelle, spent all this time perfecting new music, considering how immense both Bosoragazan (​Բոսորագազան​) and Ծուռ (Tzurr) sound, the notion of filigree realization doesn’t seem that far-fetched. Odz Manouk’s music possesses an otherworldly quality that makes it sound as if it were plucked out of time.

Simultaneously ancient and contemporary, indebted to second-wave black metal but very much in tune with the genre’s evolution since, the cuts shift from outright brutality (“Դյուցազնամարտ (Dyutsaznamart)”) and blazing insanity alight with swaying, bending riffs (“The Last Bastion of the Serpent’s Tongue”) to atmospheric, texturally rich expressions (“Ամբերդ (Amberd)”, “To Feast on Celestial Bodies”). Throughout, the production is purposefully lo-fi, murky, and cavernous, but it’s rendered as such with a masterful touch, purpose, and taste. This decaying, crumbling sound space gives the music space to breathe and expand, further emphasizing its affecting power. This is some truly supreme black metal. – Antonio Poscic