Best Metal Albums of June 2024

MetalMatters: The Best Metal Albums of June 2024

In June’s best metal, Crypt Sermon offer hooks in doom form, Insect Ark stay on the experimental path, and Ulcerate offer despair with technical death metal.

One last batch before we dive into the second half of 2024, and it features many debuting artists. Alarm! offer a singular onslaught with their hardcore immediacy, while Apes descended to darkened, grind-informed depths of their crust identity. On the black metal front, Kerasfóra put the synthesizers at the center of it all, infecting their Scandinavian influences with a cosmic quality. Channeling the raw perspective and chaotic approach of their native French scene, Incipient Chaos offer a blistering ride through Antaeus-laden riffs and Aosoth-ian blasphemy with their self-titled debut. In the intersection between black and death, Thanatotherion propel their majestic take with a barrage of thrash-informed ideas.

Still, the usual suspects return this month. Crypt Sermon distill the key elements of The Ruins of Fading Light to create a more potent and focused follow-up, The Stygian Rose. Dana Schechter enlists Khanate’s Tim Wyskida to usher forth the next step of Insect Ark’s natural evolution. The technical death metal giants Ulcerate return with another high-quality record in Cutting The Throat of God. That much and more, so dig in! – Spyros Stasis

Alarm! – Alarm! (Armaggedon Label)

It is the debut record for Alarm!, and it comes with a heavy heritage. Formed by members of legendary Swede acts in Outlast and Victims, Alarm!’s sound is filled with aggression and angst, now further weaponized for our times. The exhilarating energy rushes in with “Into the Dark”, the unstoppable fury pinning you down and then turning to erratic formations. “For Lost Times” and “Never Enough” harness chaos and mania, pulling on the punk structures until they give in (might be the touch of Nasum that Jon Lindqvist brings in.) It is all fueled by an old-school spirit (“Alerta!”), and it also evokes the melodic aspects of the crust scene (“Bring Books”) bouncing between Disfear’s fervor and Tragedy’s epic outrage.

In the short duration, clocking around the 20-minute mark, Alarm! also descend to heavier territory. The triptych of “Ancient Cycles”, “Me and Failure”, and “The Loop” see the mid-tempo stampede come front and center. It is a different gear, but not less punishing. Within this fold, Alarm! can play around with sonic experimentation and subliminal warfare, switching their strategy from direct assault to one that plunges the listener to despair and existential dread. Yeah, that is exactly what hardcore music is supposed to do. – Spyros Stasis

Apes – Penitence (Secret Swarm)

“Taking a close look at what’s around us, there is some sort of a harmony. It is the harmony of overwhelming and collective murder.” There is nothing more fitting than this cynical, infinitely dark snippet from the 1982 documentary Burden of Dreams that Werner Herzog delivers in his signature deadpan inflection to make an appearance on the latest album from Apes. On Penitence, the Québécois group deal in suffocating atmospheres and oppressive sonic forms of the highest order, meandering between monumental sways of sludge and sharp grindcore-cum-black metal attacks. The sound is raw and dangerously serrated, as if played in the deep darkness of rusty catacombs. The music is filthy and desperate, without a chance of catharsis or any semblance of hope that their peers might offer to alleviate the heaviness. There is no escape here, just endless contrition. – Antonio Poscic

Balwezo Westijiz – Tower of Famine (Profound Lore)

In the early 2010s, the ever-prolific Swaradauþuz and Lik of Bekëth Nexëhmü quietly dwelt in the dark ambient space with Balwezo Westijiz. Crawling through minimal progressions in 2011’s Urkraftens Mystik and adorning dark sceneries in Spiritual Dödsdyrkan, the duo unceremoniously let the project drift into obscurity. Now, they resurrect Balwezo Westijiz and re-focus their purpose to stand solidly in the black metal realm. Indeed, Tower of Famine takes on much of the grimness that has defined Bekëth Nexëhmü, as the faster pace of “Flesh in the Funeral Pyre”, the complete explosion of “Calling From the Ashes”, and the disorienting effect of “Drown in Bleak Blood” suggest.

However, the fact that Balwezo Westijiz was founded in dark ambient tradition adds an interesting twist. The alignment with the atmospheric is deeper, defined by a hypnotic essence that pulses throughout. The lead work masterfully unfolds to create this hallucinatory effect as “Calling From the Ashes” appears. It also adds this strange, funeral sense to the proceedings. It is a doom-laden characteristic that defines “The Foul Carcass of God”, the sorrowful progression of “Endless Black Nightmares”, projecting a world where the Peaceville Three decided to dedicate themselves to black metal instead of doom/death.

The adhesive element here is the brilliant guitar work, which allows Balwezo Westijiz to traverse vast distances between modes. Majestic aspirations are erected, traditional metallic influences are contorted, and a deep venom is applied. It is a masterful offering from Balwezo Westijiz, and even though it carries underground’s heretical torch, it is a surprisingly approachable listen. – Spyros Stasis

Julie Christmas – Ridiculous and Full of Blood (Red Crk)

Without resorting to hyperbole, Julie Christmas is one of the most unique and potent vocalists in all of heavy music. Every single thing she has touched, be it the amazing sludge/post-hardcore of Made Out of Babies (RIP) or the post-metal of Battle of Mice, the collaborations with Cult of Luna, or her solo work, has been marked by her soaring, infinitely expressive and powerful voice.

Ridiculous and Full of Blood follows her 2010 solo record, The Bad Wife, but has more in common with the sludge-adjacent projects she has participated in since. With the help of guitarist Johannes Persson (Cult of Luna), drummer Chris Enriquez (Spotlights), bassist Andrew Schneider (KEN mode, Unsane), guitarist John LaMacchia (Candiria), and keyboardist Tom Tierney, Christmas weaves an oblique, oft surreal personal narrative into big sounding cuts that veer from melancholy doom and gothic pop to furious post-hardcore, from flowing singsong to out of control shrieks, touching upon everything in-between.

At times, like on the undulating “The Ash”, she projects the start-stop rhythms and uncertain cries of BIG|BRAVE’s Robin Wattie. At others, she descends into the bluesy, atmospheric underworld of “Seven Days”, in which a smoke-filled club is awash in pained screams and dramatic doom rather than moody jazz. Simply mesmerizing. – Antonio Poscic

Crypt Sermon – The Stygian Rose (Dark Descent)

With their 2015 debut record, Out of the Garden, bursting out of nowhere, Crypt Sermon immediately became the bright new hope for epic doom metal. And rightfully so, as the Philadelphia act harnessed the darkness and emotive depths of Candlemass and Solitude Aeternus. Their sophomore, The Ruins of Fading Light, found them more ambitious, opening up their sound to traditional metallic elements and extending the verbosity. The Stygian Rose aims to re-focus Crypt Sermon, the band distilling their compositions to unearth only what is essential.

The depth of 1980s doom metal is again invoked, the emotive depth of Solitude Aeternus shining in “Thunder (Perfect Mind)”, and the grandeur of Candlemass is front and center with “Heavy Is the Crown of Bone”. But, while this Black Sabbath-ian lineage carries strong, the traditional heavy metal bloodline prevails. In its direct form, it arrives with attitude and gusto in “Down in the Hollow”, before retreating to clean melodic interludes a la Iron Maiden in “Scyring Orb”. However, the residual effect is this feeling that Crypt Sermon are aiming for the big, dynamic payoff that only the heavy metal ballad can deliver. In that mode, they channel anything from Metallica’s Black Album to Pantera’s “Cemetary Gates”.

The production greatly aids this, complimenting the trademark sound and moving it closer to like-minded spirits in Atlantean Kodex, Spirit Adrift, and Sumerlands. For anyone who values the connection of 1980s traditional heavy metal melody and doom grandeur and keeps returning to the Dio period of Black Sabbath, this record is nothing short of a diamond. – Spyros Stasis

Dysrhythmia – Coffin of Conviction (Nightfloat/Nerve Altar)

Compared to the mind-twisting craziness of the other bands in which bassist Colin Marston (Krallice, Gorguts, Behold… the Arctopus) and guitarist Kevin Hufnagel (Gorguts, Vaura) play in, Dysrhythmia entertain a fairly safe take on instrumental progressive metal. However, compared to almost everyone else, their stuff with drummer Jeff Eber is still wickedly intricate and odd. Coming a quarter of a century into their career, Coffin or Conviction follows down the same familiar but unpredictable path of previous releases and sees the trio meshing technically astute and aggressive playing with an elegant sense for melodic, at times even catchy songwriting. Cuts like “Headspace Extraction” cover this whole spectrum. They start off on one end with twisting, cascading, Coroner-evoking riffs and end up immersed in a beatific aura and diffuse ambient expressions reminiscent of Cynic’s cosmic prog explorations on the other. Lovely stuff. – Antonio Poscic

Fractal Generator – Convergence (Everlasting Spew)

Sci-fi-themed death metal is in vogue now, but aside from the usual suspects like Blood Incantation, Nocturnus, and Wormed, very few manage to transubstantiate and work these themes into the music as successfully as Sudbury, Ontario’s Fractal Generator. At its core, the music of the three digit-coded musicians (040118180514 on bass/vocals, 040114090512 on drums, 102119200914 on guitars) is rooted in a chugging, compact neutron star of technical, slam-infected death metal, but which is then lightened with streaks of colorful, neon-lit synth rays, thrumming pads, and symphonic elements. However unlikely, the resulting concoction makes for an enticing listen, straddling the line between a deeply embedded existential horror and a sort of luminous cosmic sense of awe. – Antonio Poscic

Glyph – Odes of Wailing, Hymns of Mourning (Fiadh/Shape of Storms/WereGnome)

The third full-length in three years from the mysterious Glyph entity finds the right balance between their debut record, Remind Us of the Sun, and sophomore outing, The Time of Peril. With the atmospheric black metal as a template, Glyph move through the Emperor-esque sense of scenery highlighted in the opening track. The underlying, understated epic quality is there, traversing through the core of this work with some additional theatricality in “A Most Unwholesome Interaction”. On the other hand, the melodic sense of Dissection infects much of the modus operandi for Odes of Wailing, Hymns of Mourning. “Man Has Succumbed to Madness” carries this lineage, but Glyph contort it further through their depressive and post-black metal lens in “Between Ghost and Gloom”.

While there is a lot of immediacy, and the record is abundant in hooks, Glyph dive into more discordant places. They invert the majestic element, crafting a harrowing setting with “The Unfortunate Gentleman In Question”. It clicks with the vitriolic, Satyricon-driven poisonous lead work of “All Anger and Hatred Manifesting”, mirrored through the decadent rhythmic progression and the primal sense of “Descending the Loam”. Overall, Glyph firmly stand on tradition to fuel their atmospheric and depressive brew, which is the engaging attribute of Odes of Wailing, Hymns of Mourning. Also, one deserved special mention goes to the bass guitar sound and playing (perfectly balanced in the mix.) It is quite unusual for a black metal record, but it works and greatly elevates the record. – Spyros Stasis

Huntsmen – The Dry Land (Prosthetic)

This latest album by the Chicagoan band Huntsmen once more brings together doom metal, drone, sludge, and post-metal, placing them into a progressive architecture, complete with touches of shoegaze, Americana, and country music. That these disparate strains come together as well as they do on The Dry Land can be attributed both to the understanding and meticulous compositional approach of the group and the shared sorrow—a sort of universal Weltschmerz—that can be found in the core of all of this music. Across the six cuts, doom metal and folk appear together in surging waves of metal (“This, Our Gospel”) and apart on melancholy ballads (“Lean Times”) and darkly progressive romps (“Cruelly Dawns”), all the while remaining connected by an invisible thread that ties them together like an oral history passed on from generation to generation. – Antonio Poscic

Hyperdontia – Harvest of Malevolence (Dark Descent/Me Saco Un Ojo)

Denmark’s Hyperdontia play old-school death metal in the tradition of Incantation and early Morbid Angel. Their extremely bleak, (meta)physically punishing music is built around dense and, more often than not, textural sonic attacks. On nastier cuts like “Marking the Rite”, growling riffs, roaring growls, and the occasional chromatic vamp spiral down bumbling, surprisingly intricate drum/bass patterns. Meanwhile, “Pervasive Rot” and its kindred go straight for the jugular, maintaining a thrashing sense of impact.

Taken together, the tracks appear like a one-two punch: the first delivered to the head, the other in the gut. While 2021’s Hideous Entity remains the band’s strongest album to date—perhaps due to the comparative freshness and relative novelty of their sound back then—Harvest of Malevolence is more than a worthy successor that comes easily recommended to anyone interested in the sickening, filthy side of metal. – Antonio Poscic